University of Richmond Chemistry Professor Mike Leopold Receives Nearly $275K from NSF for Explosive Detection Research

April 27, 2021

Leopold HeadshotAbove: This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Chemistry professor Michael Leopold has been awarded a nearly $275,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for research exploring the development of a nanoparticle-based sensor to be used for detecting explosives and other forensic-related molecules, including drugs or diseases.

This three-year project involves research conducted almost exclusively by undergraduate students, including UR’s latest Beckman Scholar Harry Dang, whom Leopold is mentoring, as well as students Karthik Lalwani and Sam Gilmore.

"This research has implications for troop security, national defense, and counter-terrorism,” Leopold said. “The development of new explosives and concealment strategies by criminals are constantly evolving, so it is critical that new, quick-screening methods are explored."

The NSF funding will cover summer research for Leopold and undergraduate students for three years, including a one-year stipend for a post-baccalaureate fellow. The grant also supports travel related to presenting this research, as well as equipment, materials, and supplies.

Leopold is the Floyd D. and Elisabeth S. Gottwald Professor of Chemistry and has taught at UR since 2002. His research focuses on incorporating nanomaterials into analytical chemistry. He has previously received funding from the NSF, the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation, the American Chemical Society, and the Commonwealth Health Research Board.

Leopold also recently received a $2,000 Mednick Memorial Fellowship through the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges to further support this research.

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