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Fall 2006

s_schlick Shulamith Schlick’s research attracts students from around the world

The University of Detroit Mercy is the site of exciting research on fuel cell materials for the automotive industry, in large part because Professor Shulamith Schlick keeps her well-equipped, first-floor corner laboratory and unpretentious office in the Chemistry Building connected with a worldwide network of researchers.

For more than 20 years at UDM, Schlick has attracted a continuous flow of both research grants and promising students from the U.S. and around the world. Schlick’s specialty is spectroscopy, an analytical tool used to identify a molecule’s unique characteristics, just as a fingerprint can be used to identify an individual. She is a leading researcher in electron spin resonance (ESR) and ESR imaging (ESRI), techniques that provide information on the presence and distribution in space of specific molecules. ESRI provides an image of various sections of a sample, just as an MRI picture gives sections in human specimens.

In addition to teaching and research, Schlick has found the time to edit and contribute four chapters out of 12 to a book entitled Advanced ESR Methods in Polymer Research, which will be published by Wiley-Interscience this fall.

Schlick has written grants to buy and upgrade two spectrometers worth more than $400,000 apiece. No university or industrial laboratory in Michigan is better equipped for the type of advanced research she conducts.

International ties

Schlick adds a strong international flair to the Chemistry Department. She was born in Romania and educated in Israel, where she earned her doctorate in Molecular Spectroscopy at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. She has taught a

s_schlick Shulamith Schlick’s research attracts students from around the world

The University of Detroit Mercy is the site of exciting research on fuel cell materials for the automotive industry, in large part because Professor Shulamith Schlick keeps her well-equipped, first-floor corner laboratory and unpretentious office in the Chemistry Building connected with a worldwide network of researchers.

For more than 20 years at UDM, Schlick has attracted a continuous flow of both research grants and promising students from the U.S. and around the world. Schlick’s specialty is spectroscopy, an analytical tool used to identify a molecule’s unique characteristics, just as a fingerprint can be used to identify an individual. She is a leading researcher in electron spin resonance (ESR) and ESR imaging (ESRI), techniques that provide information on the presence and distribution in space of specific molecules. ESRI provides an image of various sections of a sample, just as an MRI picture gives sections in human specimens.

In addition to teaching and research, Schlick has found the time to edit and contribute four chapters out of 12 to a book entitled Advanced ESR Methods in Polymer Research, which will be published by Wiley-Interscience this fall.

Schlick has written grants to buy and upgrade two spectrometers worth more than $400,000 apiece. No university or industrial laboratory in Michigan is better equipped for the type of advanced research she conducts.

International ties

Schlick adds a strong international flair to the Chemistry Department. She was born in Romania and educated in Israel, where she earned her doctorate in Molecular Spectroscopy at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. She has taught at UDM since 1983, but the world has been her classroom as well.

She has held visiting professorships in Italy, Germany, France, Israel and Japan. In 2003, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Linköping University in Sweden.

Her network of contacts extends to more than a dozen countries, and that is reflected in the diversity of international students who come to study at UDM. In the last year she has worked with students and visiting scientists from Bosnia, Japan, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Syria, and Russia.  

Fuel cell research

Currently Schlick and her colleagues are working on three separate research projects on polymer degradation and stability in fuel cells funded by a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation running through 2008, as well as grants from the Fuel Cell Activity Center of General Motors and Ford Motor Company. Schlick and her research teams are studying polymeric membranes that regulate the flow of oxygen, hydrogen, and other molecules between the two main chambers in a fuel cell. Polymers are big molecules built like a string of beads that can degrade over time when exposed to certain conditions.

“The membrane has a very important function, and if it degrades, the whole fuel cell will not function properly,” Schlick says.

The ESR techniques developed in Schlick’s laboratory allow the researchers to identify the specific fragments that break off from polymer molecules as part of the degradation process.

“We can tell what exposure to heat, air and UV radiation will do to the materials,” Schlick says.
Since her team is working on fundamental scientific research, commercial applications of these fuel cell projects may be “many years” in the future.

“There are numerous technological problems that must first be solved with fuel cells, and I am trying to contribute to the solution for membrane stability,” Schlick says.

Personal interaction

Schlick describes her research approach as a team effort. An undergraduate can help the process by running a series of calculations. A graduate student or post-doctoral fellow can run ESR experiments on a spectrometer to measure the lifetime of a specific polymer. Other researchers can study the effect of certain conditions on polymers degradation and stability.

“We all contribute to the project and it’s a cumulative effort,” Schlick says. “There is almost no project on which I am the sole author. My job is to provide funds for research, select the specific topics of study, help in interpretation of the results, and in writing the papers.”

Collaboration with her students helps her keep up a busy publishing schedule of as many as 10 scientific papers a year.

Schlick teaches physical chemistry, polymer chemistry and spectroscopy. The courses are part of a chemistry curriculum that provides a broad base of knowledge that will be useful for students who advance to graduate school in chemistry, medical school or dental school. She likes to utilize the laboratory for teaching as well as research.

“The best place to work with the students is in the lab,” Schlick says. “Students have excellent ideas … and cooperating with them helps me generate new ideas.”

The interest and concern that Schlick demonstrates for her students and colleagues fits in well with UDM’s educational approach.

“What makes UDM very special,” she says, “is that we try to maintain direct communication between the instructor and the student.”

t UDM since 1983, but the world has been her classroom as well.

She has held visiting professorships in Italy, Germany, France, Israel and Japan. In 2003, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Linköping University in Sweden.

Her network of contacts extends to more than a dozen countries, and that is reflected in the diversity of international students who come to study at UDM. In the last year she has worked with students and visiting scientists from Bosnia, Japan, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Syria, and Russia.  

Fuel cell research

Currently Schlick and her colleagues are working on three separate research projects on polymer degradation and stability in fuel cells funded by a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation running through 2008, as well as grants from the Fuel Cell Activity Center of General Motors and Ford Motor Company. Schlick and her research teams are studying polymeric membranes that regulate the flow of oxygen, hydrogen, and other molecules between the two main chambers in a fuel cell. Polymers are big molecules built like a string of beads that can degrade over time when exposed to certain conditions.

“The membrane has a very important function, and if it degrades, the whole fuel cell will not function properly,” Schlick says.

The ESR techniques developed in Schlick’s laboratory allow the researchers to identify the specific fragments that break off from polymer molecules as part of the degradation process.

“We can tell what exposure to heat, air and UV radiation will do to the materials,” Schlick says.
Since her team is working on fundamental scientific research, commercial applications of these fuel cell projects may be “many years” in the future.

“There are numerous technological problems that must first be solved with fuel cells, and I am trying to contribute to the solution for membrane stability,” Schlick says.

Personal interaction

Schlick describes her research approach as a team effort. An undergraduate can help the process by running a series of calculations. A graduate student or post-doctoral fellow can run ESR experiments on a spectrometer to measure the lifetime of a specific polymer. Other researchers can study the effect of certain conditions on polymers degradation and stability.

“We all contribute to the project and it’s a cumulative effort,” Schlick says. “There is almost no project on which I am the sole author. My job is to provide funds for research, select the specific topics of study, help in interpretation of the results, and in writing the papers.”

Collaboration with her students helps her keep up a busy publishing schedule of as many as 10 scientific papers a year.

Schlick teaches physical chemistry, polymer chemistry and spectroscopy. The courses are part of a chemistry curriculum that provides a broad base of knowledge that will be useful for students who advance to graduate school in chemistry, medical school or dental school. She likes to utilize the laboratory for teaching as well as research.

“The best place to work with the students is in the lab,” Schlick says. “Students have excellent ideas … and cooperating with them helps me generate new ideas.”

The interest and concern that Schlick demonstrates for her students and colleagues fits in well with UDM’s educational approach.

“What makes UDM very special,” she says, “is that we try to maintain direct communication between the instructor and the student.”