The focus of the Samet research group is the study of weak hydrogen bonds. My students and I are currently studying the important C-H—N and C-H—O linkages that form between hydrocarbons (supplying the C-H) and nitrogen (N) or oxygen(O) bases. The technique I use to study these systems is called matrix isolation – the freezing of guest molecules at very low temperatures in an inert host gas. The frozen sample or matrix is studied using Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. My research program involves students at every stage. I have received funding from outside sources such as Research Corporation and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Pictured above: The equipment used in a matrix isolation experiment. in the foreground, a turbomolecular pump; behind that, the vacuum manifolds for delivering the samples in the gas phase; on the lab bench, the cold head (where sample is frozen on the cold “window”) in the sample beam of the Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometer.
Pictured above: Senior chemistry major Alejo Lifschitz (’10) and Professor Samet connect the apparatus to the turbo pump. Alejo will be going to Northwestern University in the fall to work with Professor Chad Mirkin (D’son ’86).
In addition to the work that goes on in my lab, I also do research involving pedagogy, which is “the study of teaching.” In particular, I am interested in the role of chemistry in history, that is, the way in which molecules and chemical discoveries can shape history. This is different from a study of the history of chemistry. To this end, the focus of several of my courses is a book titled “Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History” by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson (2003). To read the article I published on this topic, click here.