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'Radical' Chemist Earns Fulbright to Advance Research into Processes that Cause Food to Spoil, Other Materials to Decay

In pursuing Fulbright-supported research in Japan, UCís Anna Gudmundsdottir will work with colleagues to advance our understanding of how radicals (a type of atom, molecule or ion) combine with oxygen to produce the reactions that cause the food in the fridge to spoil.

Date: 6/20/2013
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover
The Fulbright Scholar Grant earned by the University of Cincinnatiís Anna Gudmundsdottir, professor of chemistry, will soon allow her to travel to Japan where she will be able to use advanced, specialized equipment alongside internationally prominent colleagues.
Anna Gudmundsdottir
UC's Anna Gudmundsdottir

Gudmundsdottir of UCís McMicken College of Arts & Sciences will travel to the University of Hiroshima in December and will then spend six months there, working to better understand why some radicals (atoms, molecules or ions with a single, unpaired electron) react with oxygen and why some donít.

Those that react with oxygen are part of the chemical process that ďdestroys the food in the fridge, causing it to become rancid, or causes the tires on our cars to decay. Itís a process that affects many materials, leading to destruction and decay,Ē according to Gudmundsdottir.

She added that while chemists already have some insights into the process, itís not entirely clear why some radicals are highly reactive with oxygen and some are not. In addition, she and colleagues, including Manabu Abe, professor of chemistry at the University of Hiroshima, will also conduct experiments on different compounds similar to vitamin E that have the ability to halt the reactions  caused when radicals combine with oxygen.

ďProfessor Abe and I have already shared some data. So, weíll be able to continue with new studies on compounds that show promise in interfering with the reactions that lead to the destruction of materials,Ē said Gudmundsdottir, who also received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2001.

She added that that in terms of its overall potential, real-world effect, the research is driving toward greater sustainability since eventual advances could mean slowing the spoilage and decay process of food and other materials we use every day.

Following her Fulbright experience, Gudmundsdottir and her colleagues in Japan plan to present and publish their research findings, and she will bring back any advances to enhance her teaching and research here at UC.