Dr. Lasseter Clare, who earned her PhD in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, worked part-time for the Philadelphia Museum of Art before applying for a postdoctoral grant through the National Science Foundation. Her grant stipulated two components—a research component and a service component.Regarding the research component of her grant, she notes, "I’m evaluating new coatings for outdoor metals—such as bronze sculptures. One of the problems with the coatings currently used is that they are hydrophilic—they absorb water. If we can keep water from coming in, we can better preserve the original color of the metal. The coatings I’m evaluating are much more hydrophobic—they repel water, and also are more resistant to degrading through exposure to ultraviolet rays. The current lifetime for outdoor coatings might be 5 years, and I’m working to extend that—ideally to 50 years or more. If you increase the interval between maintenance work, you decrease the cost." And when you realize that Philadelphia has more than 500 outdoor bronzes, more than any other city in the U.S., that can amount to a significant savings. It is the service component of her grant, however, that is bringing her into contact with area chemistry teachers and their students. Teachers sign up to bring classes to the Museum for a unique chemistry lab. "I meet with the high school chemistry classes and they learn about the finishing techniques in metalworking. There is a lot of science involved in finishing metals, and in the workshop the students learn about both the chemical and physical treatments that produce the beautiful art they see in the galleries."
Since the start of her program in October, Dr. Lasseter Clare has worked with 11 classes, totaling more than 300 students, and looks forward to working with more groups this semester.
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