CORVALLIS - The Oregon State University Foundation has received $455,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to support a new X-ray diffraction facility for materials research at the university.

The Murdock grant will be used to purchase two state-of-the-art X-ray diffraction machines, which will be the centerpieces of the new facility.

OSU researchers currently use less-effective equipment held by individual departments. Centralization of the new equipment will be more cost-efficient and of greater benefit to the entire OSU research community, officials say.

OSU President Paul G. Risser says the proposed facility has drawn unprecedented financial backing from within the university. Areas of the university including the College of Science, the College of Pharmacy, the Center for Advanced Materials Research, the Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology, the Environmental Health Science Center, and the Marine-Fresh Water Biomedical Center have all demonstrated a strong commitment to the new X-ray diffraction facility.

P. Shing Ho, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Oregon State and project director of the Murdock grant, uses X-ray diffraction in his research on the assembly of the DNA molecule as a solid material. Depending on research results, DNA could be used in the production of new materials. Ho says OSU is internationally recognized for its research on the structure of DNA.

Arthur Sleight, the Milton Harris Professor of Materials Science at OSU, is co-director of the Murdock grant. Sleight was one of a team of researchers who discovered zirconium tungstate, a compound that contracts rather than expands when heated. This discovery was hailed by Discover magazine as one of the top scientific advancements of 1996.

The new facility will also help in recruiting new faculty members in the area of protein molecule research, important to biomedical research.

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust was created by the will of the late M.J. (Jack) Murdock, a co-founder of Tektronix, Inc. of Beaverton, Ore. The trust's mission is to enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest by providing grants to organizations that seek to strengthen the region's educational and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. Oregon State University and the OSU Foundation have received more than $4 million from the Murdock Trust.

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P. Shing Ho, 541-737-2769