Generous Gift Bolsters Stonehill's Science Labs

January 26, 2018


As Professor Russell Scaduto ’77 approached the idea of retiring after a life time of research in cellular and molecular physiology, he grappled with what to do with all the scientific equipment he had so carefully handcrafted during his academic career and purchased through his business enterprises.

Then late last year an article about Stonehill, where he first fell in love with the sciences, caught his attention in the Alumni E-Newsletter. It highlighted Physics Professor Ruby Gu and Chemistry Professor Cheryl Schnitzer and their femtosecond laser lab and integrated photonics work.

In that article, Scaduto had his answer and, knowing from experience how difficult it is to secure funds for teaching and research, he emailed Professor Schnitzer with a very thoughtful offer.

Tickled Pink

“Several years ago, I designed and built fluorometers and related equipment for my research at Penn State. Through independent funding, from the National Institutes of Health SBIR program, I designed and marketed these instruments after starting my own company but, with retirement, no longer need them. Having received a really good liberal arts education at Stonehill from outstanding faculty, I was tickled pink by the idea of both helping today’s students and faculty, and finding a good home for the equipment,” explains Scaduto.

Before Christmas, Scaduto travelled from Pennsylvania to meet with Gu and Schnitzer and deliver a treasure trove of specialized optical equipment, which is well preserved and supported by organized, detailed paperwork.

The list includes a laser power meter (Thorlabs), Kratos Universal power supply for Xenon lamps, lamps and housings, two photomultiplier power supplies, several monochromators, an optical bench from a dual wave scanning spectrometer, Hamamatsu photon-counting photomultipliers with housings, water bath, optical collection, filters, lenses, mirrors, fibers, and holders.

Designed From Scratch

“It’s remarkable that Russ designed and assembled some of these instruments himself from scratch. It’s great work and we appreciate the artistry of designing instruments and his deep level of understanding to accomplish that. He took great pride in going piece by piece with us to explain how each equipment operates,” notes Schnitzer.

The gift will help faculty and students both in labs associated with chemistry and physics courses and research labs.

“Most of the equipment does not look like a typical 'black box' that are widely sold today. Instead, this older and handmade equipment is valuable in that students can see the inner-workings and understand why every optic and part is placed where it is,” adds Schnitzer.

Moreover, according to Gu, “the spectrometers and the optical collections like filters, mirrors and lenses are not only useful in the optic labs but also very useful in helping our students in understanding photonics in the frequency domain. They are also very useful in our research in wavelength-resolved integrated photonics and chemical analysis.”

Perfectly Aligned

One of Scaduto’s most exciting and timely donations is his extensive collection of fiber optics. In particular, his fiber-optic connectors and bundles, which he machined himself. As Schnitzer puts it, “Those devices are perfectly aligned with our integrated photonics initiative.”

In making this gift, Scaduto noted the influence of the College’s science faculty on his education. He recalled the enthusiasm that Dr. Maryalice Moore (Chemistry) brought to every lecture, the compelling motivation of Mike Horne (Physics), an independent study with the dry humored Thomas Healey (Chemistry), and the exquisite teaching, leadership and vision of Rev. Francis Hurley, C.S.C., Chair of the Biology Department.

“The College prepared me for graduate school and then a successful career in research and teaching where I was invigorated by smart, scholarly colleagues. I enjoyed the challenge and independence of my work and really felt that I never left school,” says Scaduto.

Later this year, Scaduto will retire from teaching at Penn State’s College of Medicine and as Director of Education Technology at the University. He and his wife will be moving to New Hampshire to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

In addition to spending more time with family, he intends to enjoy his hobbies, which include metal working, electronics, woodworking and photography.

Happy Retirement and thank you, Professor Scaduto!