Last semester, Hiram College’s cohort of Choose Ohio First scholars had the unique opportunity to visit the Cleveland Museum of Art for a tour and discussion of the art conservation process. Choose Ohio First is a state-funded program that awards scholarships to incoming students who declare a STEM major. 

When students join Hiram’s Choose Ohio First program, they are joining a STEM-centric, professional development community.  Part of that professional development is exposing scholars to the different ways science is having an impact across many varying disciplines. 

As the Choose Ohio First Program Director for Hiram, Steven Romberger, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, coordinator of biochemistry major, and director of the Office of Scholarly Endeavors, has always been fascinated by the intersections between disciplines. This is something he often tries to convey to students across their course of study to open their eyes to new areas of STEM they might not have considered before. One way this is shown is elements or tools in one discipline can be used in a completely different manner in another discipline.  

“One of my favorite examples of this is Prussian blue,” said Dr.Romberger. “It is a compound we use in the lab that is common in photosynthesis research. It also has been used for centuries as a pigment in blue paint, as a dye for cloth, and it is an important medication as well.” 

During their visit, students discussed the chemistry of photography, gilding techniques, 3D modeling, the chemical composition of art, and the process of mounting and preserving prints, scrolls, paintings and more. The trip was meant to explore the different ways instruments and techniques that are often used in the lab are also used in ways students may not have expected.  

“For instance, students taking organic chemistry learn about mass spectrometry and infrared spectroscopy. They then got to see those concepts being used to identify pigments and materials used in different objects, which can help date objects and determine their origins,” said Dr. Romberger. “Students think of x-rays and CAT scans as important diagnostic tools in healthcare, but then got to see those same tools being used to examine the contents inside a statue, or to see the layers underneath a painting that we can’t see for ourselves.” 

Interested in learning more about the Choose Ohio First Program at Hiram? Contact Dr. Steven Romberger, rombergersp@hiram.edu.

By Taylor Cook