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Chemistry Grant Recipient Studies Etruscan Architecture in Italy

July 21, 2016

Laura Lemire
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7240

Chemistry major Kaliopi Konomi at archaeological dig in ItalyFor a chemistry major and classical archaeological minor, six weeks analyzing Etruscan architecture in the heart of Umbria, Italy, is an opportunity of a lifetime, and one that Saint Anselm senior Kaliopi Konomi is grateful to have experienced. Konomi, from Haverill, Mass., is the 2016 recipient of the chemistry department's Father Michael Custer Summer Research Grant.

Under the direction of chemistry professor Mary Kate Donais and Classics professor David George, Konomi accompanied a group to the college's archaeological dig site in Orvieto, Italy this summer.

Utilizing a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, Konomi examined the elemental compositions of mortors as well as pigments used on frescoes, and architectural terra cotta,  and the composition of bucchero pottery.

"My hope was and still is, to provide an accurate foundation for understanding the Etruscans and their ways of providing for their civilization as a whole," says Konomi. "By analyzing the different mediums and their compositions, I can answer some questions such as, did they attain resources from locals, or did they have to import goods to make the frescoes or mortar? The size and influence of Etruscan culture can then be seen in a broader picture."

Konomi says the experience was memorable and rewarding. Conducting her research in the middle of an archaeological dig, she cultivated her lab skills and learned about the unpredictable nature of hands-on research, all while being immersed in another culture.

Chemistry major Kaliopi Konomi in Orvieto, Italy"Never in my life had I had such a fulfilling and productive six weeks," says Konomi. "I learned so much more about my research and its applications, the people (ancient and modern), and I can happily say that the region is my second home."

The Father Michael Custer Summer Research Grant has been awarded to Saint Anselm chemistry majors since 1997, when the Arel family created the endowment in honor of the chemistry department's former chair, long time faculty member and Saint Anselm Abbey monk, Father Michael Custer, O.S.B. The program promotes summer research under the direction of a chemistry department faculty member by providing a stipend.

Konomi has completed her research in Italy, and will present a written report and poster in the spring of 2017 to the campus community. She will also present her research at SciX 2016, a conference in Minneapolis, Minn., in September to professionals in the analytical sciences.

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