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Montana Tech Student Receives Top Honor on Best Paper Contest


Benjamin SuslavichBenjamin Suslavich received a first-place on The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) Best Paper Contest – Undergraduate Division for his paper entitled “Synthesis and Characterization of the Hydroxamic Acid N,3-dihydroxy-2-napthamide and its Copper (II) Complex – An Investigation on Keto/Enol Forms and Rare Earth Flotation.” Ben did the work under the guidance of Dr. Courtney Young and Dr. Rick LaDouceur. His project was funded by the Army Research Lab as well as Montana Tech’s Summer Undergraduate Research Project (SURF).

For his research, Ben investigated a chemical commonly used in the mineral processing of rare earth elements, specifically as a collector in a process known as flotation. Because there is no published procedure for making the chemical and because they were unable to secure a 10-millilter sample, Mr. Suslavich synthesized it himself rather than purchase a 55-gallon drum of it. He proceeded to compare it to other chemicals that they were able to get and found it worked better. Furthermore, through software modeling and spectroscopic characterization, he was able to determine a mechanism describing how the chemical worked. In short, it involves chelation bonding and keto-enol tautomerization.

The award will be presented at the TMS 2020 Annual Meeting & Exhibition in San Diego, California. At the time the paper was submitted, Mr. Suslavich was a senior majoring in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at Montana Tech. He has since stayed put to pursue his Master’s degree because of the undergraduate research experience.