Students from around Alabama share research at Science and Technology Open House

2/10/2014


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (February 7, 2014) — More than 120 students from universities around the state joined Tuskegee University on Friday in promoting science and technological education in Alabama. In its fifth year, the Science and Technology Open House is aimed at motivating secondary students to choose careers in science and technology fields. It also provides college students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields with an opportunity to display their research. The event kicked off with a research poster competition for college and post-graduate students and concluded Saturday afternoon with info sessions aimed at middle school and high school students interested in STEM education.
  


Greg Canfield, Alabama Secretary of Commerce was the keynote speaker.

The event, held at the Renaissance Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center in Montgomery, Ala, was free and open to the public. 

In addition to Tuskegee, the following universities participated in the event: Alabama State University, Alabama A&M University, Auburn University, University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Alabama in Huntsville and University of South Alabama. 

Research for real world applications

Many of the students in the poster competition said that the event was an interesting way to connect with other researchers and form possible collaborations. Petra Kerscher, a third-year chemical engineering major from Auburn University, presented her project on manipulating stem cells to become cardiac tissue. 

“It’s important in Alabama that you get a feeling about research is going on in the state,” Kerscher said about coming to the open house. “If you are doing exciting research you should show it.”

Her research uses specialty molecules and nutrients to reprogram ordinary stem cells to become tissue that actually contracts like heart muscle. She said the cells could be used to replace damaged cells in heart attack patients or be used by pharmaceutical companies.

“Using this kind of system, you can even test the body’s response to antibiotics,” she said. 

Dereca T. Watkins has been to the open house many times before and said it has been a good way to get feedback about her work. 

“This good experience and it teaches you how to present your research,” said the Albany, Ga. native. 

Watkins is a third-year material science and engineering Ph. D. candidate and Tuskegee and hopes her project will make a difference in industrial production of flame-retardant materials. 

Resole phenol formaldehyde resin is a man-made chemical used in areas such as jewelry fabrication, aircraft panels, chemical tank liners and countertops. However, the basic components used to make it are highly toxic. 

“It’s dangerous to the body. It can cause kidney and liver damage. Reproductive and respiratory problems,” Watkins said. 

She hopes to modify production of the resin by adding lignin, a plant-derived chemical that also flame-retardant. Using organic acid solvents, the lignin is extracted from alfalfa, flax fiber, pine straw and wheat straw. It takes about a day to make a sample. 

“I have always been interested in how we can use our natural products. I am hoping that the modified material will have better thermal properties,” she said. 

Future leaders in science

The open house is partially supported by the National Science Foundation and the Alabama Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (Alabama EPSCoR). Dr. Shaik Jeelani, Tuskegee’s vice president of research and sponsored programs, is the chair of Alabama EPSCoR’s steering committee. He said the event is important to fostering student research in Alabama which benefits industries in the state. 

“The U.S. is lacking in its technological workforce,” Jeelani said. “This [event] helps because we are producing a competent workforce for companies.”

Wanda Jones, Tuskegee Class of 2009, knows the benefits of events like the open house. She has worked at Baheth Research and Development Laboratories and now teaches at Faulkner State and Bishop State community colleges. She was one of the 24 poster judges, but a few years ago, she was a student learning how to present her research at an open house. She said the event was an opportunity to look for future students for collaborations.

“A lot of the research is related to environmental science and health care disparities- areas that are important around the world,” Jones said. “We don’t have to go anywhere else. We have people right here in Alabama working on this.”


List of Winners

Undergraduates

Student Name

School

Research Poster Title

Jana Ranae Wright

University Alabama Birmingham

“Testing & Characterization of Bamboo”

Patrick Marshall

Auburn University

“Preparation of Alginate/Chitosan Fibers for Biomedical Applications

Blakely Bussie

Auburn University

“An Automated Program to Quantify the Location and Morphology of Mitochondria”

Master’s Category

Physicals

Student Name

School

Research Poster Title

Peter S. Owuor

Tuskegee University

“Durability Studies of Hybrid Composite of E-Glass/Carbon Fibers in Different Solvent Media for Bridge Deck Panel Application”

Shatori Meadows

Tuskegee University

“Development and Analysis of Sustainable Bio-based and Recyclable Polyester Resin”

Neil K. Ruckart

University of Southern Alabama

“Impact of Confinement of Ionic Liquids on Gas Sorption and Chemical Solubility”

Biologicals

Student Name

School

Research Poster Title

Shanese L. Jasper

Alabama State University

“Antibacterial Activity of Proprietary Peptide TP373 against Salmonella and Staphylococcus”

Samia Islam

Tuskegee University

“Preparation and Characterization of Calcium Citrate from Waste Egg Shell as a Source of Calcium Supplement”

Hunter B. Rogers

Auburn University

“Magnetic Nanoparticles as Multimodal Contrast Agents for the Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer”

Ph. D. Category

Physicals

Student Name

School

Research Poster Title

William R. Gaillard

University of Alabama Huntsville

“Microfluidic Reactor Development for Oligonucleotide Synthesis”

Boniface J. Tiimob

Tuskegee University

“Bio-waste Derived Calcium Silicate Nanoparticles for Tissue Regeneration and Structural Reinforcement Applications”

Melike Dizbay-Onat

University of Alabama Birmingham

“Effects of Carbonization and Activation Parameters on Natural Fiber Derived Activated Carbons”

Hong Guo

University of Alabama Huntsville

“Hybrid Plasmon Photonic Crystal Gratings for Spectroscopic Sensing”

Hasan Babaei

Auburn University

“Thermal Conductivity Enhancement of Paraffins by Increasing the Alignment of Molecules through Adding CNT/Graphene”

Biologicals

Student Name

School

Research Poster Title

Shantanu Pradhan

Auburn University

“A Novel Model of Artificial Breast Cancer Tissue for Drug-testing Applications”

Petra Kerscher

Auburn University

“Generating 3D Engineered Cardiac Tissues Using Human Pluripotent Stem Cells”

Amanee D. Salaam

University Alabama Birmingham

“Nanodiamond Medicated Drug Delivery Systems for Targeted Treatment of Prostate Cancer”

Vitus Apalangya

Tuskegee University

“Biocompatible Polymer/Hydroxyapatite Electrospun Fibers for Bioengineering Scaffold Applications”

Diane Render

Tuskegee University

“Preparation and Evaluation of 5-Fluorouracil Drug Delivery System with Calcium Carbonate Nanoparticles”




 
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