Students from the research lab groups of Professors of Chemistry Walter Bowyer and Erin Pelkey and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Elana Stennett presented lectures and posters on their work at the Annual Collegiate Research Symposium of the American Chemical Society (ACS), held this spring at Rochester Institute of Technology.
“They were summarizing what experiments they’ve done, what results they found and conclusions they’ve been able to reach, and what they hope to do next,” says Stennett. “My group studies water purification, understanding the role temperature, salinity and ionic strength play in causing membranes to stop purifying your water.”
Noah Kilmer ’21, a member of Stennett’s group, presented the results of his work on biofouling. “Biofouling is when a membrane gets clogged with biological molecules, making it less efficient. In our model system, we use a mixture of two different proteins to mimic this,” he says.
The conference enabled Kilmer and his fellow students to hone the presentation and adjust it to better answer questions from the scientific audience. He and Yating “Sherry” Zhang ’19 will present their research again in August at the ACS national conference in San Diego.
The presentation by Nate Ruffle-Deignan ’20 involved water flux studies (which measure the rate of water flow through membranes) and fluorescent spectroscopy. “I find the topic interesting because it provides an interdisciplinary approach to research,” he says. “More importantly, as fresh water supplies around the world are increasingly stressed due to human activity, water purification research will be crucial for discovering new, more efficient ways to bring potable water to those impacted most.”
An interdisciplinary approach was used by several of the student researchers. Kaitlynn Sockett ’20 worked on cancer research in conjunction with a research group led by Associate Professor of Biology Patricia Mowery. “We made analogs which have anticancer properties, and the Mowery group tested their cytotoxicity against different cancer cell lines,” says Sockett. “This presentation focused on which analogs were more potent against cancer cell lines.”
Stennett says the opportunity to present research gives students a chance to interact productively with a chemistry-oriented audience and share their accomplishments beyond the confines of the laboratory.
“It’s a great way to showcase HWS and what we’re doing,” she says. “It not only shows what our students have accomplished and what the faculty are doing, but also helps us be a more integral part of the chemistry community in this area.”