St. Mary’s College of Maryland student Danielle Spaulding ’20 was awarded a research grant from the Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research Program for her research titled “Can Glyphosate and Polyethoxylated Tallowamine Inhibit Cytochrome P450 Enzymes?” Spaulding, who is a double major in biology and chemistry, is pursuing this research question for her St. Mary’s Project (SMP) under the guidance of Shanen M. Sherrer, assistant professor of biochemistry. Her work, which stems from summer research conducted in 2019 with a St. Mary’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship, is investigating the biochemical consequences of glyphosate, an active ingredient of herbicides such as Roundup®. The enzyme studied is important for drug metabolism. Results from Spaulding’s SMP can help provide new insights on negative health outcomes after herbicide exposure.
Solar energy startup company SolarCube LLC has won a $100,000 technology product development grant through the Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program (MIPS). The funding will directly support the research and development work led by Troy Townsend, assistant professor of chemistry at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), who is the principle inventor for technology that uses nanomaterials to allow photovoltaic solar modules to be manufactured using an affordable, inkjet-like printing process.
MIPS, a program of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, supports research projects at University System of Maryland universities (plus Morgan State University and St. Mary’s College), to help Maryland companies develop technology-based products. MIPS funds are matched by participating companies to pay for the university research.
Solar Cube’s MIPS project is also supported by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Innovative Technology Fund, a partnership between DNR, the University of Maryland and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with the goal of accelerating Chesapeake Bay restoration through the development of new technologies. DNR provided funding to MIPS for the project.
Townsend developed the base technology at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in 2014 and has proven the process with a working nanocrystal prototype. In June 2018, SolarCube LLC and the Naval Research Laboratory signed the license agreement for the lab’s patented “spray deposition method for inorganic nanocrystal solar cells” technology. TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary, assisted SolarCube with development of the required commercialization plan and patent license application.
“Of all the renewable energy options, solar is the only one with enough potential to exceed even our future global power demand,” Townsend said. “Solar power is a really nice financial benefit for homeowners. But not for everyone else. In order to make it more accessible, we need to drive the price way down and seamlessly integrate it into our everyday life.”
Townsend’s work on printed electronics involves undergraduate research at St. Mary’s College. Student Bradley Moore ’20, who works on printing the nanocrystal inks said, “If we do the layers correctly, it will make a solar panel that would be 40 times thinner than a human hair.” Moore injects inks made of semiconducting and metallic nanocrystals into cartridges to print out 2D patterns onto arbitrary substrates to build electronics.
Moore works with fellow student Megan Waters ’20, who is synthesizing the inks using air-free conditions. Waters, who has been synthesizing silver nanowires said, “Trying to figure out just the right concentrations and times of injection were definitely the most challenging and interesting parts of the synthesis.”
Townsend said, “Undergraduate research is our pride and joy here at St. Mary’s College. These projects would not be possible without our talented students. In the meantime, they are working on graduate level projects and publishing their work in journals and presenting at national conferences.” Townsend was also co-director of the 2019 St. Mary’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which provided opportunities for students to work on mentored projects over the summer.
Townsend’s research group will continue to work with SolarCube LLC to develop printed solar cells. SolarCube LLC is located at the TechPort incubator in California, Maryland. Townsend plans to print a prototype solar module using the support of the MIPS award and work with SolarCube LLC on ways to adapt the lab-scale process into industrial-scale printing-press manufacturing.
Townsend said, “Just like the printing press revolutionized the written word, rapid roll-to-roll printing of electronics is the next step.”
For more information about the project, please visit TEDx Leornardtown video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivV1w2GFcmE&feature=youtu.be
Nicholas (Nick) D’Antona ’19 and Peter Orban ’20 were recently awarded fellowships from the National Institutes of Standards & Technology (NIST) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). NIST is one of the nation’s premiere research institutions for the physical and engineering sciences. The two SMCM students will work at labs in Gaithersburg, MD during the summer of 2019.
This will be the second consecutive NIST SURF fellowship for Peter, who will work in the Physical Measurement Laboratory in the Fluid Metrology Group. Peter is majoring in both mathematics and physics, with a materials science minor. After graduating from SMCM he plans to go into a PhD program in applied physics. Peter’s project title is: “Improving Stack Flow Measurements by making them faster and more accurate”.
Nick will work with Dr. Lee Richter in the Materials Measurement Lab on a project titled: “Wide bandgap metal oxide films as electron transport layers in scalably-printed quantum dot solar cells”. Nick is pursuing a double major in physics and chemistry and plans to attend graduate school to study chemistry or materials science in pursuit of a PhD after graduating from SMCM.
St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) was well represented and very well received at the second annual meeting of the Council on Undergraduate Research Transformations Project (CUR-T), funded by the National Science Foundation (Award no. 1625354). The inter-disciplinary SMCM team attending the conference included Drs. Mertz, Neiles, Bowers, Dillingham, Wooley, Koenig, and Foster.
The CUR Transformations Project aims to understand and incorporate successful strategies to integrate high-quality undergraduate research (UGR) throughout four-year undergraduate STEM curricula. SMCM’s contribution to this ambitious nation-wide endeavor focuses on undergraduate research integration in the disciplines of psychology and chemistry & biochemistry, and we have a committed team of 16 faculty and administrators working toward this goal.
The 2018 annual meeting allowed all 12 institutions participating in the CUR-T project to highlight their progress toward achieving project goals, and by all accounts our SMCM psychology and chemistry/biochemistry teams excelled and impressed. Congratulations to all of them, and please feel free to ask them about their CUR-T-related progress and insights. Each team works to create a more research-rich, connected, and scaffolded curriculum, and contributes to two major research questions: 1) What effect do student characteristics (e.g., preexisting academic preparation) have on scaffolded integration of UGR into the curriculum and student learning outcomes? 2) How do different STEM disciplines/departments effectively integrate the components and outcomes of high-quality UGR to reach more students? The CUR-T principal investigators received NSF funding to answer these pertinent questions in order to advance the academy’s understanding of effective teaching and learning and the disciplinary and cultural factors necessary for curricular integration and transformation. Collectively, we are at the cutting edge of STEM curricular transformations.
David Gerrish, an undergraduate physics major at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), will be the first SMCM student to undertake a summer internship at the new Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site located at the St. Mary’s Airport in California, MD. Under the mentorship of Dr. Troy Townsend, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Materials Science at SMCM, David will be using Computer Aided Design (CAD) to build 3-D printed unmanned aircraft and test their performance at the University of Maryland UAS Test Site. This full-time 11-week internship is traditionally awarded to students attending the University of Maryland, College Park Engineering Program or the College of Southern Maryland Engineering or Computer Science Programs.
According to the UAS website, “UAS Test Site summer internships give students an opportunity to work hands-on with researchers and staff on the modeling, design, analysis, simulation, assembly, and experimentation of UAS. As members of the test site team, summer interns work full-time from offices in California, MD and … [conclude the internship] with a briefing to advisors and UAS Test Site staff on project outcomes. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site at the University of Maryland stands at the forefront of UAS rulemaking, commercialization, and national airspace integration. Formed in 2014, Test Site experts leverage their approximately 150 years of combined experience in military and civilian aviation, engineering, and project management to accelerate the safe, responsible application of UAS in public and private industries.”
St. Mary’s College of Maryland is Maryland’s Public Honors College and is heralded as one of the nation’s top public liberal arts colleges. David’s internship award is a testament to the quality of the applied science component of the SMCM student liberal arts experience. Dr. Townsend says, “One of St. Mary’s greatest values is student research. Every student is required to complete a senior capstone project to culminate their interdisciplinary studies, and I have a team of students who start in lab with directed research in their first two years of college. The applied nature of our research has initiated partnerships with the Navy and commercial partners, where our undergraduate students are conducting PhD level research. Projects like David’s are super cool and could lead to exciting opportunities with new discoveries in technology.”
Two students conducting their St. Mary’s Project research with Dr. Aileen Bailey, professor of psychology and Aldom-Planseon Honors College Professor, have received grants to support their work. Marilyn Steyert was recently awarded a $918 grant through the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society to support her research and in recognition of her academic achievement. A graduating senior, Marilyn is majoring in Biology, with minors in Neuroscience and Music. She is continuing past research on the project entitled “Understanding the action of novel fast-acting antidepressant, L-655,708 in the brain” under the guidance of Dr. Bailey. Another student working on research in Dr. Bailey’s lab is graduating senior Max Madden, a double major in Biochemistry and Psychology. He has received $1,500 in funding through the Psi Chi Undergraduate Research Grant to support his St. Mary’s Project: “Examination of the Mechanism of the Fast Acting Antidepressant L-655,708.” Since July 2015, Dr. Bailey’s research lab has been primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health, via a subaward with University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Using rats as test subjects, Marilyn and Max are analyzing the effects of a specific drug on synapse strength within neurons in certain areas of the brain. The grant money received from Sigma Xi is being used to visualize and study certain proteins within cells. Changes in behavior and synaptic strength will be analyzed to see the effects of L-655,708 in the rats brain. Marilyn hopes to show the potential of this drug for future use in humans, due to its rapid neurological changes in rats. As with all research conducted on vertebrate animals at St. Mary’s College, Marilyn and Max’s work was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
Marilyn is the President of Tri Beta, the Biological Honor Society at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and is also involved in BioPump, a program that supports Biology students’ academic success. After graduation, Marilyn hopes to continue her academic education and become a professor. Max was a member of the St. Mary’s men’s Swim Team and plans to continue his education in graduate school after leaving St. Mary’s College. Marilyn and Max are two of many talented students to receive a grant through an honor society here at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Transformations Project will kick off this weekend, October 27-29, at The College of New Jersey, where the CUR-recruited consultants and departmental teams will begin their sustained work together for the next four years. Attending the meeting on behalf of St. Mary’s College is administrative co-lead of the project, Christine Wooley, interim associate dean of curriculum, and departmental co-leads Aileen Bailey, Pamela Mertz, and Kelly Neiles.
St. Mary’s College of Maryland is one of only 12 institutions selected by CUR for its Transformations Project, funded by the National Science Foundation. The Transformations Project will revise traditional four-year undergraduate curricula in biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology by focusing on high-quality undergraduate research throughout the four years of a student’s major. Participants from institutions around the country will directly engage in novel research to study the student, faculty, departmental, and disciplinary influences on the process of integrating and scaffolding undergraduate research experiences throughout the curriculum in two of the four possible disciplines.
A team of 16 faculty and staff members at St. Mary’s College are participating, including principal investigator and co-lead Sabine Loew Dillingham, director of the office of research & sponsored programs.
The full team is comprised of:
- Michael Wick, provost and dean of faculty
- Anne Marie Himmelheber Brady, director of the office of institutional research
- Pamela Mertz, CBC’s chair & professor of chemistry
- Kelly Neiles, assistant professor of chemistry
- Andrew Koch, professor of chemistry
- Randolph Larsen, professor of chemistry
- Daniel Chase, assistant professor of chemistry
- Geoffrey Bowers, assistant professor of chemistry
- Aileen Bailey, Aldom-Planseon Honors College Professor of psychology
- Nathaniel Foster, assistant professor of psychology
- Cynthia Koenig, associate professor of psychology
- James Mantell, assistant professor of psychology
- Jennifer Tickle, associate professor of psychology
- Elizabeth Nutt Williams, professor of psychology & chair of the psychology department
- Christine Wooley, interim associate dean of curriculum
- Sabine Loew Dillingham, director of the office of research & sponsored programs
Elizabeth Johnson, a rising senior biochemistry major, was awarded $1,000 from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) to support her 2017 summer research project. Johnson will be working on a cross-disciplinary project with Dr. Pamela Mertz, Chair and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Dr. Jessica Malisch, Assistant Professor of Biology, as part of SMCM’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). The title of her project is “Oh Say Can you CBG? A New Technique for Evaluating Stress Responses in Birds” which capitalizes on the expertise of biochemical mechanisms and methodology available in Dr. Mertz’s lab to help answer important biology research questions being explored in Dr. Malisch’s lab.
Corticosteroid binding globulin (CBG) is a protein involved in vertebrate animals’ response to stressors. CBG and the hormone corticosterone help coordinate organismal responses to changes in the environment, but most field biologists do not account for CBG due to difficulty obtaining accurate measurements. Johnson’s research as part of the SURF program in June and July, 2017 will attempt to make CBG quantification more practical. Better understanding of the role of CBG will help ecologists interpret physiological data collected in the field and may help lead to medical advances in treating human stress disorders.
The SURF program at SMCM involves students, mentored by a faculty member, engaging in scholarly or creative work for eight-weeks over the summer. The ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization whose mission is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology and to promote the understanding of the molecular nature of life processes.
A grant jointly funded by the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program and vCalc LLC in 2016 continues to generate steady interest at vCalc.com. St. Mary’s College of Maryland was awarded $97,361 to support student projects for vCalc.
The Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program promotes the development and commercialization of products and processes through industry/university research partnerships. MIPS provides matching funds to help Maryland companies pay for the university research. Projects are initiated by the companies to meet research and development goals.
vCalc (see 90 second YouTube video here) is a fast-growing calculator, equation and dataset library that helps users create, collaborate and quickly calculate. Topics range from complex scientific equations to practical everyday equations. vCalc has hundreds of calculators and thousands of equations created by engineers, professors and students from around the world.
The St. Mary’s research team developed equations for vCalc.com in math, chemistry, psychology, physics, and economics during the summer of 2016. The team was composed of students Caleb Svobodny, Austin Schlegel, Daria Vaseneva, Emma Skekel, Tyler Jones, Caroline Robertson, Savannah Bergen and Chris Lynch. Professors Emek Kose, Josh Grossman, Richard Platt, Randolph Larsen and Shizuka Nishikawa supported the project.
Kurt Heckman, president of vCalc, recently reported that several of the calculators created by SMCM students posted at vCalc.com are generating significant regular traffic to the site, including Savannah Bergen’s Characteristic Polynomial of a 3×3 matrix, which regularly gets used over 1,000 times per month, and Emma Skekel’s chemistry calculator to compute Kp from Kc, which sees 1,700 page hits per month, with an average time on page of 12 minutes and 38 seconds! According to Heckman, “that’s terrific engagement, and clearly an indication of how useful this calculator has become to chemistry students”.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Geoff Bowers was recently named one of four faculty from across the nation that will be participating in the Visiting Faculty Program at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) this summer. This program is operated by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists in collaboration with the Department of Energy laboratories. The goal of the program is to bring faculty from institutions traditionally underrepresented in the research community to the national laboratories, expanding their workforce and giving faculty and their students opportunities to engage in and augment their professional scholarship. The competitive program requires a research proposal co-written with a PNNL scientist and involves working ten weeks this summer at the national lab.
Dr. Bowers will be working with H. Todd Schaef and his collaborators studying the interactions of minerals and organic matter in the subsurface with supercritical methane and carbon dioxide, work relevant to non-conventional gas extraction and sequestration. One of Dr. Bowers’s research students, Sydney Cunniff ‘17, will also be at the lab this summer working with Dr. Schaef and colleagues through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships program.