Eight Adelphi Students Selected for the Horace G. McDonell Summer Research Fellowship

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* Adelphi University
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Sept. 5, 2014 - PRLog -- The Horace G. McDonell, Jr. ’52, ’02 (Hon.) endowed Summer Research Fellowship offers Adelphi University students the opportunity to engage in intensive hands-on research in biology, chemistry and physics for 10 weeks over the summer. Eight students were selected for the fellowship and received a $4,000 stipend in addition to mentorship from a faculty member as they conducted their rigorous research.

Biology major Neha Sharma ’15, who has been working under the mentorship of Assistant Professor Heather Liwanag since summer 2013, was selected as one of the research fellows this year. She studied heat transfer and will measure thermal resistance in order to determine the extent to which fur plays a role as insulator in Pinnipeds—otariids (fur seals and sea lions) and phocids (true seals)—when the animals are in water. Her study will contribute to explaining the evolutionary transition from fur to blubber.

While Ms. Sharma studied aquatic mammals, Alyssa Costa ’16 conducted her research to see how two types of fish, Erpetoichthys calabaricus (ropefish) and Channallabes apus (eel catfish), use push points when moving in water and on land. Ropefish have elongated abdominal region, whereas catfish have more caudal vertebrae. Ms. Costa compared the movement of the two types of fish on simulated terrestrial and aquatic environments using cameras to study force exerted on the pegs. Ms. Costa is a biology major and chemistry minor. She worked under the guidance of Associate Professor Andrea Ward.

Associate Professor Alan Schoenfeld has previously mentored students in research on the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene to gain an understanding of the relationship between aPKC and VHL proteins and its effects on the formation of kidney cancer. Biology major Justin Clarke ’16 worked with Dr. Schoenfeld to take the research to the next level. He studied the effects of reduction of the VHL tumor suppressor gene in cancerous pancreatic beta cells. It is estimated that 15% of VHL disease diagnosed patients develop neuroendocrine tumors in the pancreas. Mr. Clarke’s research will be instrumental in gaining a better understanding of pancreatic cancer.

Another McDonell fellow Monika Siepsiak’15 worked on synthesizing a derivative of improgan, a medicinal drug which has pain-relieving effects, but doesn’t possess addictive properties like morphine. Currently, improgan given orally or by IV does not enter the brain. Ms. Siepsiak experimented altering the structure of the drug in order to make it cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the brain. She has been working on this project with Assistant Professor Melissa Van Alstine-Parris for over a year and has presented her research at the American Chemical Society Undergraduate Research Symposium and at Adelphi’s Research Day. Ms. Siepsiak is a chemistry major and psychology minor. Although when she entered the program her goal was medical school, her research experience has led her to develop a strong interest for research in chemistry.

Chemistry major Tara Shea ’15 used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) activity based assay to study uridine nucleoside ribohydrolase, an enzyme utilized by parasites that cause the STD Trichomoniasis. Ms. Shea is excited to be continuing this research which she has been conducting since her sophomore year. She presented her earlier work at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Dallas, Texas, at the American Chemical Society Undergraduate Research Symposium, and at Adelphi’s Research Day. Her earlier work was also published this year in a peer-reviewed journal, Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters. She worked under the guidance of Assistant Professor Brian Stockman and she aims to lay the foundation for future efforts to develop alternative therapies for this disease.

Vivian Matubia ’15 used NMR to find the optimal architecture of nanohybrids composed of CdTe with other conductive materials that will increase the efficiency of solar cells on the atomic scale. Her research could play an instrumental role in making solar cells significantly affordable by offering a more cost-effective replacement for silicon. Ms. Matubia is a biochemistry major and a mathematics minor, however, her strong interest in chemistry and physics led her to apply for this research with Associate Professor Justyna Widera. Ms. Matubia is an international student from Kenya; the Fellowship provided her the financial freedom to spend the summer focusing on her research, and made it possible for her to travel to Poland with Professor Widera to conduct the second half of her research with colleagues at the University of Warsaw.

Physics major Michael Trietsch’15, in the joint degree program with Columbia University for engineering, has been working with Professor Gottipaty N. Rao for the past two summers under the same fellowship to develop a sensor for monitoring trace levels of gases such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) using a technique called Incoherent Broadband Cavity Enhanced Absorption Spectroscopy (IBB-CEAS). This summer, Mr. Trietsch continued his research to improve and enhance results that he has obtained using the same technique. He has also presented his findings at Adelphi’s Undergraduate Research Day as well as at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Lacrosse, Wisconsin last year.  NO2, which is also a greenhouse gas, is partly responsible for acid rain and smog. By helping detect the traces of NO2 with more precision, this sensor can help in controlling smog caused by NO2 emissions. Furthermore, the sensitive detector can also be used in medical diagnosis of respiratory diseases in a non-invasive way.

Passion for physics pushed Physics major Brian Kaufman ’16, to team up with Assistant Professor Matthew Wright in his freshman year to build a magneto-optical trap (MOT). His research involves using lasers and magnetic fields to cool and trap atoms to ultracold temperatures, which will enable the study of ultracold atomic collisions. Mr. Kaufman hopes that in the long run, they will be able to extend the research and use the methods controlling the production of molecules, enabling control over chemical reactions. He presented this research at Adelphi’s Undergraduate Research Day and this is the first year that Mr. Kaufman has been selected as a McDonell fellow.

Adelphi’s trustee emeritus and retired chairman and CEO of Perkin Elmer, Inc., Horace G. McDonell, Jr. has played a pivotal role in promoting science research on campus through his generous giving since 2011. Every summer science students, irrespective of their year at college, have applied to the fellowship to conduct research on their topic of interest. To learn more about the science offerings at Adelphi, visit http://arts-sciences.adelphi.edu/.

Kali Chan
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