FordhamScience: Undergraduate Research and Bird Mojo

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Several Fordham students presented their research at the 64th Annual Eastern Colleges Science Conference (ECSC), at Pace University this spring, in which more than 400 students participated.

Among the seven award winners at the conference, two were Fordham students: Fordham College at Rose Hill senior Stacey Barnaby, a chemistry major from Monroe, Conn.; and Esi Kajno, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native and natural sciences major at Fordham College at Lincoln Center.

Stacey Barnaby has been conducting research in the Chemistry Department in the laboratory of Ipsita Banerjee, Ph.D., for the past year. Barnaby’s project mainly focuses on the development of nanostructures for potential applications in anti-aging and cancer.

Specifically, Barnaby has been studying the growth of kinetin-based nanostructures and the growth of selenium nanoparticles as biocompatible materials for drug delivery for prevention of oxidative cellular damage. She has been examining the potential of these materials as radical scavengers and investigating their efficiency as supports for enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase, which plays a vital role in prevention of oxidative damage. These materials have been found to survive in live cell cultures of normal rat kidney cells, which is promising and she hopes that she will be soon be moving on to conduct in vivo studies. She has already presented at conferences such as the New York American Chemical Society undergraduate research symposium, the Columbia University undergraduate research symposium, the Fordham undergraduate research symposium, and ECSC, which involved undergraduate participants from colleges and universities all over the East Coast.

At ECSC, Barnaby was recently honored with an excellence for poster presentation award, in the division for molecular biology and biochemistry. She loves doing research and presenting and sharing her work with fellow researchers at conferences. She gives campus tours as a member of the Rose Hill Society, welcomes freshman as a part of the New Student Orientation team, and tutors students in the HEOP program. She hopes to apply to graduate school to pursue a doctorate in biochemistry/bionanotechnology. “I love research because the possibilities are endless,” she said. “I truly feel that through research, I can help make a difference in the world.”

Esi Kajno worked with Dr. James Wishart at Brookhaven National Laboratory as part of the Summer Undergraduate Internship program.

Due to global energy challenges, the conversion of cellulosic biomass (plant material) into ethanol has recently attracted considerable interest as an alternative means for the production of affordable and renewable biofuels. The complication is that plant-derived cellulosic material requires pre-treatment in order to remove the lignin that is naturally bound to cellulose and makes it resistant to hydrolysis into fermentable sugars.

Current pre-treatment processes are costly and challenging since they require harsh conditions (high pressures and temperatures, use of strong acids and/or toxic and flammable substances). Recently, alternative methods to improve on cellulose conversion to biofuels have focused on the use of a new category of solvents known as Ionic Liquids (ILs). These are salts that remain liquids at low temperatures. Unlike organic solvents, ILs are non volatile and therefore very attractive as a green chemistry alternative. In addition their unique set of physical and chemical characteristics offers a new medium for reaction kinetics.

Kajno’s work focused on the synthesis, purification and characterization of ILs and their use in studying the dissolution of cellulose from corn cob and wood, which is key to its conversion into ethanol.

Science Friday Bonus: J. Alan Clark, the Avian Barry White

Today the Daily News reports on Alan Clark’s work with a flock of highly endangered Waldrapp ibis at the Bronx Zoo. The flockhad produced no chicks for seven years. Clark, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Fordham, created a soundtrack of mating calls, recorded in Austria, that restored the birds’ mojo, and the flock has since hatched six offspring from three sets of parents.

Read the complete story, which includes photos and recordings of the mating calls: “Soundtrack of mating calls helps put flock of endangered Waldrapp ibis at Bronx Zoo in the mood.”

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