Earlier this spring, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair of Advanced and Nanostructured Materials Rigoberto Advincula and a group of students took part at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in Indianapolis.
To say their trip was successful would be a massive understatement.
The big contingent of 26 students, post-docs, and visiting scholars made 37 total presentations at the national conference, with recent Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE) Department graduate Justin Edaugal winning the top place in the undergraduate research symposium of the Polymer Chemistry Division.
“It felt great to have my work honored with a top prize” said Edaugal, who now works as a research specialist in the group and has been under the mentorship of Advincula and post-doctoral research associate Erick L. Ribeiro. “I’ve enjoyed everything I have learned in our department and the opportunities that has opened up for me with the Advincula Research Group.”
His award came for his presentation, “Digital Light Processing (DLP) Printing of Polymer-based Graphene Oxide Nanocomposite as an Efficient Antibacterial Coating for Surgical Implants” and includes a $500 cash prize sponsored by the POLY Industrial Advisory Board and certificate.
At the conference, and in keeping with his anti-cancer research interest, he also had a second presentation, “Digital Light Processing (DLP) Printing of MOF-embedded multi-layered hydrogel for the Localized Controlled Release of Anti-Cancer Agents.”
In addition to his CBE degree, Edaugal also earned a bachelor’s through UT’s College Scholars Program under the advisement of Professor Steven Abel on his thesis, “Additive Manufacturing of Polymeric Nanocomposites with Antibacterial and Anti-Cancer Functionalities via DLP Techniques.”
“When students engage with projects in our group and work with other graduate and undergraduate students, they are aiming for research and high impact publications that can make a difference in their field,” Advincula said. “Conferences give them motivation to see their hard work presented before their peers, let them meet new colleagues or students who do related work in a national setting, and gives them opportunities to meet professors whose work they only read about.”
Advincula said that students work at his well-equipped laboratory through the semester while preparing for presentations at national conferences and that such meetings impact them positively. He noted that not only it allows them to work and get the results for their research, but also shows the mentoring programs and opportunities with CBE as a department and the quality of students within the Tickle College of Engineering (TCE).
He added that he set up the group and laboratory to have the ability to foster undergraduate research in materials synthesis, fabrications of devices, characterization of materials, and 3D printing, which is key to inviting other students beyond CBE.
For example, he has had TCE students from materials science and engineering, electrical engineering and computer sciences, mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering, and chemistry do research in the group. He also notes that students in his group apply for access to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) through the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) user programs.
The conference was just the latest success that CBE and the Advincula Research Group students have had this spring. Emily Buckner (Mechanical Engineering) won 2nd place at the Center for Materials Processing (CMP) and ASME poster night at the Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing earlier this year.
In addition, Tabitha Burch, the team of Andy King and Jacob Leucic, Ellis Kim, and Travis Vaske won 1st and 2nd place for their posters at the CBE Undergraduate Research summit and Poster presentation this spring. All these undergraduates have also been partially supported by the CMP mentoring program led by Professor Claudia Rawn.
“I enjoyed taking part in the poster competition and was pleased to have had such a strong showing,” said Buckner, who will be taking part in a summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at Vanderbilt University that is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. “Our department and college both do a good job of helping students build for future success, and I’m looking forward to working with other students on my REU this summer.”
For Advincula, the payoff is watching students succeed.
“Through my career as a professor, I have had more than 150 undergraduate students work in my lab and a number of them have gone on to earn PhDs, MDs, and build careers in industry,” he said. “Seeing the students blossom from neophytes to confident researchers in STEM is very rewarding.”