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Research: My research is part of a collaboration between the Beebe (analytical chemistry) and Fox (organic chemistry) research groups at the University of Delaware. We are exploring the development of a novel method for attaching biological molecules, like proteins, on unnatural surfaces, such as glass and silicon. While many methods exist for attaching biomolecules, these methods do not directly control how the molecule is oriented relative to the surface. This can affect the biomolecule’s function and interaction with other molecules if it is facing the wrong direction. My goal is to use an organic molecule as a tether to link biomolecules to the surface so that after they are attached to a surface they are facing the “right” way and can still do their job. This chemistry has many applications ranging from lab-on-a-chip research to biomedical industries.
As a surface scientist, the chemical changes made to the glass or silicon surfaces are monitored through surface-sensitive techniques, such as X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS). XPS is useful for determining chemical state information that tells whether the carbon on the sample is from a carbon-carbon, carbon-oxygen or carbon-hydrogen bond. TOF-SIMS provides chemical composition information from masses of chemical fragments. Similar to putting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together, we use the different mass fragments to see if they fit together to make the compounds we put on the surface.
In the classroom: The GK-12 program has provided a unique insight to teaching at the high school level that I would have otherwise never known. As a returning GK-12 fellow, I have had the opportunity to work with both Krista Webb and Terence Blanch within the NCCVT School District. For the 2007-08 school year at Delcastle High School, Krista and I worked with 9th grade students in Physical Science and 11th grade students in Integrated Science. As a special education teacher, Krista was interested in creating more hands-on experiences for the various types of learners in her classroom. In the second semester we developed several activities to engage students for the astronomy portion of the Integrated Science course.
Currently, at St. Georges High School Terence Blanch and I have 9th graders for Physical Science. Our goal this semester is to use the technology of digital media to enhance student performance and understanding of scientific inquiry and experimentation. In lectures we currently use digital video camera to display demonstrations on the projector screens for easier viewing. Digital cameras are also used to capture images during a lab experiment for later reference and class discussion. We plan to have students experiment with video lab reports giving them a chance to verbally explain their experiment and results versus the conventional written form.