Research…slowly but surely

My research is: Structural Differentiation of Common Bacteria using Impedance Spectroscopy. In this project, we are using an interdigitated electrode sensor manufactured through the process of microfluidics to detect electric signals in common bacteria. The goal of this project is to create an optimal and cost-effective microbial sensor that will be used for the direct investigation of the electrical properties and behavior of bacteria cells. The sensor is to measure the real and imaginary impedance components of thin-film bacterial suspensions in the time domain. The resultant resistance and reactance changes that occur in real time appear to be characteristic of the cell wall composition that differentiates gram positive and gram-negative bacteria. We are currently producing numerous sensors and testing the sensors with E.Coli, S. aureus, P. aerugenosa and K. pneumoniae for consistency.

This project will address a wide range of concepts that will lead to the creation of an optimal microbial sensor for rapid bacterial and biomarker detection. Two major objectives are drawn from this work. First, to determine a method of printing durable silver electrodes on ordinary borosilicate glass microscope slides. This would allow for the measurement of the electrical properties of the bacterial suspension and also allow the optical measurements of the suspension without the need of separate and tandem systems. Thus, the bacteria cultures could be dispensed onto the microscope slide by using a pipette, measured and eventually analyzed through the use of a optical microscopy. Second, a quantitative evaluation of the real and imaginary components of bacteria cultures can determine the differences in the cell composition of a gram positive or gram negative bacteria which exhibit distinct electrical signatures.

I am learning more about my field of biomedical engineering and how concepts of biology are applied with engineering principles. I am learning the processes in microfluidics used to produce sensors on materials such as borosilicate glass, silicon and so on. Also, I am gaining a wide range of knowledge in microbiology and how bacteria interact with substrates such as the sensor. Engineering involves a lot of software such as MATLAB. MATLAB is one of the softwares that I am using to process these signals. I think the challenging part of my research will be gaining the theoretical background needed to apply and explain these processes to persons without a technical background. This program will challenge me to learn a lot of skills that in my field that I typically won’t learn in a classroom setting during a regular academic semester.

Through this program, we get to attend workshops ranging from proposal writing skills workshops to ethics workshops. The workshop that I liked the most was the leadership academy. The leadership academy involved a lot of interactive and engaging activities. I have been throughout a lot of leadership training in academics and I am passionate about developing leaders in my field and on campus. The leadership academy was thought-provoking. Although, all the workshops were deep and thought provoking but the leadership academy was my favorite. Skill development is essential to me this summer as I am preparing for graduate school and the workforce and these skills will be vital for me to get competitive edge.

Stay tuned,

 

Tony

SROP — The first week

Hello to anyone reading this:

I am so honored to have been selected to be apart of the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) this summer. This is the second cohort of students to partake in this program. I will be in a program with 8 other overachieving students in a wide variety of fields from psychology to electrical engineering. We will be living with other students in the McKearn Scholars program and Research Experience in Undergraduate (REU) program .  I am very excited and inspired to meet and learn from other students in my program and in the other programs.

My first obligation as a SROPer (a term I will use for students in the SROP program) is to write a proposal for my research project. This is a great opportunity to give a preview of what my project will look like and I believe it will give me experience in technical writing as I will need this skill for my career path. The proposal consists sections of an abstract, background and context, project objectives, statement of significance and impact, statement of project objective, methods and outcomes. On the last page is obviously the literature cited. In addition to the aforementioned sections there is an ‘impact on academic experience’ section that gives me the chance to explain how this research will be beneficial to me. The final section is the ‘Timeline of Project Activities” that details on a week to week basis what I will be doing over throughout the program.

The first week of the program was full of workshops. These workshops were very informative. They ranged from proposal writing workshops to responsible conduct in research workshops. I expect this summer to be full of challenges but also full of learning. I am continuing the research that I was working on last year with Dr. Kocanda. I am looking forward to gain an in-depth understanding of essential electronic and electric circuit concepts. I will also have the opportunity to gain more knowledge in microbiology as well. I expect this summer to be very enlightening.

Many of the REU students come from different universities around the country. One of the students that I connect with was Nick DeMeo. Nick is a junior chemical  engineering major from University of Massachusetts- Amherst. He is a very cool guy and loves the outdoors. He introduced me to rock climbing and I loved it! We also have similar career goals and we both have simliar interests like working out. I am looking forward to connecting with other students as the program continues.

Until next time,

Tony

 

Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day (URAD) 2014 and the Future

As Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day (URAD) comes closer I am getting very excited and nervous at the same time. I am excited because I will get to showcase my research to the university and everyone that comes that day. This research has been quite a process for me and definitely not a smooth process. There is still a lot of work and data analysis that needs to be done. However, I am excited to show everyone the progress and the potential of the project. I am nervous about answering questions from individuals who are very knowledgeable about my field of study. Although, I have somewhat of background knowledge about my research, it might be intimidating getting very advanced questions from professors or even individuals from the industry.

I plan to get a deeper understanding of my research. I want to learn more of the hands-on techniques used in the design and building aspects of the project. I am sufficient in the testing and data analysis aspects; however, I really want to diversify my skill set and widen my horizons. For those reasons, I applied to be part of the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) this summer. I am extremely excited that I was accepted to this program and I will be continuing my research full-time with Dr. Kocanda over the summer. On the other hand, the field of biomedical engineering is very diverse as it bridges medical solutions and engineering principles into one field. I am very interested in the research I am doing now but I am also interested in a wide range of other topics in biomedical engineering. I am interested in the specific sub-field of bioinstrumentation. That is the research and development, production and assurance of minimally invasive surgical devices such as endocutters, staplers, metal stents and other complex devices as well such as CT scans, MRI machines and pacemakers. I hope that I will have the opportunity to explore those fields of biomedical engineering through research or an internship/co-op position.

 

Best,

 

Tony

 

 

Halfway through the second semester

It’s been a long way coming in this research process. We are currently finished with testing our sensor in  LB broth. We are now analyzing the data and seeing how the broth reacted on the sensor. Now that we have completed testing the sensor with broth, we have inoculated our first set of bacteria, which is the common E.Coli bacteria. We did one test with the three electrode spacings on the sensor. We tested the bacteria at a frequency of 10000, 50000 and 100000 on the 450nm, 500nm and 550nm spacing of the sensor. We will run more tests with E.Coli and analyze the data to see how what the bacteria’s impedance measurements are at the various frequencies on the sensor. Eventually we want to also analyze bacterial growth on the sensor. We believe that the more the bacteria grows, the greater impedance it will exert when being tested with the sensor. 

All in all, the research project is vast and there is a lot of testing, data collection and analysis and restructuring that needs to be done. There will not be any conclusive results by the Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day (URAD) but engineering process will come in to play greatly as we have a lot of data and information to present my poster on the ongoing progress of the project. I have a lot of confidence that the sensor will be effective and beneficial but it needs a lot of work to collect the right amount of data and ensure accuracy on more popular bacteria such as E.Coli before we can move on to other bacteria such as S.Aureus and so on. As far as URAD is concerned, I need to collect and analyze the data for E.Coli and show the graphs of how it responded with the sensor. I will put all that data and more on my poster for that day.

My research experience is just one of many great things that I love about NIU. I am very glad that I had the opportunity to come to this great university. I love the school spirit, the rigorous engineering program, the calm of DeKalb and the great support the university gets from its alumni. I have blessed with many great opportunities here at NIU thus far and I have only been here a little less than one academic year. NIU is a great avenue for students who are truly seeking the opportunities to discover what they want to do with their lives.

However, my highlight experience here at NIU thus far is the Research Rookies program. It has been an amazing program and it has a been a springboard for success for me here at NIU. In the program, I have learned how to communicate with faculty, complete various research protocols, write proposals and scientific papers and prepare for poster presentations. Through this program, I was selected to be a Simmon Scholar, of which I am very grateful to Jaymie and Harry Simmon for their generosity and perpetual support to the program. I am really appreciative of all the great support the alumni has for the university and for the Research Rookies Program. I say thank you all. I hope that some day I will be able to give back and inspire students like they have inspired me.

With a  grateful heart,

Tony 

 

 

Working with my Mentor…

If you don’t know by now my mentor is Dr. Martin Kocanda. He is the Director of Electrical engineering laboratories for the College of Engineering at Northern Illinois University. He handles all lab sections for ELE classes. Working with Dr. Kocanda has been a great experience. He is very knowledgable and humble. He has a wide background in the sciences and that is because he has degrees in chemistry, computer science and electrical engineering. My favorite part about working with Dr. Kocanda is that he is very laid-back and very intelligent. He gives me the chance to take initiative and gives me corrections when I need them. He is a great resource for connecting me to industry partners of the university.

Currently, we are about on track with our research. Our new computer and other equipment that we ordered arrived and we have a mini station set up in Dr. Elsawa’s lab in the biology department. We are making media and are in the process of inoculating E.Coli for the testing of our sensors and collecting data. We are going to run multiple tests with our sensor and see how the bacteria reacts when put on the sensor and we will analyze the growth curve as well. With this plan in mind, we are working with our timeline and we are hoping to get significant results from all of our tests.

As a Simmon Scholar, I am honored to be awarded an extra stipend for my efforts with my research. However, it is my duty as a student leader to inspire students to take on extracurricular activities. So even before I was awarded the Simmon Scholar I have been telling and engaging my fellow students about the benefits of the research that I’m doing and about the great work the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning (OSEEL) has been doing to open up opportunities for students. I hope that I get to sit on panels to discuss research with students because I hope to inspire potential students to achieve great feats within and without the classroom.

Stay hungry,

Tony

The Next Stage of Our Research Project

So far my undergraduate research experience has been very interesting. Their has been some up and downs but regardless it has been highly rewarding and a great learning experience.

Due to the weather during the winter break and difficulty in transportation, we could not really get much done during the winter break. However, we have finally finished the initial stages of the research as we have finished testing and analyzing the impedance of the two sensors in ambient. We are going to graph the results and determine which spacing of sensor electrodes will be optimal for testing in a bacteria medium.

In the first two weeks of the semester, we have set up our equipment in Dr. Sherine Elsawa’s biology laboratory in order for us to prepare the media. We prepared Lysogeny broth (LB) for the growth of the bacteria. We learned how to use some of the equipment in the lab and we prepared our first (LB) broth to be used to further the growth of the first bacteria we are going to grow which will be E. Coli bacteria. We are still in the learning process of how to grow the bacteria using the media.

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Once we have learned how to grow the bacteria and we have a sufficient amount then we will begin using our sensor for testing and analyzing the bacteria. This experience has been very great. It was a great refresher for me because I used to work in a biology laboratory and I am used to preparing broths and agar for bacteria growth.

Overall, I am excited to continue in this research and I am hopeful that the outcome will yield impactful results that will eventually advance how microbiology and engineering influence medicine and the general well-being of society.

Looking forward to cooler stuff to happen,

Tony

Research Rookies Reception….Simmon Scholar announcement and so on

Harry and Jamie Simmons and I

The Research Rookies Reception was great. It’s always great when I get to talk with other bright students and to hear about the research they are doing and how they are doing with classes. It was truly inspiring and motivating for me.

It started off with mingling and hors d’oeuvres and then Dr. Spears, Director of the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning (OSEEL) began formalities with a brief introduction speech and overview of the Research Rookies program. She then called on two former Research Rookies students Lauren Boddy and Evan Wittke to give speeches on their undergraduate research experiences thus far. I was marveled by all the great things they did and are currently doing. They are both embodiments of academic excellence and two bright students worth emulating.   

Then came the part where the videos of all the current Research Rookies gave a brief introduction of themselves and the projects they were doing. I was especially nervous about this because I am not used to watching myself on video especially not with many others watching me as well. Nonetheless, it went well, they were some funny ones but my little part was okay.

The most interesting part of the Research Rookies Reception  for me was the announcement of the Simmon Scholar recipients. I had put my heart out into writing the essay for the application to be a Simmon Scholar and when my name was called I was first as one of the recipients I was beyond ecstatic. At first, it took me awhile to realize it was me but when I did I was all smiles while I was walking up to the front of the audience to shake Mr. and Mrs. Simmon’s hands. I had a huge sense of pride while Dr. Spears was reading an excerpt from my essay and it was huge boost of morale for me to continue working on my research with Dr. Kocanda as like with what Mr. Harry Simmon said in his speech, “…You can envision some of these projects growing into serious research and attracting major funding someday down the road.”

I’ve had so many great opportunities stem out from this experience so far and I can not wait what the future has in store. I will ensure that I publicize this blog more on other social media sites so other students can see the great things that this program equips students with. I will especially advertise Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day (URAD) so everyone can see the awesome and wonderful research projects that students at NIU are partaking in.

On a final note, it means so much to me that I was chosen to be a Simmon Scholar. It shows that my work is substantial and my efforts were recognized. I am immensely grateful and  highly appreciative to Harry and Jaymie Simmon for their generosity and support to this great program.

Till I write again,

Tony