Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Promoting a “culture of research”

Semih Demirbag ’08 (left), a computer science major, and Joseph Siefers ’08, a computer engineering major, give a presentation on voting machine security issues at the recent RCEAS undergraduate research symposium.

The controlled release of medication, says Sean Kessler ’08, offers advantages over traditional “immediate-release” methods of administering drugs.

When its active ingredient is released gradually, a drug can treat chronic conditions more effectively, while reducing side effects. And patients find it more convenient to take a drug once a day instead of multiple times.

Kessler, a chemical engineering major, studied the timed release of Naproxen, an anti-inflammatory drug sold as Aleve, through the Opportunity for Student Innovation (OSI) program of the chemical engineering department.

Last month, he was awarded first place in the David and Lorraine Freed Undergraduate Research Symposium of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science (RCEAS).

Kessler was one of 11 students and student teams to make a presentation at the annual symposium, which was held April 16 and was the first to be endowed by Andrew D. Freed ’83 in honor of his parents, David and Lorraine Freed. Andrew Freed, a member of the RCEAS advisory board, is president and CEO of Medical Device Investment Holdings Corp. in Malvern, Pa.

David Browne ’09, a materials science and engineering major, won second prize for helping to develop a low-cost method of applying a smooth and defect-free coating of spinel, a transparent ceramic, to a substrate.

Third prize went to the team of Victoria Berenholz ’08, who majors in industrial engineering, and Chris Barrett ’08, who majors in information and systems engineering. They gave a presentation titled “Portfolio Management with Downside Risk Measures.”

Each student group was given 15 minutes to make a poster and slide presentation and to answer questions from a team of judges that included former RCEAS deans Don Bolle and John Chen; Jose Santiesteban ’89 Ph.D., director of the Catalyst Technology and Research Computing Laboratory with ExxonMobil Process Research; and Walter L. Brown, adjunct professor of materials science and engineering.

The posters of the three winners will be printed and displayed in a case near the office of RCEAS Dean S. David Wu in Packard Laboratory.

The symposium was organized for the fourth year by Himanshu Jain and Wojciech Misiolek, professors of materials science and engineering, with support from Wu. The goal of the symposium is to promote a “culture of research” among undergraduate students at Lehigh.

“I believe this symposium was probably the best so far,” said Misiolek. “The quality of the students’ research and presentations has improved from year to year. Other colleges [at Lehigh] are now holding similar events, which helps promote undergraduate research here. Students are learning how to make presentations, which will help them take advantage of the national and international conferences they attend in the future.”

A therapeutic release rate

The critical challenge in developing controlled-release medications, says Sean Kessler, is to maintain a release rate that enables drug levels in the body to stay within the therapeutic range. In particular, researchers seek to avoid the “burst effect,” in which a large and sometimes toxic amount of drug is released at one time.

Kessler’s presentation was titled “Morphology in Controlled Release Drug.” He was supervised by Anthony McHugh, chair of the chemical engineering department, and Decheng Ma, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering.

He has also worked on the project with Sarah Mastroianni ‘08 through the OSI program.

Kessler is completing his B.S. degree in three years at Lehigh and will start graduate study next fall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Browne’s presentation was titled “Sol Gel Synthesis and Conversion of Spinel Thin Films.” He was supervised by Profs. Helen Chan and Rick Vinci of the materials science and engineering department, and assisted by Hongwei Li, a postdoctoral research scientist.

Spinel is an extremely hard and scratch-resistant glass-like material that possesses attractive light-transmission properties. It is used in protective windows and domes and other military applications.

Traditionally, says Vinci, a regimen of grinding and polishing has been required to remove surface defects and give spinel its high optical transparency. Browne, in his research, is developing a procedure that achieves a smooth surface without the expense and time of grinding and polishing by using a liquid gel that spreads over the surface and fills in grooves and other defects.

“The sol gel process offers us a relatively simple and low-cost method of providing a smooth surface on spinel substrates, which would eliminate the need for lengthy and expensive finishing processes like polishing or machining,” says Browne.

Berenholz and Barrett gave completed their research project on portfolio management as part of an independent study course last fall under the supervision of Aurelie Thiele, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering.

“Our primary goal in researching this topic was to analyze how portfolio allocation changes when a manager uses downside risk measures, as opposed to their traditional counterparts,” said Berenholz. “Our results proved that there is not much of a difference in portfolio allocation when using downside risk measures.”

After graduating from Lehigh, Berenholz will join Johnson & Johnson’s Global Operations Leadership Development (GOLD) Rotational Program. Barrett will stay at Lehigh to pursue an M.S. in Analytical Finance.

Eight other student groups gave presentations at the symposium. The students and their majors, faculty advisers and project titles were:

• Gregory Brentrup ’08 (materials science and engineering, Prof. Jain), “Development of Novel Nano-Macro Porous Bioactive Glasses for Bone Scaffolds.”

• Philip Bresnahan ’08 (chemical engineering, Profs. Mayuresh Kothare and Arup SenGupta), “Small Scale Toxic Metal Detection.”

• Semih Demirbag ’08 (computer science) and Joseph Siefers ’08 (computer engineering), advised by Prof. Dan Lopresti), “Security Issues of a First Generation DRE Voting Machine.”

• Jeremy Kress ’08 (civil engineering and architecture double major, Prof. Tae Sup Yun), “Characterization of Particulate System with Emphasis on Geo-Behavior.”

• Thomas Miller ’08, (computer engineering, Prof. John Spletzer), “The Sick LIDAR Matlab/C Toolbox.”

• Jake Natalini ’08 (mechanical engineering, Prof. Samir Ghadiali), “Aerosol Particle Transport Dynamics in the Pulmonary Alveoli.”

• Laura Ricles ’09 (bioengineering, Prof. Ghadiali), “Accuracy of Cell Mechanical Measurements: A Computational Study.”

• David Sondak ’08 (mechanical engineering, Prof. Eugenio Schuster), “Tokamak Plasma Equilibrium Controllability Limitations Due to Delays.”

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Friday, May 02, 2008

share this story: