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Undergraduate Research Symposium Highlights Depth of Lehigh Student Endeavors

One of the ways that Lehigh Engineering promotes the infusion of research and inquiry-based learning into its undergraduate classrooms is the college’s annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, where some of Lehigh’s brightest young minds demonstrate creativity and talent well beyond their academic years. Read on to learn more about the first, second, and third place winners of the 2006 Symposium.

Dan Esposito with Dean David Wu

Dan Esposito ’06 (B.S. chemical engineering) placed first in this year’s Symposium competition. In his project “Production of a Polymer Drug,” Esposito developed an innovative and scalable process for producing polymer drugs that offers control over their molecular weight, an important drug delivery property. Traditional single-solvent production of such drugs was very expensive and was a difficult method for achieving control over molecular weight. Esposito, however, experimented with a mixture of two solvents that uses substantially less total solvent while providing complete molecular weight control. Dan is pursuing a patent for his process in conjunction with his sponsor company and begins graduate school at the University of Delaware in the fall.

James Nielson, Dean Wu

James Neilson ’06 (B.S. materials science) is already well-versed in performing and presenting academic research. In April 2006, he attended the International Symposium on Non-Oxide and New Optical Glasses (ISNOG) in Bangalore, India, to present his research findings—the same research that gave him a second place finish in Lehigh’s Symposium. In his research, Neilson found that chalcogenide glasses, used in infrared optic and biosensing devices, develop microscopic gratings when exposed to high amounts of band gap energy, such as an electron beam. Though his work focused on examining the physical properties of the glass, he foresees future applications of his findings in semi-conductor electronics. Neilson will begin pursuing his PhD in biomimetic materials at UC Santa Barbara in the fall.

James Landon, Dean Wu

James Landon ’06 (B.S. chemical engineering) spent eight to ten hours a week for two semesters researching and executing development of a micro PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) machine, an apparatus that replicates DNA molecules to provide for easy analysis. The process for which Landon was awarded third place in the Symposium provides for a faster, more efficient method of replicating DNA. A voltage is applied to a channel of water, generating a current that sends a DNA sample through varying temperature regions that cause the sample to multiply. The process would potentially benefit pharmaceutical and forensic science applications. Landon starts graduate school at Carnegie Mellon in the fall.

According to Dean David Wu, the campuswide focus on undergraduate research is a vital component of a Lehigh education. “Lehigh is reknowned for producing graduates capable of diving right into the workforce or into the pursuit of advanced graduate studies. Hands-on research experience like that gained by our student competitors in this event will serve as a solid foundation as their future careers develop.”

Posted on Thursday, August 31, 2006

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