With funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and Davidson Research Initiative (DRI), Jessica Annonio and Tim Oh studied "Characterization of the Particulate Phase of Mainstream Hookah Smoke" under the direction of Professor Cindy Hauser. This project focused on both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of hookah smoke. Jessica and Tim changed certain variables associated with hookah smoking--puff duration, heating element, type of filtration medium--to see effects on number concentration, mass density, and size distributions of particles in the smoke. Additionally, they developed methods to extract and identify specific types of compounds in the smoke. Hookah has grown in popularity in recent years, especially among high school and college students; however, hookah smoking has not been studied nearly as much as other forms of tobacco use.
Jessica feels the most important concept she learned this summer is the difference between theoretical and experimental: Researchers typically theorize a particular outcome or the time frame in which an experiment will occur, but the actual experimental outcome is often very different. She was surprised at how difficult it is to control each variable in an experiment--often what seemed simple on paper was much harder in practice. Tim learned that the smoke generated from a typical smoking session consists of particles of very specific size distributions that are bimodal. Studies on particle size are significant because the deposit of inhaled particles in the respiratory tract is very dependent upon their size. Jessica's advice to future student researchers is to dream big and then tailor their dreams to the timeframe they have. Tim reminds them that things will not always go as planned. "Expect difficulties along the way;" he says, "they are all part of the learning process!" These senior chemistry majors from Chelsea, AL and Novi, MI, respecitively, plan to pursue PhDs in chemistry and then go into research.
Senior chemistry major Maegan Newell, of San Gabriel, CA, did summer research at City Of Hope's Beckman Research Institute in Duarte, CA. Under the direction of Drs. Felix Wussow and Don Diamond, Maegan explored the "Generation of Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) Virus Expressing pp65". Her work centered on generating a MVA vaccine expressing pp65 in order to optimize a human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) vaccine targeting the UL128 complex, which aids entry into glandular, vascular, and lymphatic cells. pp65 is a major structural protein in HCMV with a suspected role in modulation of antigen presentation, making it a key target for protective immune responses. HCMV infection usually goes unnoticed in healthy people, but can be life-threatening for those whose immune systems are compromised: people with HIV or organ transplants and the newborn (Each year an estimated 40,000 US infants are infected with congenital HCMV, often leading to developmental defects). Maegan's career goal is to become a research ophthalmologist or neurosurgeon after pursuing a MD/PhD degree.
Chinaemeze Kelsey Okoro, a Winston-Salem State University junior from Greensboro, NC, worked with Professor Cindy Hauser on a project funded by DRI called "The Weekend Ozone Effect". Based on the finding that ozone concentrations in urban areas such as Charlotte (with air quality that is estimated as the 10th worst in the country) are lower on weekdays than on weekends, Kelsey monitored ozone and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the Town of Davidson over a seven-week period using passive samplers. The southeastern US has traditionally been NOx-sensitive due to the increase in biogenic volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions during the summer months when ozone production is at its peak. Discovery of the Weekend Effect in Davidson would have implications for emissions reduction strategies, as VOC reduction would take precedence over NOx reduction. A variety of respiratory problems, including the rapid increase in cases of childhood asthma, are related to high ozone levels. Kelsey, who plans to attend med school in order to become a primary care physician in sports medicine, has no regrets that he "followed his heart" into research this summer.
Spending his second summer in research with Professor Jeffrey Myers, senior Josh Seidenberg investigated "Myelin Protein Zero (MPZ) Refolding and Purification" with funds from an HHMI grant. This chemistry major from Southern Pines, NC describes his research as "growing, refolding into the 'normal' structure, and isolation through purification of MPZ, a protein whose mutant forms are involved in several peripheral nerve disorders". Such research is vital to a better understanding of the protein, the structure of its mutant forms, and ultimately of diseases such as neuropathy and sciatica. Josh echoes Lindy's sentiment below that the key to research is patience, and looks forward to med school or grad school in his future.
Senior psychology major Lindy Williams, of Jacksonville, FL, did research under the direction of Professor Erland Stevens with support from a National Institutes of Health grant. Her work, titled "Synthesizing 1,2,3-triazole nucleoside analogues", was to make a molecule that halts the replication of a virus as a step toward creating a safe and successful antiviral drug. The most important thing Lindy has learned this summer is that synthetic chemistry takes great patience. "It doesn't matter how badly you want a reaction to work," she says, " sometimes the chemistry just isn't right. But the feeling when you finally get it right is amazing." Lindy's advice after her favorite college summer: stay on campus and do research at least one summer while at Davidson. She continues, "You get to know professors outside of a strictly academic setting, you feel more connected to the Davidson community, and you learn a lot!" Following graduation Lindy hopes to work on a floating hospital "mercy ship" serving western Africa and then attend med school.