Studies into chemicals in electronic cigarettes, experiments on bacteria cells and investigation of the structure of poisonous plants were just a few of the research projects presented during the Department of Chemistry’s Undergraduate Research Poster session.
For her research project, student Hanna Fogg tested the effects of cyanide on human genes. Over the summer, she experimented with several types of bacteria cells and cyanide compounds. Fogg found out the bacteria could be used as an additional way to combat cyanide poisoning.
“I found that a live bacteria cell could break down toxic chemicals, like cyanide, in the body. Scientists used bacteria to break down the toxic elements in gasoline after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, so I wondered if bacteria could do the same thing for the human body,” she said.
Fogg, who plans to attend medical school after graduation from UTC, hopes to continue her research in the future.
“Research is a lot of tedious work, but it’s worth it. I find it very rewarding to discover new ways to help people,” she said.
Cole Smith, a student who investigated poisonous plants in the Southeast region for his research project, echoed Fogg’s statement.
“Research forces you to get out of your comfort zone and explore additional solutions to problems,” Smith said.
Smith used a newly purchased X-ray crystallographer in the Chemistry department to provide a three-dimensional picture of the plants he was studying. X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal. The X-ray strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a three-dimensional picture of the density of electrons within the crystal.
For Amy Balestrino, all it took was a plastic water bottle and some ingenuity to study the chemicals in electric cigarettes. Balestrino constructed a water bottle with a straw-like device attached to the top to simulate a human puffing on an electric cigarette.
According to Balestrino, the study found more nicotine and metals in the electric cigarettes than what’s been previously reported. For additional research, Balestrino wants to compare the chemicals and metals in electronic cigarettes to traditional cigarettes.
“Doing this research has helped my project solving skills. When I was first trying to make the breathing device, it didn’t work. I had to figure it out, which was challenging,” she said.