Shawn Maguire and Karolina Konior of Stevens Institute of Technology placed 1st and 3rd, respectively, at the undergraduate student poster competition held by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Conference, which took place in Salt Lake City, Utah in November.
Maguire won 1st place in the Materials Engineering and Sciences category of the competition for his poster entitled “Engineering Multi-Layer Supramolecular Dyes for Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells.”
This past summer, he worked with Professor Stephanie Lee, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Stevens, to improve the efficiency of titanium dioxide-based solar cells, which could lead to the production of inexpensive, lightweight, and flexible next-generation solar panels to harvest sunlight.
Maguire’s project focused on the layer-by-layer assembly of novel supramolecular dyes containing multiple porphyrin molecules, which are key components in natural photosynthetic processes, and metal complexes on titanium dioxide surfaces.
"Using UV-visible absorption spectroscopy, Shawn demonstrated that these supramolecular dyes are capable of absorbing more than triple the amount of sunlight compared to single layers of porphyrin molecules. Based on these findings, current research in my lab is now underway to fabricate working solar cells incorporating these supramolecular dyes,” explains Lee.
After spending many long hours in the laboratory over the summer, the Stevens senior says the recognition by AIChE reinforced his desire to pursue a Ph.D. in Materials Science upon graduation.
“Interested by this new take on dye-sensitized solar cells, some judges even encouraged me to apply to their respective institutions for Ph.D. programs to continue this work,” says Maguire.
Although the award was in recognition of his individual work, Maguire was quick to acknowledge the contributions of others.
“The graduate student that I worked with, Xiaoqing Kong, and my advisor, Stephanie Lee, guided me through the entire process and allowed me to develop into a successful scientific researcher,” Maguire says.
Stevens junior Karolina Konior was also recognized for her research, placing 3rd in the Food, Pharmaceutical, and Biotechnology category of the competition for her poster entitled “Microfluidic Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD) Tissue Model.”
Beginning in the summer of 2014, Konior began working in the Stevens laboratory of Dr. Woo Lee, George Meade Bond Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, towards a solution for patients with blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) rejection.
The number of BMT patients is on the rise, and nearly 50 percent of patients experience BMT rejection and damage to the gastrointestinal tract, skin and liver tissues, according to Konior.
Her research project focused on using microfluidic devices to create a tissue model that could replicate the condition outside the body to serve as a diagnostic screening for potential patient-donor mismatches.
“My work involved making the initial steps of laying foundations for the device that included customizing the device, culturing various primary murine cells (provided by collaborators at Hackensack University Medical Center), and assessing and analyzing the device’s capability of supporting the condition’s characteristics.”
Professor Woo Lee says the research can have far-ranging application beyond blood and marrow transplantation.
“The ability to mimic the circulation of non-adherent cells, as Karolina has studied, is a unique feature of our culture device. Besides the GVHD application, our approach may have an overarching application to other important immune-related research areas such as auto inflammatory diseases that target gastrointestinal tissues, the interaction of circulating tumor cells with the bone marrow niche, and the interactions of T-cells with tumors,” explains Lee.
After graduation, Konior plans to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry. She says her experience at the AIChE conference and the potential to have a lasting impact on so many patients encouraged her to continue this research.
“Presenting to the judges and speaking with students, professionals and conference attendees not only spread awareness of the project’s efforts but also provided new insights for challenges and further work,” she says.
Konior adds that her success was only made possible by the guidance and support of her advisor Woo Lee, graduate students Yexin Gu, Wenting Zhang, Qiaoling Sun and Yi Hao, and collaborators at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Stevens undergraduates Shawn Maguire and Karolina Konior at the 2015 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Conference, which took place in Salt Lake City, Utah in November 8-13.