Six undergraduate students from colleges and universities in New York State have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) from Brookhaven National Laboratory to compete in the first annual Science and Energy Research Challenge (SERCh). This national undergraduate research competition, sponsored by DOE, will be held at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on November 9-10, 2008. The students will compete against 79 other undergraduates for cash awards and a $10,000 grand prize in six categories: life sciences, energy, computational science, engineering, environmental science, and physical sciences.
Elizabeth Altman of Patchogue, a junior studying psychology at Stony Brook University, will present her research comparing an objective measure of aggression in various situations to self-reported aggression in males. She completed this work in the Community College Institute program with mentor Nelly Alia-Klein, a psychologist at Brookhaven Lab.
Elizabeth Millings from Central Islip, a junior studying chemistry at Stony Brook University, researched the creation of a specific radiotracer -- a compound that can be tracked by positron emission tomography scanners to monitor the movement and interactions of a wide range of chemicals in the human body. She worked in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program with Brookhaven chemist Jacob Hooker.
Erica Palma of Mastic Beach, a sophomore studying biomedical engineering at Stony Brook University, will present her research on using DNA to guide the formation of three-dimensional crystal structures of gold nanoparticles -- particles on the order of billionths of a meter. The ability to produce these ordered structures is vital to taking advantage of potential useful properties at the nanoscale, including enhanced magnetism and increased catalytic activity. She studied this in the SULI program with Brookhaven physicist Oleg Gang.
Joseph Heard of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a junior studying applied mathematics and statistics at Syracuse University, worked in the SULI program with Brookhaven physicist Carol Scarlett. He researched various conditions affecting experiments concerned with determining the composition of dark matter, which is thought to make up 90 percent of the universe but does not produce measurable radiation.
Michael Estrella of Ridgewood, a chemistry and biology graduate of St. Francis College, worked in the SULI program with Brookhaven chemist Jose Rodriguez. He investigated the behavior of a specific catalyst used to produce hydrogen through a water-gas shift, a chemical reaction between carbon monoxide and water that produces hydrogen and also carbon dioxide.
Mohammad Moin Baig of Brooklyn, a senior in biology, worked at Brookhaven in the Faculty and Student Teams program with biologist Ann Brown of Medgar Evers College. He will present his research on the crystal structure of protein derived from the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae, which is normally found in the human gut but can infect the respiratory tract and cause pneumonia or bronchitis.
These six students spent 10 weeks participating in Brookhaven Lab’s 2008 summer research program managed by its Office of Educational Programs. Their time here culminated in poster and oral presentations attended by scientists, administrators, politicians, and representatives of graduate schools and foundations.