NJIT students aim to improve the quality of life in New Jersey and there is no better indication of the scope of these efforts than the remarkable range of student research projects entered in the recent annual Dana Knox Student Research Showcase. Top winning entries included nothing less than a new and better way to deliver personalized medicine—the next wave in pharmaceutical care—as well as a more economical and efficient bus system for Newark. Six winning entries were chosen in total from 96 graduate and undergraduate submissions.
“University research is as much about training students as it is about scientific discovery. Looking at the quality of student presentations and the breadth of research that spans all of our colleges tells me we are doing both and doing them well,” said Donald H. Sebastian, PhD, interim provost and senior vice president for research and development. “NJIT anticipates in 2009 a new record high for research expenditures, exceeding $90 million for the first time ever. This places NJIT in the top ten among universities whose research is predominantly in engineering-related applications.”
Four architecture students and their advisor Darius Sollohub, a professor in NJIT’s College of Architecture and Design, took first-place honors in the undergraduate category for their inventive and meticulous study of what may someday become a new bus system for Newark. Four seniors created the project: Joseph DiNapoli, of Colonia; Robert Pietrocola, of Staten Island, NY; Dominick Rodriguez, of West Windsor; and Dario Brito, of Malmo, Sweden.
Staff from both Newark City Hall and NJ Transit worked with them. A grant from the Newark Alliance provided start-up funding; the Tristate Transportation Campaign will provide additional funding. The students’ study was remarkable in that it evolved around the streetcar network of the last century and could readily be deployed on existing streets with minimal disruption. Another benefit is that Newark residents already use buses extensively. In other US cities, ridership on such systems is often a trickle and patrons must be coaxed from their cars. A report is available upon request.
Taking the first-place honors in the graduate division was a doctoral student in the Otto H. York Department of Chemical, Biological and Pharmaceutical Engineering. Ezinwa Elele, of East Orange, with his advisor Boris Khusid, a professor in the Otto H. York Department of Chemical, Biological and Pharmaceutical Engineering., developed a new method that will allow manufacturers to produce personalized doses of medicine. The National Science Foundation has supported the research.
The sequencing of the human genome is yielding new tools for personalized medicine. Under a personalized medicine scheme, drug prescribing and dosing will be carefully tailored to a patient's individual genetic background. Although promising, the application of current drop-on-demand systems to the delivery of patient-specific drugs poses a number of challenges in the traditional pharmaceutical process. The proposed method by NJIT researchers will eliminate adverse electrochemical reactions and enhance high-precision drop printing and dosage control. This method can be used for printing fluids of different physical properties in pharmaceutical, biomedical, and biotechnology applications.
Other winning entries included the following.
Senior Edwin Walker, of New Brunswick, also studying chemical engineering, tied for second-place honors for his investigation of a forced and damped oscillator. An oscillator is a system—like pendulum or rocking chair—that vibrates or moves.
Sharing second-place honors were seniors David Hamouri, of Fair Lawn, and Catherine Morrison, of Bloomfield, in the department of mathematical sciences. The pair predicted plant succession, a predictable sequence of species compositions that follows a landscape disturbance like clear-cutting.
Third-place undergraduate winner Mohammed Nawaz, of Edison, a sophomore in the department of biology, examined the role membrane proteins play in microsporidia infections. Microsporidia are unique parasites that can remain dormant for months, but once awakened will infect host cells in an unusual way. This research looked at whether the proteins and other molecules found on the host cell play a role in the infection.
Nirumpama Gupta, of Gillette, a doctoral student in the department of chemistry and environmental science, illustrated that laccases can be efficiently engineered using a process known as active site saturation mutagenesis. This work received second-place honors in the graduate division.
Third-place graduate honors went to Jacek Wrobel, of Rahway, a doctoral student in applied mathematics. His work showed a faster convergence and more efficient algorithm.