2011 Participants and Research Abstracts


Major Mentor
Nicole Antonicello Biomedical Engineering Bryan Pfister
Nihal Dayal Physics and Mathematics Keun Ahn
Pardyumna Dingari Electrical Engineering Gordon Thomas
Gabriel Geraldo Biomedical Engineering Bryan Pfister
Elaine Gomez Chemical Engineering Robert Barat
Kevin Ly Biology Atam Dhawan and John Federici
Sameen Mian Biology Kimberly Russell
Sean Naughton Mathematics Lou Kondic and Linda Cummings
Jeremy Raymar Physics Haimin Wang
Julian Raymar Computer Science Reza Curtmola
Andrew Salerno Mechanical Engineering Ian Fischer and Pushpendra Singh


Program Sponsors:

•        Provost’s office

•        Albert Dorman Honors College

•        New Jersey Space Grant Consortium

•        Sky Meditation Center (small donation through Physics Department)


Tracking Myelin alterations using a Traumatic Axonal Injury System

Nicole Antonicello, Dr. Bryan J. Pfister

Traumatic axonal injury causes damage to myelinated fiber tracts that carry signals to and from the brain.  A loss of myelin sheath decreases the ability of the neuron to conduct the electrical impulses necessary for axonal communication.  Thus, a decline in nerve function and debilitation results after injury.  However, little is known about how remyleinating axons can affect nerve function improvement. In order to track the alterations in myelin an in vitro traumatic axonal injury system will be used.  This in vitro device applies a pressure pulse within a sealed chamber to simultaneously stretch a silicone membrane and the dorsal root ganglia attached to it. The device contains six wells, within each well; neurons are plated on either side of a cell-free zone. Poly-l-lysine and Collagen will be used to test the quality of cell adhesion and growth of neuronal development.    In order to improve nerve function and remyelinate the axon, micro tunnels will be incorporated into this injury device.  Expected results of this study hope to demonstrate mechanical injury on nerve axons and Schwann cell morphology.


Computational simulations of structural phase transitions and related phenomena

in novel solid-state materials

Nihal Dayal

Dual major in Physics and Mathematics

Department of Physics, NJIT


Advisor: Prof. Keun Hyuk “Ken” Ahn, Department of Physics, NJIT

The aim of this project is to study structural changes induced by thermal fluctuations in novel solid state materials. Our approach will be computational, and I will carry out computer simulations with a phenomenological model. The effect of thermal fluctuations will be included through the Monte Carlo method, which is a standard algorithm for the simulation of thermal fluctuation. I will calculate various quantities related to the structural changes, or “structural phase transition”, and compare with experimental results in materials with potential technological importance.  Because structures of materials are often deeply related to other properties of materials, such as electronic and magnetic properties, studies on structure phase transition will draw the attention of material scientists, who are looking for candidate materials for future devices.  The use of a new approach developed by Prof. Ahn makes this project novel, since this approach is based on the concept of “atomic scale symmetry”, a concept essential for the description of structural phase transition. 


Effects of Noise Reduction, and Improved Response Time on the Statistical Accuracy of Trans-palpebral Tonometer Device

Pardyumna Dingari

Intraocular-pressure (IOP), pressure inside the eye, is often higher than normal levels in patients with Glaucoma. Eye pressure, therefore, is a major diagnostic indicator of Glaucoma. Professor Gordon Thomas’ lab has designed and built a device, which has been patented, which measures eye pressure without having to be in contact with the eye. The lab model of the device pushes a probe against the eye and measures the distance the eye was compressed and the force with which the eye pushes back. The aim of the project is to redesign the device with the goal of miniaturizing it and also improving the statistical accuracy of the measurements taken. Statistical accuracy involves achieving consistent measurements with a linear relationship between the force and distance. Greater accuracy can be achieved by increasing the response time of the circuit. The specific question that I seek to answer is, what level of performance improvement, in terms of statistical accuracy, can be achieved by reducing the noise in the circuit, and incorporating a faster motor? During the summer, I hope to continue my present work with Dr. Thomas by adopting one of the several ways in which the device can be made more statistically accurate.


Measuring Shrink Rates in Stretch-Grown Axons

Gabriel Geraldo

In my project, Measuring Shrink Rates in Stretch-Grown Axons, I aim to discover more about how axons behave in the human body. Axons, the long, slender portion of a nerve cell, are instrumental in carrying messages through electrical-chemical impulses from cell to cell, making them an integral part of the neural networks that govern human thoughts and actions. A fundamental understanding of how axons behave and what mechanisms govern their behavior is essential to medical research. My goal in this project, in conjunction with Dr. Pfister and his team, is in three parts. First, I aim to learn the stretch-growth process in axons. Dr. Pfister and his lab have been working for years studying the stretching of axons and their response to various traumas. I aim to pick up as much as I can about this process that they are studying. Second, I aim to measure shrinkage rates in axons. When stretch-grown axons are stretched, and then given slack, it has been discovered that the axons find a way to recoil themselves. I aim to measure the rate of this recoil. Finally, I aim to isolate and identify the various stages of axon shrinkage.


 Carbon Dioxide Removal through a Continuous Ammonia Scrubbing System

Elaine Gomez

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a major greenhouse gas that is likely affecting our global climate. An accepted method of CO2 removal from a combustion or process exhaust gas relies on absorption with chemical solvents. A water solution of ammonia (NH3) has been suggested as a promising solvent that can help power plants reduce CO2 emissions. The focus of the proposed project is to complete the construction of an effective, continuous CO2 capture by ammonia scrubbing system operating under optimal process parameters, and then to optimize its operation.  A matrix of experiments to find process parameters will be determined and executed. Once realistic operating parameters are evaluated, the system will be measured for efficiency. The target efficiency for CO2 capture will be at least 90%.

A Non-Invasive Portable Glucose Monitor Using Near-Infrared Spectroscopy

Kevin Ly

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease currently affecting about 26 million people in the United States alone, with an additional 79 million in the pre-diabetic stage. Overall, there are 285 million adults in the world suffering from diabetes, and more than 3.8 million deaths are caused by diabetes related diseases in the world annually.  Clinical management of both Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes relies on accurate monitoring of blood glucose concentrations at least once a day. Current devices rely on enzyme oxidation analyses, which require a prick of blood every time glucose level is checked. Such invasive method of glucose monitoring causes pain and tissue-sensitivity to users making it difficult to have repeated measurements causing failure in compliance, specifically for chronic patients. Many attempts have been made to develop a non-invasive glucose sensing device using sophisticated techniques such as photoacoustic spectroscopy. However, these methods do not provide a portable, reliable and cost-effective solution.  This research proposal is aimed at the development of a portable non-invasive glucose monitor using near-infrared (NIR) multispectral spectroscopy. Recent advances in optical sensing provide a basis for the proposed research and technology development for clinical use. If successful, it would lead to a non-invasive glucose monitoring prototype for translational research and clinical evaluation.

Conservation of Bee Diversity in the United States

Sameen Mian

Powerline areas in the United States encompass a substantial area of land. Electric companies must maintain these areas periodically. Their main method of powerline management is mowing the grassland portion of the land. This method, however, disturbs the habitats of bee species nesting in those particular sites. Another method of land management includes using selective herbicides and removing only tall plants. This method is believed to be less damaging to the bee nesting sites of these powerline areas. Our experiment consequently involves testing whether the latter method (removing tall vegetation and using selective herbicide) is more beneficial for bee nesting site diversity and abundance than the mowing method. The aim of this project is to collect bees from mowed powerline areas and unmowed areas within the property of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (MD). We will collect the bees at each site using pan traps and account for the variable of weather conditions by collecting the bees at roughly the same weather and temperature each day. Finally, using statistical tests we will quantify the differences in nesting site diversity and abundance between the two land types (mowed and unmowed). We are more interested in species diversity than bee abundance because ecologically, it is more beneficial for multiple species of the same genus to exist within a community, rather than large quantities of individuals of one species populating the area. Moreover, because bee individuals of the same species live within nests, we aim to measure the diversity in nests at each location, based on the species of each nest. We therefore expect to find a significant difference in nest diversity between the two land types after running the tests. The degree of variance will then allow us to either accept or reject our hypothesis that the alternate powerline management method is more beneficial than the common mowing method. Finally, this acceptance or rejection of the null hypothesis will allow us to conclude whether electrical companies should use the alternate method rather than the first. (Russell, 2005)

Instabilities and Defects in Liquid Crystals

Sean Naughton

This summer research project will consist of modeling, computations, and experiments involving liquid crystals in nematic phase.  It will also act as a continuation to work in this semester’s Capstone course Math 451-H02.  Liquid crystals are technologically important materials and understanding their behavior is of significant importance.  Due to their complicated structure, modeling of their dynamics in liquid phase is difficult.   In this summer project, I will implement existing models to describe the behavior of spreading liquid crystals on horizontal surface. After validating our experimental approach by replicating existing results in this geometry, the project’s focus will shift to original work, namely the gravity driven spreading of liquid crystals down an inclined plane.  A model for this spreading will be developed, an existing numerical approach will be extended to carry out simulations, and further experiments will be carried out to verify results.  The overall goal is to investigate when instabilities in the spreading occur and to correlate experimental and theoretical results.    The findings will be prepared for presentation and the final report is expected to lead to publication-ready manuscript.


Space Weather Research with Digitization of Long Term Data Archive

Jeremy Raymar

Space weather is an important topic because it affects the technology of today’s society. It disturbs power grids, damages satellites, interrupts GPS and cell phone communication, etc. As plasma circulates through the Sun’s convection zone, it generates shifting magnetic fields which emerge from below the Sun’s surface. Because the Sun is comprised of both gas and plasma, different sections of the Sun rotate at different speeds. This causes magnetic fields to twist and push through the visible photosphere exposing areas of cooler plasma below, called sunspots. Magnetic energy stored in sunspot magnetic fields can be released via solar flares, producing energized particles that cause the aforementioned problems. For decades, observatories around the world, including NJIT’s Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), have been recording solar activity. Unfortunately, activity before the early 1990’s was recorded on film, which is difficult to analyze. Converting film to digital images allows them to be analyzed with modeling software. Algorithms can then be developed to accurately model the formation of sunspots. Because sunspots appear cyclically, they may be used to predict the trend of solar eruptions, leading to a greater understanding of space weather. Converting and analyzing the film will be the core of my work.


Data Security and Privacy in Cloud Computing

Julian Raymar

Cloud computing marks a paradigm shift in the way businesses and consumer services are offered and consumed over the Internet, as it allows clients to leverage the massive infrastructure available at cloud service providers in order to perform a variety of tasks at a low cost. Despite significant cost-saving opportunities, the lack of security and privacy guarantees can be a major deterrent for large-scale adoption of the cloud computing paradigm. The main objective of this project is to design, prototype and integrate into existing cloud storage platforms a new software layer that provides security and privacy of the cloud-stored data, while preserving basic functionality such as searching through the data. This layer will provide strong guarantees to data owners about their cloud-stored data, allowing them to maintain control over this data. This functionality will improve the transparency of cloud storage platforms, allowing data owners to better quantify the risks and will ultimately facilitate migration to the cloud for applications that require high levels of long-term data security and privacy. We plan to focus on the Amazon cloud computing platform and leverage infrastructure resources from a recently awarded Amazon small educational grant. The results of this project will be applicable to a wide range of systems that outsource data storage to the cloud.

Physics of the Spontaneous Dispersion of Particles

Andrew Salerno

I will be conducting experiments investigating the physics of spontaneous dispersion of particles that occurs when they come in contact with a fluid-fluid interface. This interfacial-force-driven dispersion of particles is important in a range of problems, such as pollen transport of hydrophilous plants, the rate at which viruses and microbes spread on a water surface, and in many processes in the pharmaceutical and food industries.

When small particles such as flour or pollen fall on a liquid surface they disperse so quickly to form a monolayer on the surface that it appears explosive, especially on the surface of mobile liquids like water. Then the particles usually cluster together in clumps.  The reasons why this happens are complex, and the purpose of my experiments will be to provide some insight leading to explanations.  Consequently, I will measure the complete three-dimensional structure of the time-dependent flow that arises because of the trapping of a small number of particles. The dependence of the dispersion velocity (the lateral motion) on the particle velocity in the direction normal to the interface, including how this dependence changes with the particle radius, will be also investigated.