Students Present Summer Science Research Work

In 2018-2019, eight motivated juniors participated in Shady Side Academy Senior School's Science Research Seminar course, taught by Dr. Jill Schumacher. The course focuses on advancing research skills such as the reading of primary scientific literature, data analysis, scientific ethics and science communication skills. As part of the course, the students were placed in collaborating research laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Allegheny General Hospital and the University of Virginia this past summer to complete research internships.

The eight students, now seniors, presented their research and answered questions at the second annual Summer Research Symposium, held at the McIlroy Center for Science and Innovation on Tuesday evening, Sept. 25.

  • Senior Olivia Rosenberg worked with Dr Andy VanDemark at the University of Pittsburgh, where they use a variety of techniques including X-ray crystallography to discover how proteins function at the molecular level. Rosenberg's work focused on engineering a mutant version of the mRuby protein that would change the constitutively fluorescence of this protein from a red to a blue color.
  • Senior David Liang worked with Dr. Mayank Goel at the Institute for Software Research at Carnegie Mellon University, where he worked on a project to engineer a wearable device for sensing a user's hand gestures. Liang prototyped a device by optimizing the casting of a suitable flexible material for the device, the placement of multiple sensors to differentiate between hand gestures, and the processing of signals generate by the device with data visualization tools.
  • Senior Talia Busquets worked with Dr. Rodney Wegner and Dr. Vivek Verma in the Radiation Oncology Center at Allegheny General Hospital. She analyzed a large data set of patients that suffered from mesothelioma to determine the impact that adequate detection of neoplastic lymph nodes have on the survival of these patients.
  • Senior Sanjna Narayan worked with Dr. Katie Lynn Wagner and Dr. Jeff Gross in the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh. Using zebra fish as a model for eye development, Narayan focused on the MITF transcription factor family and its role in regulating cranial neural crest cell function during choroid fissure closure to prevent a phenomenon known as choroid fissure closure failure, and subsequent colobomas.
  • Senior Parker Maivald worked with Dr. Wei Xiong in the Physical Metallurgy and Materials Design Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. He experimented with gallium-Indium-silver metal alloys and investigated the properties of these alloys using CALPHAD (calculation of phase diagrams) to determine their potential use as a high performance thermally conductive interfaces.
  • Senior Andrew Fergus worked with Dr. Kevin Lee in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, studying the destabilization of neurons in neurological disorders. Fergus worked on a project to develop and test a noninvasive model of focal demyelination of neurons in the brain that allows better assessment of remyelination of these neurons.
  • Senior Charlie Brunner worked with Dr. Marcus Chmielus in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Pittsburgh, focusing on magnetic shape memory alloys used for micro-actuators and sensors. He created nickel-manganese-gallium alloys that he then milled to a powder form and used to 3D print thin sections of this alloy. Brunner then used a variety of methods to test the composition and uniformity of the 3D-printed materials.
  • Senior Maya Groff worked with Dr. Morgan Fedorchak in the Ophthalmic Biomaterials Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh on the development of novel biomaterials for drug delivery to the eye. Groff investigated the use of microneedle array stamps to improve the permeability of topical drugs administered to the cornea and sclera eye tissue.

View a slideshow of the student presentations below:

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