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Maurinne Sullivan -  Junior, Chemistry

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Tell me a little about yourself...

I am a Chemistry major planning to graduate in May of 2019. I’ve been working on a research project for almost a year and a half now. I started my research work in WISE 187 in the spring semester of my first year, and then continued  through the fall, spring and now summer of my second year.

How did you choose which research project to work on? How did you get involved with this research?

The WSE 187 course provided me with brief descriptions of current research at Stony Brook. From this, I chose to do research with Richard E. Darienzo. This was an excellent opportunity for me to join the laboratory and assist with research.

Do you have any advice for other undergraduate women in WISE with regard to pursuing research or succeeding as a researcher?

My advice for someone who is just starting out or trying to find research is to broaden your search- look at multiple laboratories outside of your discipline. While this may seem counterintuitive, many laboratories appreciate interdisciplinary knowledge thereby creating a more wholesome team. Also, be aware that research is both exciting and challenging at times and it will really test your limits of what you think you are capable of. So, always keep an open mind and don’t doubt yourself just because something isn’t working.

In what ways has being a part of the WISE program helped you succeed in your undergraduate program/internships/jobs?

Through WISE, I was able to meet my current mentor and begin doing research at Stony Brook. WISE is also constantly sending out emails about new opportunities for research, jobs and internships, so long as you meet the requirements. My WISE friends and my non-WISE friends have all been very supportive of me and what I have accomplished. They came to support me and see my poster when we presented at URECA (undergraduate research and creative activities). Of the classes that I have taken WISE 187 was the most interesting and useful to me and the research that I have is the best resume builder for me. I am getting a lot of experience in a lab by managing other students, as well as learning to use different characterization techniques. All of these are great to put on a resume and will build my skill set for my future career.

Do you have a favorite research moment?

One of my all time favorite research moments was when my lab partner and I were trying out something new on a synthesis for the project we are working on. We were very skeptical of whether it would end up creating nano spheres. But, when we added the final part to the synthesis and the solution changed to the correct color, we celebrated by doing a little happy dance in the lab. It was exciting to see something that I worked hard on actually succeed, and we were both very happy that it did.

What do you want to do after you graduate?

After graduating I plan to go to graduate school. Once completion, I hope to get a job in the pharmaceutical industry or the cosmetic industry.

If you’re not planning on going into research as a career do you think doing research was still useful for you?

Although I don’t plan to necessarily have a career in research, having had this experience was very useful for me. I learned how to work in a laboratory and was trained on various techniques and laboratory edicate. I also had the privilege of learning how to use different imaging devices that I would have never had access to otherwise.  

Abstract by Maurinne Sullivan and Olivia Chen:

The use of gold nanoparticles as imaging agents, photothermal and radiofrequency ablation agents, as well as drug vectorization components has grown in recent years. The synthesis of highly dispersed nanoparticles requires rigorous control over various experimental parameters to prevent crystal dislocations from breaking the nanoparticle symmetry. Of these parameters, the size distribution of seeds (when utilizing a modification of seed mediated growth procedures) allows for a size controlled synthesis of various nanoparticle morphologies. Although many research ventures have demonstrated the synthesis of highly monodispersed spherical nanoparticles, their size ranges are usually much smaller or much larger than 100 nanometers. Our work aims to create 100 nanometer spherical gold nanoparticles that are the result of gold salt reduction in a sodium citrate and citric acid buffer. This work is novel in its use of a variation of the seed mediated growth method as a nucleating agent for the growth of larger spherical particles. In addition, the use of gold nanoparticles in Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy enables them to act as molecular contrast agents. In this work, we characterize seeds and spherical gold nanoparticles with ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy, and scanning and transmission electron microscopy to analyze their surface-enhancing capabilities with a standard dye known as malachite green. Initial characterizations including optical inspection and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy have confirmed the presence of seeds/spheres because of their absorption peaks at 520 to 530 nanometers in addition to their wine red coloring. Our earlier work yielded a grapefruit colored solution indicative of semi-spherical to lumpy and spherical particles. By studying the reaction kinematics, we were able to better understand the point during the reaction synthesis where hydroquinone would have the greatest impact. Although some reducing agents favor kinematic growth, resulting in less uniform particles, we believe our method benefits from kinematic favored processes since the nucleation of spheres from seeds is a relatively fast process, which may not necessarily benefit from thermodynamically favored growth regimes.