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Olivia Chen - Junior, Chemical and Molecular Engineering

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Tell me a little about yourself...

I am a Chemical and Molecular Engineering major planning to graduate in May 2019. I have conducted research for two semesters, not including WSE 187.

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

I was aware that Stony Brook University had numerous research opportunities on campus and I was interested in getting involved in this. Curious how classroom skills are transferable to research laboratories, I talked to my roommate who was taking WSE 187- a WISE class offered for women to explore research. My roommate mentioned an instructor in her class, Richard Darienzo, who leads a Biomedical Nanomaterials Research Laboratory and at the time I was very interested in nanoparticles. So, I sent him an email asking if I could participate in his nanoscience research and he welcomed me into his group.

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

There are different ways to participate in research. Keep an open mind and try to learn new things from each experience. Don’t worry if you feel like you have no idea what you are doing because everyone is learning alongside with you.

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

Under the guidance of my mentor and WISE guide, I had a smooth transition to Stony Brook. I met many girls who majored in different disciplines, and was able to become friends with them during my freshman year. The WISE program has given me numerous opportunities to meet people and conduct research with them across campus, and I can put these events on my resume. I also heard of many internship opportunities through frequent emails that WISE sends out, and I utilized the career center for resume and cover letter reviews.

Do you have a favorite research moment?

It was the first time I was able to run experiments independently in the lab without supervision from a graduate student. From that experience, I realized that I was capable, this allowed me to gain more confidence in my ability to “science”. Eventually my lab partner and I succeeded in making nanospheres, this was very rewarding because we realized that our hard work would contribute to the larger scientific community.

What do you want to do after you graduate?

Currently I am interested in pursuing industry. I would like to participate in an internship to gain more insight before I decide which specific industry I want to go into. As an engineering major, I am aware that I have many options and I hope to explore as many of these as I can.

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

Participating in research taught me many valuable skills that are transferable to industry such as data analysis, problem solving, and reading research papers. This opportunity has also allowed me to use advanced imaging devices that I was never able to use before. Ultimately, research has given me the freedom to enjoy learning science in a more hands-on way.

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 the 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.