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Ronnie Phillips,
NSF Graduate Fellow

NSF GK-12 Project: Georgia Institute of Technology
URL: http://www.cetl.gatech.edu/services/step/overview.htm

Thesis Title: Biological and Sensing Applications of Water-Soluble PPEs

College/University: Georgia Institute of Technology

Research Advisor: Uwe Bunz

Degree Sought

University Department and/or Lab

Research Focus
The focus of my research has involved the synthesis and optimization of water-soluble PPEs in aqueous solutions and the improvement of existing fluorescent lectin and bacterial detection methods.

Description of Research
In the lab of Dr. Uwe Bunz, we focus on the synthesis of water-soluble conjugated polymers that can be incorporated into various biological and sensing applications. We have synthesized biotinylated and sugar substituted PPEs for the detection of metal ions, lectins, bacteria, and viruses.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
I am teaching chemistry and honors chemistry at Tri-Cities high school under the guidance and supervision of Ms. Margaret Tarver. During my first day, I discussed my research at Georgia Tech with the students. I was surprised by the number of questions that I received. After talking with Ms. Tarver, we decided to invite the students in the honors chemistry class to come to Dr. Bunz’s lab at Georgia Tech and work with graduate students and post-docs on their science fair projects. The students showed great excitement and enthusiasm when coming to work in the afternoons and weekends and were truly interested in their assigned projects. Even though a majority of the content of our research was new to them, they were willing to put in the time to learn the necessary background to be successful with their own projects. The students worked for eight weeks, but we were surprised by how many of them wanted to continue to work in the Bunz lab. When they finished their science fair projects, Ms. Tarver invited the entire Bunz lab to come to Tri-Cities high school to hear the students’ presentations. The graduate students and post-docs asked difficult questions to determine whether the students understood their projects in depth. They weren’t disappointed. All entered their projects into the school science fair, and the highest honors went to Ms. Tarver’s students. Currently, they are preparing their projects for the county science fair.

To further strengthen this collaboration, I am trying to have the students come back to Georgia Tech for semester rotations in our lab as well as other labs within the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. It is my hope that by introducing these students to research that is currently being conducted, they will develop an interest or appreciation for the sciences.

Profile date: July 2007
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