Neat and Nano – Part 4

by Michael Mullaney on May 9, 2011

Here’s another tidbit from our tour of the Rensselaer clean room lab. Along with faculty and staff researchers, the clean room is heavily populated by students who have been trained and certified to work on the equipment.

For example, biochemistry and biophysics doctoral student Julie Beaudet works on her microfludics research in the clean room. Here’s what Julie – who’s in the photo above – told us about her project:

Our digital microfluidics device, dubbed the ‘artificial Golgi,’ is a platform for the synthesis of biological molecules called proteoglycans. The device uses electrical impulses to precisely maneuver aqueous droplets over the surface of the chip, enabling us to carefully control chemical reactions.

There are two overall goals for this project. First, we want to understand and control reactions in order to recreate the molecular synthesis processes which are found in nature. Second, we want to develop a platform for synthesizing custom molecules which could lead to the development of new drugs. The Rensselaer clean room is crucial to this project because it contains the equipment and clean environment necessary to fabricate our devices.

Julie is in the research group of both professors Bob Linhardt and Jon Dordick, in the Rensselaer Biotech Center. You can read more about artificial Golgi in my colleague Gabrielle’s great story here and Approach post here.

At another stop, Ichabod Crane High School senior Greg Westover told us about his research into fabricating solar cells. Greg is seen above talking with Times Union editor Eric Anderson.

This year, I undertook a project which involved the step-by-step fabrication and testing of a silicon-based solar cell.  Rensselaer’s willingness to partner with students from the local community enabled me to gain valuable hands-on experience in a field where barriers to entry are typically high.  As I prepare to begin my studies in material science, with a desire to participate in undergraduate research, this project provided me with a great empirical look at clean room protocol and semiconductor technology.

Needless to say, Greg is a highly promising high school student. He’s part of the Questar III New Visions Program, which is located on the Rensselaer campus.

I have one last clean room post to share, so we’ll see you tomorrow. Same nano time. Same nano channel.