The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering strives to go beyond the classroom to provide a hands-on research experience for students. This summer, our department hosted several of our undergraduate students, students from other departments at Clemson, and students from other universities to conduct research. The ChBE research opportunities provide an enriching learning experience for our undergraduate students and mentor opportunities for our graduate students. The summer culminated with the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium on July 27, where students were able to present their research findings.
Dr. Mark Blenner’s lab focuses on application-driven fundamental research in microbial and mammalian systems. They use molecular biotechnology and genetic engineering techniques to enable solutions towards sustainable chemical bioproduction, human health, and national defense. The group works with bacterial, yeast, and mammalian cells to develop genetic engineering tools, create protein and metabolic biosensors, and optimize microbial factories for conversion of non-conventional feedstocks to natural products.
Dr. Eric Davis’s research group is happy to welcome four new undergraduate researchers to the lab: Annalise Bowers, Alesandra Lee, Taylor McDaniel, and Jacob Steele. Annalise and Jacob have undertaken a project investigating the effect of nanoparticles with various surface chemistries on network formation in a number of hydrogel membranes. These nanocomposite hydrogel membranes have shown promise in water purification technologies involving separation of water/oil emulsions and removal of heavy metal ions, to name a few. Under the guidance of graduate student Allison Jansto, Alesandra and Taylor are investigating the effect of various nanofillers on water and ion transport in ionomer membranes used in vanadium redox flow batteries. Finally, undergraduate Ross Jasper, who has been working in the Davis lab for over a year, is working to deepen our understanding of water transport mechanisms in 3D printed glassy polymers and how these differ from traditional, solution-cast polymer membranes.
Max Norman, an undergraduate at Furman University working with through the COMSET REU program, and Venkata “Anish” Chaluvadi, a Clemson University undergraduate in materials science engineering working through an REU supplement from the SC MADe program, are working on a project involving simulations integrated with experiments in collaboration with Dr. Thompson Mefford’s group from Clemson MSE. Specifically, it is a computationally driven project aimed at learning how to design magnetic nanoparticles for maximum energy delivery by modulating their magnetic moments and anisotropies.
One of the Getman Group’s main research interests is learning how catalysts (materials that alter the rates of chemical reactions) function at the molecular level in order to learn how to tailor catalysts for specific reactions. One excellent strategy for studying catalysis at the molecular level is to model catalytic performance using simulations based in quantum mechanics.
Noah Klimkowski Arango, a rising senior at the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics working through the Clemson SPRI program, is evaluating different quantum mechanics software to see which works best for the Getman Group.
The Getman Group is interested in a primary class of reactions catalyzed by noble transition metals (e.g., platinum) under liquid water. Benjamin Hodges, also a rising senior at GSSM working with the group through SPRI, is performing experiments with the catalytic decomposition of glycerol in order to observe the liquid and gaseous products and learn about the mechanism of this reaction.
Ian Ruohoniemi, a recent graduate of Daniel High School who will attend Stanford University this fall and is supported by Dr. Getman’s NSF CAREER grant, is evaluating the possibility and usefulness of developing a force field that can be used to estimate the energy of interaction between the methanol molecule and a platinum surface. Specifically, he is using quantum mechanics to calculate the bond strength of a methanol molecule as it approaches a platinum surface, and he is using Python coding to parameterize a function that describes the energy as a function of the distance between the methanol molecule and the platinum surface. Based on the ease of this parameterization, he will make a recommendation to help the group determine how to run future simulations of this system and similar systems.
Additionally, the Getman Group has two interns from the EUREKA! program: Kenzie Grumbles, a rising Clemson freshman engineering major who has been working on the quantum mechanics software with Noah, and Annika Samuel, a rising Clemson freshman chemistry major who has been using quantum simulations in collaboration with experimenters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to investigate how lignin monomer compounds complex with a vanadium oxide single atom catalyst.
Dr. Scott Husson’s research group has observed that an alcohol pretreatment on desalination membranes can lead to higher water production without using more power, but the exact role of the alcohol in this process is unknown. This summer, undergraduate Micheal Lemelin is researching this process by evaluating different desalination membranes to determine how much their water permeability and salt rejection changes after the pretreatment. Later, the group will explain Michael’s experimental observations by using ellipsometry and atomic force microscopy (force volume mode) to evaluate the thickness and stiffness of the membrane.
Dr. Chris Kitchens’ research group studies design of advanced materials for clean and efficient energy application through technological developments in nanotechnology, renewable resources, membranes and smart materials. The research implements designed functionality of nanomaterials and surfaces using tailored chemical functionalities, material processing using tunable fluids, development of smart materials with switchable properties, and state-of-the-art characterization techniques.
Sara Edgecomb and Chris Rovero are working together to encapsulate gene editing proteins into polymeric nanoparticles. By encapsulating these proteins, they will be able to ensure they are protected in the body and delivered into neurons as a treatment for genetic neurodegenerative disease. They are co-advised by Dr. Mark Blenner.
Austin Evers and Cheyenne Brady are working on a project in collaboration with Dr. Jeff Twiss at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Twiss has isolated the acidic domain of a protein G3BP1 which has shown to promote nerve regeneration after injury. For this peptide to be the most successful, it needs to be able to get into the brain. Cheyenne and Austin are encapsulating this peptide into nanoparticles and will be traveling to USC to test the effect of this treatment on a cell line established in Dr. Twiss’s lab.
Sarah Smith is working with cells isolated from a feline model of a childhood neurodegenerative disorder, GM1 gangliosidosis. She is studying the time line of neurodegeneration and correlating this timeline with biomarkers of disease. Through her research, she will be able to help develop new in vivo diagnostic tools for these elusive disorders.
The Sarupria Research Group is using molecular simulations to study assembly of materials including liquid-to-solid transitions in water and aqueous solutions. ChBE undergraduate Garrett Buchmann and Eliel Akinbami, a Chemical Engineering senior visiting Dr. Sarupria’s group from Howard University, are using molecular dynamics simulations to study the effect of various additives on liquid-to-solid transitions in water. They will study additives such as amino acids to develop an understanding of how additives can be used to control the self-assembly process. The group hopes to use these techniques and insights in the future to study more complex processes such as nanoparticle self-assembly under magnetic fields.