KARINA DSOUZA ’20
MAJOR: Biomedical Engineering
HOMETOWN: New Milford, N.J.
MARY McGUINNESS ’20
HOMETOWN: Spring Lake, N.J.
MARY: “The Keck Center for Topological Dynamics [at NJIT] focuses on understanding the way vibrational energy propagates through different materials such as microtubules. We employ all kinds of different methods for doing this, from creating water channels to exciting fidget spinners. ... We studied the structure of the microtubule by reviewing literature and using the molecular structure analysis software CHIMERA. Using this data, we designed a simple two-dimensional model of a simple unit cell of the microtubule.”
KARINA: “We created this model with spinners positioned at specific angles that match those of the microtubule subunits. Magnets were fixed to the spinners' arms so that moving one spinner would trigger a sort of domino effect that causes all the spinners to move. At different frequencies, however, the pattern of the spinners' movements/vibrations changes. Mary and I are working to understand these changing vibration patterns — primarily at the model's ‘resonance frequency.’ In the long run, better understanding of the microtubule's vibrational properties may lead to more effective cancer treatment, as cells resistant to current cancer treatments may owe their resistance to a change/mutation in their microtubules’ vibrational properties.”
MARY: “This summer program was an incredibly educational experience. … Participating in my own research project was like working without a net. I had to design and adapt my own procedures. My partner and I tried multiple ideas and designs that failed and we had to go back to the drawing board. I found that progress isn’t measured in a strict timeline of accomplishments, but rather from gaining insight and learning from your failures. … Since we were able to apply so much time over the summer and create a successful model, we can expand upon it during the school year and continue our research.”
KARINA: “Having this opportunity to do research is incredible. … Although it is possible to read science articles/journals online, they rarely ever are able to convey what the research process is really like. In these postings, you only ever learn about the final results and conclusions. When you do research on your own, you learn how important it is to build a foundation, to test new ideas, to figure out why certain ideas didn't work and to keep trying new ideas.”
(Top) Karina Dsouza (right) and Mary McGuinness build a mechanical lattice of fidget spinners as an analogous of a microtubule. (Bottom) McGuinness assembles the mechanical lattice while Dsouza measures the resonant modes of a spinner, the building block of the mechanical lattice and an analogous of the protein tubulin, from which microtubules are made. Both students are Provost Summer Research Fellowship recipients working with Associate Professor of Physics Camelia Prodan and David Apigo, postdoctoral researcher.
Undergraduate research is thriving and highly encouraged at NJIT, both during the academic year and the summer months. Just this summer alone, nearly 140 undergrads are on campus conducting research with almost 70 professors, and 95 posters were presented at the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium. Undergraduate researchers are funded by a range of sponsors, including the university’s Provost Summer Research Fellowship, which is supporting 44 students. Overall, more than $3 million have been spent on undergraduate grants and stipends since 2014. For more information on undergraduate research opportunities, visit centers.njit.edu/uri.