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July 27, 2015
By Nikeila Jensen, media relations assistant
Northwest Missouri State University student Daniel Johnson is spending his summer applying nano-particle techniques he learned at the Dean L. Hubbard Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) and testing for cancer detection.
“We plan to be able to detect cancers of smaller mass and volume than other methods currently in use, at a very low cost,” Johnson said. “The end use of the nano-particles is to use them to detect cancer cells.”
Johnson, a senior chemistry major from Maryville, landed the prestigious Stevens Fellowship through a research collaboration with Dr. Gary Baker, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Dr. Abdul Mottaleb, an analytical chemist at Northwest. His research with the Baker group – a research group consisting of Baker and 10 Ph.D. students – includes testing non-toxic particles that will help detect small cancerous tumors.
The fellowship is providing Johnson with experiential learning that involves the syntheses and characterization of nano-materials – or the creation and analysis of a new material – through photoacoustic spectroscopy. Johnson shines a laser at the particles and listens to the sound waves they create to determine how well the particles may detect cancers.
“This internship will be very useful to Daniel in that it will provide professional experience that he can include on his resume,” Dr. Michael Hull, an assistant professor of chemistry at Northwest, said. “Additionally, he will gain exposure to what it means to work as a professional chemist as well as picking up several new skills.”
Johnson worked previously with Mottaleb and other undergraduate students to analyze fish for pharmaceuticals and personal care products and co-presented their research last March at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Denver, Colo.
He also is learning synthesis techniques with Hull through the study of the synthesis of haloalkynes reactions with germanium clusters.
“A lot of the skills used to do research can be applied in many fields,” Johnson said. “Things like searching the literature for similar work, data analysis and general problem solving are common themes in research. The experience I gained working with Dr. Mottaleb and Dr. Hull prepared me for the work environment that I am currently in.”
Upon graduating from Northwest in December, Johnson plans to attend graduate school and purse a career in ultrafast laser spectroscopy research.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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