The primary goal of the Partnership for Research and Education in Materials between Xavier University of Louisiana and the New York University MRSEC is to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who pursue graduate degrees in chemistry, physics, and engineering with focus on materials research. The research core will be catalyzed by four Xavier-NYU collaborative research projects that will enhance Xavier’s research infrastructure and lead to advances in the field of nanoscale imaging, including (a) materials for energy storage, (b) magnetic assemblies, (c) imaging force measurements, and (d) polymorphic materials.
Research Project 1: Lamartine Meda (Xavier); Marcus Weck and Mike Ward (NYU)
A central challenge in the fabrication of thin film batteries is the elimination of pinholes and other defects in solid electrolytes that can cause short circuits during battery operation. Meda (thin film deposition, CVD, electrochemistry), Ward (electrochemistry and atomic force microscopy), and Weck (polymer synthesis) will explore alternative strategies for eliminating defects in electrolyte such as Lipon. Meda and his undergraduate team will deposit Lipon layers onto cathode layers, previously deposited on ceramic substrates, using RF magnetron sputtering. The Xavier team will characterize the layered structures using AC impedance spectroscopy, which will reveal the electrochemical resistance and the extent of defect formation. The NYU investigators will characterize the Lipon surfaces by atomic force microscopy (AFM) to determine defect and pinhole density and size. The research team will then plug the pinholes with polymers that are stable when in contact with the lithium anode. The researchers will also focus on developing new cathode materials that can increase the capacity of thin film batteries.
Research Project 2: Vladimir Kolesnichenko, Jian H. Zhang
(Xavier); David Pine, J.W.Canary, Kent Kirshenbaum, MikeWalters, Andy D. Kent (NYU) The use of nanoparticles for therapy or diagnostic imaging in living systems must address delivery and binding to the target site as well as clearance from the individual. The research team will focus its efforts on nanometer-scale superparamagnetic iron oxide particles surrounded by non-polymeric biocompatible organic shells consisting of small molecules, tethered to the particle surfaces, which will provide greater mobility and diffusion for the imaging agent compared with particles surrounded by polymeric shells. Kolesnichenko and Zhang will synthesize nanoparticles of magnetite, maghemite and other spinel-structured ferrites with dimensions of 2 - 4 nm, attach various hydroxycarboxylic acids (via the carboxylic acid group) to the nanoparticles and study their stability. The size range of these nanoparticles is particularly interesting because it permits rapid clearance and therefore minimizes toxic effects. Canary and Kirshenbaum will design various peptides and peptidomimetic oligomers for direct attachment to the nanoparticles or to the hydroxy groups of previously immobilized hydroxycarboxylic acids, with the aim regulating solubility, target site localization, and self-assembly.
Research Project 3: Anderson Sunda-Meya (Xavier); Jasnic . Brujic and David. G. Grier(NYU)
The collaboration started during the summer of 2009, when Sunda-Meya, accompanied by Xavier undergraduates Desiree Smith and Jonathan Corley, performed research with Brujic and Grier under the auspices of the existing NYU MRSEC Faculty-Student Team research program. Capitalizing on recent advances in AFM and multifunctional imaging, Sunda-Meya and Brujic will use AFM to investigate the surface morphology of cancer stem cells (CSCs) and interaction forces between specific molecules immobilized on the tip and the cell surface. Anticipating different force signatures between malignant and normal cells, these experiments will create a new diagnostic tool for the detection of cancer cells, as well as means to understand physicochemical attributes, at the fundamental level, associated with cancerous tissue.
Research Project 4: Bryan Bilyeu and Cheryl Stevens (Xavier), Mike D. Ward(NYU)
Polymorphism, the ability of a material to adopt different crystal forms, is well documented for many types of materials, including ceramics, metals, and polymers. Ward’s experience in synthesis and characterization of organic solid-state chemistry and polymorphism will be combined with Bilyeu’s expertise in thermal analysis of phase transitions and rearrangements in polymers and Stevens’ experience in x-ray crystallography of biomedical organic and inorganic crystals to develop new methods for the kinetic analyses of solid state polymorphic transitions in organic materials, with an emphasis on the nanoscale.
Education and Outreach
PREM Scholars from left to right: Christian White (Chemistry ACS, freshman); Endia Blunt (Biochemistry, freshman); and Lane'se Lovings (Chemistry ACS, Sophomore)
The research core and the materials science educational program (MSEP) combined will assure that Xavier’s undergraduate students receive the necessary research and educational skills to be successful at the graduate level at any research-oriented university while creating a pipeline of underrepresented undergraduates prepared for careers in STEM disciplines. Through PREM fellowships, undergraduate students will be exposed to research at Xavier as early as their freshman year to stimulate their interests in materials science, with continuing fellowships offered in later years to promote their retention. During summers, undergraduates will have the opportunity to perform research at NYU with an accompanying Xavier faculty member as members of Faculty-Student Team. Building on existing two-way student exchange program operated by the Faculty Resource Network (FRN) at NYU, the PREM will facilitate exchanges of students.