Print this page

Local company funds amazing capstone presentations

May 28, 2014 In Lakeland University Blog
Rate this item
(0 votes)

One student explained how a plant native to Belize can neutralize malaria. Another student blended diesel fuel with multiple forms of biodiesel from household oil, then used the various combinations in a tractor. And another tested the healing power of nitrous oxide on wounded frogs.

In all, eight Lakeland College chemistry and biochemistry seniors capped off their CHM 495 Senior Project course with riveting presentations on various high-level experiments they conceived last fall and carried out during the school year.

Funding was provided by Sheboygan-based SACO Polymers, which contributes up to $3,000 to this capstone class each year for supplies and shipping costs. In a typical school year, each student in this class gets about $250 to fund his or her project.

“We wouldn’t have this class without SACO Polymer’s help,” said Lakeland Professor of Chemistry/Physics Brian Frink. “They have, in effect, funded this class for the past three school years and we are deeply appreciative.”

The relationship between Lakeland’s chemistry/biochemistry department and SACO Polymer has grown into a strong, symbiotic one. Frink said four students in the past few years have landed internships with the company, and one recent graduate, Amanda Schuessler, is now a fulltime chemist at the company.

SACO specializes in the manufacturing of protective coatings for wiring and pipes.

Chris Ross, a senior chemist at SACO Polymers, holds an MBA from Lakeland, further strengthening the connection. Frink said the company recently told him it would like one or two more Lakeland interns, and SACO is hoping these students are interested in fulltime careers after graduation.

Lakeland senior Ricardo Rosas, a triple major (biology/chemistry/history), interned at SACO in the R&D department and is listed on a patent for a new machinery lubricant he helped developed.

“It gave me so much confidence,” said Rosas, from Sheboygan, Wis. “You can have the knowledge, but applying it in a hands-on setting is so valuable. I was definitely ready when I started my internship. A lot of people think that if you go to a small school, you can’t be as competitive as students who go to the bigger schools. But our natural sciences division is so competitive, and our alumni are proving it.”

Rosas, who is considering graduate school options for medicinal chemistry, was the first of the eight students to present his research in Frink’s capstone class. Having traveled to Belize as a part of Lakeland’s May term interactive tropical biology course, Rosas showcased great knowledge of the Jackass Bitters plant and its medicinal properties.

“When I went to Belize, for the first time, science was real to me,” he told the class. “You can read about it in books, and that’s cool, but to see it in real life is incredible.”

Following Rosas with their presentations were:

  • Jiacheng Yang, a senior chemistry major from China, whose project dealt with the environmental effects of different types of biodiesel fuel blends. Yang, who will attend graduate school and study chemical engineering at the University of California-Riverside, blended diesel fuel with vegetable oil, peanut oil, olive oil and waste oil from Lakeland’s Dining Services kitchen. Yang tested the various blends in a John Deere 855 at Gibbsville Implement Inc. in Waldo, Wis. Yang, using yeast to test environmental breakdown concluded that and olive oil blend is best for the environment and also the most efficient fuel.
  • Tim Green, a senior biology major from La Crosse, whose presentation focused on the growth inhabiting effect of various spices on Clostridium botulinum (also known as Botulism). Green explained that there’s a new, untreatable strain of the bacterium, and explored the effect various spices can have.
  • Brittni Peterson, a senior from Elmwood, Wis. who is majoring in biochemistry and criminal justice, presented on the environmental effects of pigment levels in protective coatings at Heresite Protective Coatings in Manitowoc. Peterson explained that VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are harmful to human health and appear in various levels in paints. She added that most VOCs manifest themselves in the pigmentation (color) of the paint. She dipped panels in various pigmented coatings and baked the panels in an oven to determine various VOC levels for different pigment combinations.
  • Samantha Henderson, a biochemistry major from Eagle River, Wis., delved into a complex mathematical formula that predicts the efficacy of hydrocortisone absorption into the skin. Her work was based on a QSAR (quantitative structure–activity relationship) Model. Henderson is interested in a medicinal pharmacy professional school program.
  • Hiroka Mizuno, a biochemistry major from Japan, analyzed through statistical software how various medicines are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, using the exciting new area of computational biology called network pharmacology. Her test medicine was dihydrocodeine phosphate, a cough suppressant sold over the counter in Japan.
  • David Werner, a chemistry major from Two Rivers, Wis., used frogs to test the effect of nitrous oxide on smooth muscle tissue recovery. By making a 1-inch incision on the legs of all the frogs, then injecting only half with nitrous oxide, he was able to determine that they healed more quickly than the wounded frogs that were not injected.
  • Mizuki Kato, a biochemistry major from Japan, explored the link between harmful prions (infectious, deadly proteins responsible for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Mad Cow’s) and the human brain. This research required splicing the appropriate genetic codes into yeast. The project was an extension of her LURE (Lakeland Undergraduate Research Experience) and work research being done with Lakeland Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Gregory Smith and Marquette University Instructor Dr. Anita Monogaran.

A few of the students discussed roadblocks in their research and explained how and where the failures occurred.

“You had varying amounts of success and failure, but that’s what research is,” said Frink to the students after the 2 ½-hour class.

“It’s one thing to learn and understand content, but it’s another thing to actually use it. You did pretty much all of this on your own, and that’s impressive.”