August 17, 2014

Nanotech interns tackle tough questions

By: Billy DeLap

Source: Spotlight News

ALBANY — Nearly 60 students worked one-on-one with SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering professors over the past 10 weeks to gain hands-on experience.

Poster board presentations at CNSE on Friday, Aug. 8, showcased each student’s individual research, which spanned a variety of fields within nanotechnology. The event marked the program’s conclusion. Students were able to gain a broader understanding of the concepts behind nanotechnology, along with its applications, while at the $20 billion facilities.

More than 150 applications were received for the internship, which requires students to have a GPA of 3.7 or higher. Thirty-two of the 58 summer interns were undergraduates at CNSE seeking additional skills to complement their regular coursework and studies.

Brittany Rose Egnot, of Loudonville, was one of the CNSE students completing the internship. Egnot will be a sophomore at the college this fall.

“I had no cell culture experience before I started the CNSE internship, and you need some cell culture experience to really do any sort of research of stem cells,” said Egnot. “It also helped me develop skills for reading scientific papers, and it also cemented my interest in this.”

Egnot’s summer research involved differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into cardiomyocytes, which are heart muscle cells responsible for making the heart beat.

Human heart cells have little capacity to regenerate, which means once blood flow to the heart is reduced, heart cells will die and can’t really regrow, she said. After enough damage, this could lead to a heart attack.

“We don’t really have a way to regenerate cells in the heart … and heart transplants are very hard to come by,” said Egnot. “There are approximately 400 people in the U.S. that have been waiting over five years for a heart transplant, so finding a method to regrow hearts or the entire heart is a really big deal.”

Her presentation dealt with proving the concept of regenerating the cells, with her looking into pursuing the concept in the future.

More than 300 students have participated in the program, which began in 2004. This year also had the largest class of interns.

Alain Kaloyeros, chief executive officer and officer in charge of the newly merged SUNY CNSE/SUNYIT Institution, said he was delighted to see interest growing for the internship.

“This powerful CNSE program offers students from across New York state and around the world a summer-long engagement that provides exciting, nanotechnology-based research projects, highlighting the state’s globally recognized status as the epicenter for innovation-focused educational experiences,” Kaloyeros said in a statement.

A majority of the interns are enrolled at a SUNY campus including CNSE, Hudson Valley Community College and the University at Albany. Other students in the program attend institutions such as Cornell University, Harvard College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology and Tufts University.

There were also two high school students awarded an internship, with Voorheesville High School student Benjamin Denn selected.

Janet Paluh, associate professor of nanobioscience, said the internship gives students “a lot of confidence” to tackle tough questions.

“Students go from a point of maybe just thinking about learning as a way where they see what other people have done and just learn that information … to somebody who is actually making the discovery,” said Paluh. “A lot of the research that you’ll see you’d probably think that the student had been in the lab longer than maybe four or five weeks.”

Egnot said the attention CNSE pays towards undergraduate research is what attracted her to attend the school.

“You don’t really see any approach to undergraduate research at Ivy colleges,” she said. “I like how they really fostered learning in research at a very early age, which is what a lot of people at other universities wait until their junior or senior year to start their research.”

Read more