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Ole Miss Nanoengineering Summer REU Program
The University of Mississippi

2021

The following faculty are taking research students this summer: Lopez, Reinemann, Pavel, Smith, and Werfel. The remaining faculty will participate in the program through research seminars, lab tours, and other professional development activities in order to provide the participating students with a diverse taste of the nanoengineering field. Below are brief project descriptions for each PI. You can contact them directly for more information.

 

Lopez Lab

Dr. Lopez is seeking an interested student to investigate the potential for sustainable gas separation membrane synthesis utilizing nanoparticles to enhance separation selectivity within pre-combustion mixed gas streams. The problem will consider the incorporation of recyclable ionic liquids as solvents for the development of thin-film composite membranes. If interested, please contact Dr. Lopez (amlopez2@olemiss.edu) for further details.

 

Reinemann Lab: Creating cytoskeletal nanocells out of protein components, like actin filaments and myosin molecular motors, to model higher order cellular processes and disease

 

Smith Lab:

Project 1: 

Magnetic surfactants can control interfacial energies and phase interactions leading to applications in chemical separations, processing, and drug deliveries.  However, the benefits of the original magnetic surfactants were unattainable because of the instability of the magnetic surfactants in water.  Previous work at Ole Miss synthesized a water stable magnetic surfactant.  The program now will research and develop magnetic chemical processes such as:

• Magnetic control growth of self-assembled magnetic surfactant systems such as micelles.

• Magnetic capture of magnetic surfactant systems for surfactant recycling and advances separations.

Students working on this project will not only learn to synthesis magnetic surfactants but how to operate advance scientific equipment for the characterization of nanostructures such as dynamic light scattering, tensiometers, fluid electrical conductivity/resistivity, etc.

 

Project 2:

Dr. Scovazzo and Dr. Smith seek an undergraduate student interested in investigating the synthesis and characterization of magnetic surfactants derived from natural sources. The project would include relatively simple synthetic chemistry to make the magnetic surfactants and would entail characterizations procedures similar to those in the attached publications. This would make for a fantastic Honors College thesis project. If interested, please contact Dr. Smith (aes@olemiss.edu) for further detail.

 

Pavel Lab: Using machine learning to investigate relationships between inflammatory and cardiovascular processes at the nanoscale

 

Werfel Lab: Develop polymeric nanoparticles that can encapsulate immunomodulatory agents and target the delivery specifically to tumors

 

2020

Postponed due to COVID-19

 

2019

Smith Lab:

Dr. Smith’s lab will develop novel materials to produce biodegradable films for drug delivery applications. While convenient, medications taken orally must make a long journey prior to reaching their intended therapeutic target. During this convoluted process, many drug molecules are eliminated from circulation by the liver and kidneys, metabolized, and excreted from the body. Thus, drugs often must be given at doses far exceeding what the target site needs for treatment and with many repeat doses (i.e. taking a drug 2-3 times a day). As a result, there is a need for degradable, localized, drug delivery systems capable of delivering drug to soft tissue so unnecessary sites are not medicated, risk of side effects are reduced, and drug is not wasted during clearance. Dr. Puleo’s expertise in developing similar technologies will be leveraged to ensure success of this project.

Reinemann Lab:

Dr. Reinemann’s lab will study the mechanics of vital life processes through engineering and actively assembling cytoskeletal elements into synthetic “nanocells”.  The goal is to bridge the gap between whole cell and single molecule studies so that the molecular parts (proteins) that drive systematic (cellular) processes, such as cell division and muscle contraction, can be investigated in an environment that mimics their physiological space but without whole cell complexity.  Kinesin and myosin motor proteins will be probed in these hierarchies using optical tweezers and fluorescence microscopy to reveal how molecular level changes to the nanocell components alter its performance.  An example of this would include investigating how changes in diseased cardiac myosin affect the way muscles contract in the heart.  Utilizing the smaller yet physiologically relevant nanocell as a model system will be valuable in gaining biophysical insight to life at the molecular level, as well as become a tool to unveil mechanisms and predict phenotypes of disease.

Werfel Lab:

Students in Dr. Werfel’s lab will develop novel nanomaterials for delivery of immunomodulatory agents to cancers. Cancer immunotherapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are revolutionizing cancer therapy. However, only a portion of patients benefit from ICIs and many patients cannot complete treatments due to severe, life-threatening side effects. Thus, nanotechnologies that 1) boost intratumoral immunogenicity (a major prognostic of treatment response), and 2) reduce off-target drug delivery to limit systemic toxicity could vastly increase the impact of cancer immunotherapies. Our lab specializes in the development of polymeric nanoparticles which can encapsulate immunomodulatory agents (i.e. immunogenicity boosters) and target the delivery of these agents specifically to tumors. This work sits at the interface of nanotechnology and cancer biology, leveraging approaches in nanoparticle synthesis and characterization, nano-bio interactions, nanoparticle-based drug delivery, and cellular/molecular biology.