The involvement of students of any age in different phases of research can be a stimulating experience for both the scientist and the student. We propose to continue a program where cutting edge research is done in partnership of faculty with students starting from high school through the post doctorate. We believe that this arrangement can be beneficial for all participants. The faculty brings the excitement of original research into the classroom, providing role models and motivation for the students. Post doctoral and graduate students, who are heavily involved in the day to day research activities also learn teaching and mentoring skills through working with the undergraduate and high school students. Becoming involved in all phases of the research, undergraduate and high school students, learn first hand what is expected if they are to chose careers in science and engineering. A central goal of the National Nanotechnology Initiative has recently been identified by an NSF report to be the ability to create "smart" and adaptable materials with atomic level precision and control in economically viable quantities that would "be of broad benefit to industry, economy, health, environment, and society". The report pointed to "our ability to achieve a better understanding of materials at dissimilar interfaces" as a key vehicle to attaining this goal. Polymers, which can be molecularly engineered on a macroscopic scale, while retaining nanometer scale precision, play a central role in attaining this goal. This proposal therefore has two research directions: Engineering biomimetic polymer scaffolds for tissue engineering and fundamental studies of cell mechanical transduction and the desing of self extinguishing polymer nanocomposites that can withstand extreme conditions. This proposal therefore has two interrelated goals; (a) Produce original and relevant research in biomaterials and nanocomposite polymer engineering ; (b) Allow for versatile training of students from high school, undergraduate, graduate through the post-doctorate to develop necessary skills for achieving professional careers in science and engineering.
Academic accomplishments: In the last year we published 18 articles in peer reviewed journals, were awarded one and submitted three patents.We presented invited talks at the "Pioneers in Soft Matter Physics" conference at KAIST, Korea, the Faculty Symposium at Beijing Institute of Technology and the conference "Stem Cell Differentiation: The influence of Biomaterials and Biomechanics", the MRS Symposium UU, and the BCC conference on Flame Retardant Materials. We also had contributed presentations together with high school students , high school teachers, undergraduate students, as well as graduate students at the MRS fall meeting, the APS Spring meeting, the ACS summer meeting, and the NYSTEM regional conference. Educational accomplishments: Three students received PhD degrees, including one AGEP participant. Two Suffolk Community College students participating in our Bridge to the Four Year College program completed associates degrees and transferred to Stony Brook School of Engineering, 85 high school students, 4 High School Teachers and 22 undergraduate students participated in our research scholar programs. Thirty One students were named Siemens semi-finalists, two were regional finalists, eleven were Intel semi-finalists, three were Isweep gold medal winners, and four placed at the top in several categories at ISEF. Outreach: 720 High school students from 16 schools in the NY metropolitan area attended our annual Science Open House day at CUNY/ Queens College Campus. The program aimed at encouraging participation in science for disabled students initiated in partnership with Science Buddies and the Motorola Company, hosted a trip for 6-8th grade students. The students were selected from the Louis Armstrong Middle School in New York City, which is a magnet school for gifted students with physical and developmental disabilities. The students toured the Stony Brook College of Engineering and the School of Dental Medicine where they performed several experiments and practiced dentistry on robotic models. Research Highlights: Enhancing the Efficiency of Bulk Heterojunction Solar Cells via Templated Self-Assembly Morphology control in bulk heterojunction solar cell is considered to be critical for the power conversion efficiency . We have developed a a novel approach which using a tertiary polymer blend of polystyrene, poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and [6,6]-phenyl C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM). The technique uses principals of polymer phase segregation and self assembly in planar confinement to produce a film with columnar polymer structures that template the locus of the PCBM, forming a continuous pathway between the electrodes. This structure represents a realization of an idealized morphology of an organic solar cell, in which both exiton dissociation and the carrier transport are optimized, leading to increased power conversion efficiency. Gold nanoparticles cellular toxicity and recovery: Adipose Derived Stromal cells Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are currently used in numerous medical applications. Herein, we describe their in vitro impact on human adipose-derived stromal cells (ADSCs) using 13 nm and 45 nm citrate-coated AuNPs. In their non-differentiated state, ADSCs were penetrated by the AuNPs and stored in vacuoles. The presence of the AuNPs in ADSCs resulted in increased population doubling times, decreased cell motility and cell-mediated collagen contraction. The degree to which the cells were impacted was a function of particle concentration, where the smaller particles required a sevenfold higher concentration to have the same effect as the larger ones. Furthermore, AuNPs reduced adipogenesis as measured by lipid droplet accumulation and adiponectin secretion. These effects correlated with transient increases in DLK1 and with relative reductions in fibronectin. Upon removal of exogenous AuNPs, cellular NP levels decreased and normal ADSC functions were restored. As adiponectin helps regulate energy metabolism, local fluctuations triggered by AuNPs can lead to systemic changes.Hence, careful choice of size, concentration, and clinical application is warranted. The Effects of UV Emission from CFL Exposure on Human Dermal Fibroblasts and Keratinocytes Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs can provide the same amount of lumens as incandescent light bulbs, using one quarter of the energy. Recently CFL exposure was found to exacerbate existing skin conditions, however the effects of CFL exposure on healthy skin tissue has not been thoroughly investigated. In this report, we studied the effects of exposure to CFL illumination on healthy human skin tissue cells (fibroblasts and keratinocytes). Cells exposed to CFLs exhibited a decrease in the proliferation rate, a significant increase in the production of ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species), and a decrease in their ability to contract collagen. Measurements of UV emissions from these bulbs found significant levels of UVC and UVA (mercury [Hg] emission lines) which appeared to originate from cracks in the phosphor coatings, present in all bulbs studied. The response of the cells to the CFLs was consistent with damage from UV radiation, which was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles (NPs), normally used for UV absorption, were added prior to exposure. No effect on cells, with or without TiO2 NPs, was observed when they were exposed to incandescent light of the same intensity.