Research in Bioengineering

Progress Report on the Creation of a Microfluidic Device for the detection and Characterization of Exosomes


By Ken-Lee Sterling

Collaborators: Michael Nessralla, Vinh Phan, Jenny E Luo Yau and Prof. Milana Vasudev

Portrait of Ken-Lee Sterling at work in his lab. 


During the last few decades fatal illnesses such as cancer seem to have become more prevalent in undeveloped as well as developed societies. The tools at our disposal to fight these diseases have become increasingly vast (endnote 1). However, detection and prevention are much more beneficial and productive than attempting to combat the cancerous cells. This leads to the question of if a pre-cancerous formation could be detected before it reaches the point of needed invasive combat stage.

Figure 1. Exosome structure and origin


Through the development and creation of a Microfluidic device with an implanted SERS detector it could be possible to present the exosomes to the embedded sensor for real-time characterization and detection. This could theoretically be a less expensive and affordable method of cancer detection and prevention. If the microfluidic device is easy to make and repeatable to a high degree, that will allow testing with more accuracy and less variation. When an appropriate outlet design and channel shape are incorporated, then the particles can be captured with high purity, high yield, and at a high rate concerning the concentration of the solution. This allows for downstream analysis, which in this project correlates to a SERS sensor (endnotes 2,3) which will be used to analyze the particle.
A microfluidic chip is a pattern of molded or engraved microchannels/ pathways. The network of microchannels can be connected and incorporated into a macro environment4. Microfluidic devices use the unique physical and chemical properties of liquids and gasses at the micro and nano scale. The most studied way to control the fluids is the use of custom shaped and directed micro channels5. Channel shapes can focus, concentrate, order, separate, transfer, and mix the particles and fluids (endnotes 5,6).

Figure 2. Descriptive images of different types of cellular vehicles


Exosomes, otherwise known as extracellular vehicles (EVs) are classified into three groups based on their size and biogenesis (footnote 7). Exosomes range from (30-200nm) to micro vesicles (100-1000) and apoptotic bodies (>1000nm) (Fig 2) (endnotes 8, 9). Exosomes are of endocytic origin (3,1), which means that they arise from the intake of material into the cell through the folding and subsequent encapsulation of the lipid membrane around the materials (Fig 1).7 EVs can be further categorized based on their density, composition, and function. EVs are membrane-bound due to their nature of being carriers of cell-cell communication. They take on a spherical shape and consist of proteins such as CD9, CD63, and CD81, which are part of the Tetraspanin family and cytoskeletal components. These vesicles, once secreted can provide key information from the cell of origin, like a “cell biopsy.”


Figure 3. Effect of Channel Shape and Size on particle movement


To understand the device, the physics that drive the device must be understood. Microfluidic devices use the unique chemical and physical properties of liquids and gasses at the micro and nano scale (endnote 5). The most studied way to control the fluids is using shaped channels. Channel shapes can focus, concentrate, order, separate, transfer, and mix the particles and fluids (endnote 6). A deviation from a straight channel introduces dominant/weaker lift forces and internal lift through the interaction with the particle and the adjacent wall (Fig 3). Focusing the particles and fluid into specific shapes and channels allows the particles to self-sort and filter. Using a square channel as an example, randomly dispersed particles of a certain size will focus on four symmetric equilibrium positions near the center of the channel wall face (Fig 4 a). When an appropriate outlet design and channel shape are incorporated, then the particles can be captured with high purity, high yield, and at a high rate concerning the concentration of the solution. This allows for downstream analysis, which in this project correlates to a SERS sensor (endnote 10). The SERS sensor will be used to analyze the particles.


Figure 4.a. Particle orientation within a square tube on indeterminate length


The ultimate objective of the entire apparatus is to seamlessly integrate a Surface Enhanced Raman Sensor (SERS) into the microfluidic device and enable the fluid to flow through the sensor, thus facilitating the identification of exosomes. A reservoir will hold a solution of PBS buffer and 1% Bovine, in which the exosomes will be suspended. Using a connected pump, the fluid will flow from the reservoir through the microfluidic device and get filtered before passing in front of the SERS sensor, which will help detect the exosomes. This will allow the detection of Ovarian Cancer exosomes, which can confirm or deny a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in a woman. Early diagnosis is essential for finding cancer cells. The traditional and current methods (diagnostic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) are typically highly costly and come with several downsides. A high dosage of radiation in the long term can cause damage to healthy cells and may cause serious issues for the patient depending on the cells that are affected or not. The device is a rapid, non-invasive method that will allow for rapid cancer diagnosis. Notably, the device will have characteristics that improve on similar devices in the category, which are discussed in length below.


Methods/ Technical Approaches

During the initial discussions of the PDMS casting, the consensus was that different PDMS to curing agent ratios had to be synthesized to determine which ratio would yield the best overall results. Calculations were done to determine the proper breakdown of the PDMS to curing agent ratio. The initial casting dimensions were based on version 15 of the solid works models (Fig.4.b). The proper breakdown of the ratios was calculated through the simple equation of .Where the being the total internal volume of version 15 of Solid Works model. is the total number of parts. The total internal volume of version 15 of the PDMS mold was calculated to be 3.4 mL.

Figure 4.b. Version 15 of the microfluidic device


With the z-height being 0.5 cm, the x-height being 3.4 cm, and the y-height being 2.00 cm, resulting in a total volume of 3.4 cm3 or 3.4 mL. It was decided that the ratios that would be tested and cast would be 10:1 and 15:1. The total amounts of the required volumes for both the 10:1 and 15:1 were calculated using the equation previously mentioned. For the 10:1 and 15:1 casting, there was an assumed 0.1 mL margin of error for the castings and potential residue material that would be left behind from mixing the PDMS/Curing agent to the transfer into the models. The calculations for the 15:1 casting proceeded with a total of 16 parts being assumed, with 15 parts being PDMS and 1 part being the curing agent 3.5 mL )16=0.2187 mL 0.2187 mL∙15=3.2812 mL PDMS, 0.2187 mL curing agent. For the 10:1, the calculations were done similarly where ten parts were assumed to be the PDMS and 1 part was assumed to be the curing agent for a total of 11 parts resulting in the final equation being 3.5 mL 11=0.318 mL, 0.318∙10=3.181 mL PDMS, 0.318 mL curing.


Fig. 5. The results of the casting with the 15:1 and 10:1. The initial models were cured for roughly 48 hours. Even after the 48 hours recommend curing time the PDMS molds were still incredibly unstable.


After the initial casts of the 15:1 and 10:1 mold, it was realized that the ratios of PDMS in the mixture resulted in very unstable and structurally weak molds (Fig.5). At this point in the experimental process the molds were still curing in standard room temperature, anywhere from 20-23 degrees Celsius. After it was determined that the current ratios of PDMS-to-curing agent ratios that were currently being used resulted in inadequate and unstable molds, the conclusion was made that the next sample of molds would be done in accordance with the following ratios, 11:1, 11:2, 10:1, and 10:2. Between recasting new PDMS molds the B9 printer was in need of a recalibration. Since the project was in the later stages of physical development, the decision was made that the B9 printer should be recalibrated to the desired resolution of 50 μm. The 11:1, 11:2, 10:1, and 10:2 molds were removed and examined. When the molds were released from the casts the 10:2 PDMS casts were noticeably softer and more malleable than the 11:2 casts (Fig. 6B). There also appeared to be signs of PDMS residue left behind upon removing the PDMS casting mold (Fig. 6A, D).


Fig 6 (A.B.C.D: top to bottom, clockwise): The results of the different PDMS curing ratios after the PDMS had been removed.


Upon the realization that the PDMS was stuck to the foundation of its mold during removal, the team made the decision to use mold release and a control group of no mold release on the casts themselves. The team made the decision that based on our previous casts we would utilize the 11:2 ratio PDMS mixture-it was the most structurally sound. On February 11th, 2023, the PDMS a new set of molds were produced 3 casts were done using mold release and 3 were done using the coconut oil. Due to the fact the oven could not be used to increase the curing time these samples were left to cure for 120 hours. Even after the 5-day curing time the molds did appear to be structurally weak (Fig.5). The way in which we have approached the current methods in casting and producing this device align with the current goals of keeping this device reusable and inexpensive.

Fig. 7. Isometric view of V6 Device

Fig. 8. Isometric View of version 11 of the device.


We have been able to create numerous models using the PDMS with little cost. We have also incorporated the technique of washing the PDMS casting trays using the chemical compound known as hexane(s) C6H14. Since hexane was utilized as a washing method-to dissolve the PDMS from the trays has allowed for the reuse of many of the casting trays and keep the costs of printing down. The cost of materials and financial use has been kept to a minimum during the project to a minimum by using low amounts of the PDMS cast silicon base and the caring agent. Based on the calculations previously mentioned, we do not use more than four grams at a time of the PDMS casting and curing agent combined. With a total of six trays for potential casts, there are no more than 24 grams used out of the 200-gram base and 20-gram curing combined.

Device Design Updates

Our previous casts we would utilize the 11:2 ratio PDMS mixture-it was the most structurally sound. On February 11th, 2023, the PDMS a new set of molds were produced 3 casts were done using mold release and 3 were done using the coconut oil. Due to the fact the oven could not be used to increase the curing time these samples were left to cure for 120 hours. Even after the 5-day curing time the molds did appear to be structurally weak (Fig.5). The way in which we have approached the current methods in casting and producing this device align with the current goals of keeping this device reusable and inexpensive.

Fig. 9. Top view of version 12 of the device


We have been able to create numerous models using the PDMS with little cost. We have also incorporated the technique of washing the PDMS casting trays using the chemical compound known as hexane(s) C6H14. Since hexane was utilized as a washing method-to dissolve the PDMS from the trays has allowed for the reuse of many of the casting trays and keep the costs of printing down. The cost of materials and financial use has been kept to a minimum during the project to a minimum by using low amounts of the PDMS cast silicon base and the caring agent. Based on the calculations previously mentioned, we do not use more than four grams at a time of the PDMS casting and curing agent combined. With a total of six trays for potential casts, there are no more than 24 grams used out of the 200-gram base and 20-gram curing combined.

Fig 10. PDMS castings conducted on 2/16/23 where no mold release was utilized.


This section provides a detailed analysis of the advancements in device design and highlights the potential benefits and drawbacks of each advancement. Starting with Version 6 (Fig.7) the device channels and the fluid manifold were the main development. Looking at Figure 7 you can see through the translucent top piece the 3 channels sized to focus 30, 50, and 75nm exosomes. The research focus has shifted towards exploring different ratios of PDMS, in conjunction with varying mold releases and ratios. To enable this, a series of molds were developed that allowed for testing of various combinations of base-to-curing ratios, temperature, and time in the oven. To reduce material usage and accommodate size constraints, the mold size was minimized, and the channels were simplified to only 50 nm.

Fig. 11. Another PDMS casting that was done on 2/16/23/ Left side, was with no use of any type of pf mold release. Right side, with the use of mold release


When deciding between a negative mold (or reverse mold), which produces a negative impression of an object or pattern, and a positive mold (or direct mold), which produces a positive impression, we opted for the latter to create the microfluidic device. The process of creating a positive mold involves multiple steps, starting with mixing the base and curing agent in a specific ratio in a separate dish. The material is then poured into the mold, and air bubbles are removed either through vacuum or manually. Lastly, the mold is placed in the oven for a specific amount of time at a specific temperature.
After the mold material has hardened, it is removed from the object or pattern, revealing a positive impression of the original. The casting material fills the positive space of the mold, taking on the shape of the original object or pattern, resulting in a replica or a copy of the original. Positive molds are an efficient and cost-effective solution for creating multiple copies of an object or pattern for a wide range of applications. Versions 11 and 12 (Fig.8,9) continued the trend of incremental improvements in the mold design, while simultaneously reducing the weight of the mold itself, thus decreasing material costs. Design simplifications enabled the team to increase the effective casting area, further optimizing the device. However, during testing with thinner molds, air bubbles were observed forming on the bottom of the cast. This issue was attributed to an uneven heat distribution across the different regions of the mold. To address this problem, the team decided to keep the 5 sides of the casting mold at a uniform thickness moving forward. As previously mentioned, the ideal ratio of PDMS to curing agent was found to be 11:2, followed by a curing time of 4 hours at 50 °C, which produced the best results. Version 13 onwards, the focus shifted towards developing a functional device for testing and data analysis purposes. To achieve this objective, the team procured the GENIE Touch Syringe Pump platform from PI for precise fluid manipulation and received specialized training on the HIROX lab microscope for obtaining high-resolution images of the device during operation. While the device design is being fine-tuned and made watertight, initial observations are being carried out under a standard lab bench microscope.

So far in the experimental process several microfluidic channel prototypes have been synthesized. Due to variables that have not yet been identified it has been difficult to determine what the causes of the differences of the results were. Figure 10 is an example of a cast that was conducted on February 16,2023. This PDMS was casted with no use of any type of casting mold release. Whereas in figure 11, the right-handed cast was done with the use of mold release. Through these two different samples, we concluded that the mold release in combination with the PDMS had this interaction that prevented the PDMS from fully curing. This effect is more noticeable in figure 12. On February 12, 2023, casts were also conducted. However, these results were profoundly different form the casts that were later done on the 16th. After the initial casts using the mold release, another casting was done to confirm the idea that mold release effected the structure of the PDMS (fig.11). We have however been able to determine that through our casting technique we have been able to maintain some level of resolution. Through a microscope the resolution require has been somewhat confirmed (fig.13). Even though the casting techniques have yet been perfected. The concept is there, and we have been able to produce micro channels.


Fig. 12. Two Casts that were conducted with the use of mold release.

Fig. 13. HiRox microscope image of the microfluidic channels.




1 Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2019. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2019;69(1):7-34. doi:10.3322/caac.21551

2 Perumal J, Wang Y, Attia ABE, Dinish US, Olivo M. Towards a point-of-care SERS sensor for biomedical and agri-food analysis applications: a review of recent advancements. Nanoscale. 2021;13(2):553-580. doi:10.1039/d0nr06832b
3 Lee C, Carney R, Lam K, Chan JW. SERS analysis of selectively captured exosomes using an integrin-specific peptide ligand. Journal of Raman Spectroscopy. 2017;48(12):1771-1776. doi:10.1002/jrs.5234

4 Team E. Microfluidics: A general overview of microfluidics. Elveflow. Published online February 5, 2021. Accessed September 14, 2022.
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8 Pegtel DM, Gould SJ. Exosomes. Annu Rev Biochem. 2019;88:487-514. doi:10.1146/annurev-biochem-013118-111902
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10 Perumal J, Wang Y, Attia ABE, Dinish US, Olivo M. Towards a point-of-care SERS sensor for biomedical and agri-food analysis applications: a review of recent advancements. Nanoscale. 2021;13(2):553-580. doi:10.1039/d0nr06832b

Research in Nursing

Title: The Effect of Stress on the Cardiovascular System in Nurses

By Vanessa Barreto 


The leading cause of mortality in the United States is heart disease. About 697,000 people in the United States died from heart disease in 2020, that’s one in every five deaths (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2022). Stress, among other factors, contribute to the risk of the development of heart disease. Due to their occupation, nurses are exposed to high levels of stress. The purpose of this study is to identify if there is a relationship between stress in nurses and their susceptibility to heart disease.

Portrait of Vanessa Barreto at work

Nurses experience stress due to multiple occupational related factors which can increase their risk for chronic health problems such as cardiovascular diseases (Saberinia, 2020). Nursing is associated with high job demands and needs as well as high expectations and responsibilities (Babapour et al., 2022). According to Starc (2018), high frequency of patients, understaffing, and long working hours contribute to increased levels of stress in nurses.

A study conducted by Juneau (2019) showed that job strain and long working hours contribute to about 13% increased risk of heart disease and 33% increased risk of stroke. Long working hours can increase stress levels which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (Juneau, 2019). Juneau (2019) also concluded that work overload is another factor contributing to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Long hours, work overload, and shift work associated with the nursing practice can be stressful and contribute to an elevated risk of developing heart disease (Sarafis, 2016). These occupational factors are important to recognize because increased stress can lead to burnout. There are multiple studies in the literature that assess the impact of stress on the development of heart disease. However, there is little research linking stress in nurses with incidence of heart disease, which is why this research study is important.



This is a cross-sectional correlational study which gathered data on the relationship between stress and susceptibility to heart disease among nurses in the United States. The research protocol involved an online survey using Qualtrics Survey Software. Participants were selected using snowball sampling. Participants who responded to requests on Facebook and LinkedIn were asked to share the survey link with other nurses per snowball sampling. Data was collected from 587 registered nurses. Inclusion criteria were nurses who have at least one year of recent (within the last 12 months) of patient care experience and whose place of work is located within the United States. Exclusion criteria were new nurses with less than one year experience and any profession that was not in nursing. The sample was registered nurses specifically because nursing is a high-risk occupation that involves exposure to stress. Data collected included demographic information. Measures included The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and questions regarding the common environmental factors that contribute to stress in nurses.

The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) measured levels of stress amongst nurses. Using Cronbach’s coefficient alpha, the reliability of the PSS is 0.78 (Lee, 2012). The validity of the PSS has been confirmed across multiple studies (Baik et at., 2017). The Perceived Stress Scale was created by Cohen, Kamarck, and Mermelstein (1983) and is a widely used tool in measuring the perception of stress. The questionnaire consists of ten questions that ask about feelings and thoughts during the last month that correspond with stress. Participants were asked to indicate how often they felt or thought a certain way on a Likert scale of 0=never to 4=very often. Scores ranging 0-13 would be considered low perceived stress, scores 14-26 would be considered moderate perceived stress, and scores 27-40 would be considered high perceived stress. The higher the score, the higher the perceived stress experienced by the participant. The PSS was used twice in the questionnaire. One scale measured stress at home, while the other scale measured stress at work. The PSS scale was adapted to measure work related stress.

Information on environmental stress factors was collected using a researcher designed tool. The questions were developed after a literature review of environmental factors that contribute to stress in nurses. The questionnaire asked questions regarding hours worked per week, how many patients cared for during one shift, if staffing was a factor contributing to stress levels, and if participants worked overtime. These are all environmental factors that can contribute to increased stress levels in nurses.

Data was analyzed using the IBM Statistics Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) version 2021 software. Descriptive statistics were computed for each variable. A Pearson correlation coefficient analysis was used to identify the relationship between variables.



This study examined the possible relationship between increased stress in nurses and their susceptibility to heart disease. The total number of responses to the survey was 677 participants. The respondents with missing data were removed from the analysis which resulted in a total of 587 participants in the final analysis.

The majority of participants identified as female between the ages of 20 to 30 and were primarily white. Most participants resided in the northeast, southwest, and the west. Additionally, most participants identified their religion as Christianity. The majority of participants either had 1-5 years of work experience or 5-10 years of work experience and worked in an acute facility. Most participants worked 36 to 48 hours per week and worked 8 hours per shift. Additionally, 74.7% of participants believed that staffing is a factor contributing to their increased stress levels at work.

There was a weak positive correlation between increased levels of stress and incidence of cardiovascular disease, including a diagnosis of hypertension. Increased levels of stress and a diagnosis of hyperlipidemia showed a weak negative correlation. Additionally, there was a weak positive correlation between increased levels of stress and hours worked per week. Increased levels of stress and the amount of overtime worked showed a weak negative correlation. The correlations from the variables in the study remained the same whether it was stress at work or stress at home.



The data analysis showed statistically significant correlations between increased levels of stress and incidence of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension. Since the results showed that there is a statistically significant positive correlation between the variables; stress and incidence of heart disease, including hypertension, it can be hypothesized that when there is an increased amount of stress, the incidence of heart disease and the diagnosis of hypertension also increase. Current literature reinforces this correlation.

The positive correlations between stress, heart disease, and hypertension suggest that nurses are affected by increased stress levels. The data also suggests that work hours are a contributing factor to stress levels in nurses as there was a positive correlation between increased levels of stress and hours worked per week. Increased stress levels place nurses at a higher risk of developing heart disease, including hypertension. The data collected in this study adds to previous research on the effects of stress in the development of heart conditions and fills a gap by addressing this issue in the nursing population. The data acquired may increase awareness of how stress can increase the susceptibility of heart disease in nurses and can lead to prevention interventions specific to the nursing population. Further studies should be done to understand what other factors are causing negative correlations between increased levels of stress and a diagnosis of hyperlipidemia. Additionally, more research is needed to examine factors causing negative correlations between increased levels of stress and the amount of overtime worked.


Babapour, AR., Gahassab-Mozaffari, N. & Fathnezhad-Kazemi, A. Nurses’ job stress and its impact on quality of life and caring behaviors: a cross-sectional study. BMC Nurs 21, 75 (2022).

Baik, S. H., Fox, R. S., Mills, S. D., Roesch, S. C., Sadler, G. R., Klonoff, E. A., & Malcarne, V. L. (2019). Reliability and validity of the Perceived Stress Scale-10 in Hispanic Americans with English or Spanish language preference. Journal of health psychology, 24(5), 628–639.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, October 14). Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from,1%20in%20every%205%20deaths.&text=Heart%20disease%20cost%20the%20United,year%20from%202017%20to%202018.&text=This%20includes%20the%20cost%20of,lost%20productivity%20due%20to%20death.

Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). Perceived Stress Scale [Database record]. APA PsycTests.

Juneau, M. (2019, May 6). Overwork can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Prevention Watch. Retrieved December 15, 2022, from

Lee, E.-H. (2012, September 18). Review of the Psychometric Evidence of the Perceived Stress Scale. ScienceDirect. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from

Saberinia, A., Abdolshahi, A., Khaleghi, S., Moradi, Y., Jafarizadeh, H., Sadeghi Moghaddam, A., Aminizadeh, M., Raei, M., Khammar, A., & Poursadeqian, M. (2020). Investigation of Relationship between Occupational Stress and Cardiovascular Risk Factors among Nurses. Iranian journal of public health, 49(10), 1954–1958.

Sarafis, P., Rousaki, E., Tsounis, A. et al. The impact of occupational stress on nurses’ caring behaviors and their health related quality of life. BMC Nurs 15, 56 (2016).

Starc J. (2018). Stress Factors among Nurses at the Primary and Secondary Level of Public Sector Health Care: The Case of Slovenia. Open access Macedonian journal of medical sciences, 6(2), 416–422.

Research in Computer & Information Science

Recovery of Fine Details for Fast Imaging Knee Pathologies

By Jasina Yu

Portrait of Jasina Yu


Knee diseases or injuries are very common in the United States. For example, more than 14 million Americans suffer from knee osteoarthritis. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as an interdisciplinary field of computer science, mathematics, engineering, and MR physics, provides an accurate noninvasive assessment of knee pathology. The soft tissue structures (such as menisci, ligaments, and cartilage) and bone marrow of the knee can be visualized for diagnosis and prognosis. However, an MRI scan generally needs 45-90 minutes. As a freshman, I am interested in computer science, mathematics, and physics. MRI integrates those fields, and it is a great research topic to achieve my study goals.

The objective of the project is to advance our understanding of MRI by keeping fine details of knee images. Knee pathologies are accurately visualized without sacrificing imaging speed. The fundamental understanding of the feature representation, extraction, and selection in the artificial intelligence (AI)-based reconstruction process will benefit the knee pathology features’ recovery from highly undersampled data. Detailed information lost in the reconstruction process was studied. This project has helped initiate my research activities at UMD and I hope to advance my career as a researcher and innovator in biomedical imaging investigation.



Based on the preliminary research using the fastMRI dataset [1], our AI-based technique (as shown in the 4th column of the figure above) can recover more details than the other two methods shown in the 2nd and 3rd columns of the figure. The reference knee image is shown in the 1st column of the figure. Our AI method has closer pathological details to the reference knee image because the other two methods have degraded image quality.



[1]. Knoll F, et. al. fastMRI: a publicly available raw k-space and DICOM dataset of knee images for accelerated MR image reconstruction using machine learning. Radiol Artif Intell. 2020;2(1): e190007.

Research in Bioengineering

Cell Viability of Novel Wound Healing Hydrogels

By Abid Neron



Over the summer and my fall semester, I was culturing cells. I started off completely clueless but slowly I started learning and gaining a better understanding of the ins and outs of cell culture. I should start off by explaining what cell culture actually is. Basically, it’s growing a certain cell outside of its normal environment, in a lab. Cell culture is used to study these cells’ growth patterns and how to change their rate of growth. There are multiple cell lines/types, such as skin cells, kidney cells, cancer cells, and much more. I was mostly culturing HEK293 cells which are mammalian kidney cells. I also cultured A375 cells as well, these are a skin cancer cell line. I started off doing cell culture by just following a list of steps telling me what to do. I didn’t understand what I was doing, though. After some research and passaging my cells multiple times, I started to get an understanding of what cell culture is and the steps started making sense. Finally, after perfecting my technique, I wanted to start research using them. I talked to Dr. Tracie Ferreira, and she tasked me with creating a protocol to test cell growth on certain substances. This protocol would be used by the seniors on their final projects. I was introduced to the seniors and their projects and collaborated with them using my knowledge of cell culture.

Abid Neron passaging his cells inside a biosafety cabinet



Creating a standard protocol to test cell growth (Also known as cell viability) took a lot of research and multiple failed experiments but with each failed experiment I went back to the drawing board and tweaked some steps until I finally found the best method to test cell viability.

My cell viability test uses a substance called Resazurin which is a special dye that changes color depending on cell activity. Cells produce ATP. Resazurin changes color based on the amount of ATP produced. As cell number increases, so does the production of ATP. Further, Resazurin doesn’t affect cells’ growth and doesn’t damage them unlike other cell viability tests. Using a Spectrometer, I can analyze the change in color for each test. The larger the value the more cells were growing. After testing my protocol on students’ substances called Hydrogels, the test offered good results and could be replicated multiple times to get more accurate results if needed. Seniors are currently using the protocol I created to test cell viability on their Hydrogels.

I had an issue with bacteria growing on the hydrogels which would mess up the test, so after multiple experiments, I found the best way to sterilize the hydrogels and keep bacteria away from the cells by using different plates everyday to get more accurate results.

Cell Viability Test

(Notice how the bottom right well is a brighter color, that means that the cells are growing faster!)



I tested my protocol on multiple hydrogels and compared their growth with cells growing under optimal conditions:

A hydrogel’s cell viability over 5 days




My research is still ongoing and I’m constantly furthering my knowledge of cell culture and perfecting my technique. Cell culturing has become an almost therapeutic process for me. While there’s a lot to learn, it’s always nice to apply what I’m learning about. Researching cell culture is an incredible experience that I truly loved and sharing my experience with other students and teaching them cell culture and seeing their awe when they see cells growing is always rewarding. I wouldn’t have had this experience if it weren’t for Dr. Trace Ferreira. She taught me everything I know about cell culture and is always there to bounce ideas with. Going forward, I will test more hydrogels and hopefully teach more students how to apply my cell viability test in their own research.

Research in Graphic Design & History of Architecture


by Eden McKenna-Bateman and Evan Grant

Exploring accessibility on campus was an interdisciplinary independent study, funded by the OUR. The project was focused on the architectural and spatial history of UMass Dartmouth and how *access* to spaces and resources has become available, modified, and contested– spatially and architecturally speaking– over the years. We first began by visiting the archives of the university, where important drawings and blueprints by its main architect Paul Rudolph (1918-1997) are housed. We wanted to know how Rudolph crafted his vision and in what ways he conceptualized accessibility. We then studied the physical transformation of the campus over the years and finally placed our focus on the current campus with added buildings and renovations that have modified the original design. In particular, we studied how physical access impacts the  function of our present day campus and its diverse communities. After conducting our architectural history research, we began to use our knowledge of graphic design to give an “image” to our research. The purpose of creating a bold image was to bring awareness about issues of accessibility, not only for special needs student population, but also for those students who wish to have better access to resources available on campus. Instead of doing our work behind closed doors, we wanted to engage students and faculty in our research. For the graphic design portion of this project we also explored the different ways in which we can make a more impactful presentation. We explored several activist projects on US campuses. We studied patterns, fonts, colors, and compositions that are employed in effective activist projects.


Poster designed by David Grant & Eden McKenna-Bateman for the final phase of their project.

Paul Rudolph. Aerial views of the campus at the Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute (SMTI/UMass Dartmouth), ca. 1963. Ink on linen. Courtesy of UMass Dartmouth, Claire T. Carney Library, Archives, and Special Collections.


Our overall objective with this study was to create collaborative and interactive projects between students and professors addressing various accessibility issues on campus. The goal was to bring awareness to issues of accessibility and its significance for student success. A substantial part of this interactive project drew on the student body’s thoughts and opinions. While the campus meets ADA requirements, those requirements only fulfill the bare minimum due to many ADA regulations being outdated, and often do not fully meet the needs of students with disabilities. The inequality in accessibility at UMassD is non-inclusive. Our study was research-focused and project-based. Throughout the course of this project, we researched and conducted interviews/surveys, and collaborated with students and faculty of various professional fields to create and deploy four projects throughout our campus that address accessibility issues while allowing students to share their thoughts and opinions on the matter.


 Eden Mackenna-Bateman and Evan Grant and snapshots from their installations


We secured funds from the OUR for multiple installation projects. We had a CVPA Elevator Survey, consisted of art installations in one elevator in each college as well as the library. The installations consisted of printed maps with roadblocks labeled, with cut vinyl applied within the elevator asking a question that students can respond to via sticky notes. In hopes of creating a broader scope to reach people, we promoted our project through pencils and stickers that spread awareness within the student body. Another installation project was Access Tours, consisted of an interactive experience that followed our original map of campus inaccessibility through the use of signage and pathway markers that allowed students and faculty to experience the roadblocks that people with disabilities face when navigating through our campus. Our third project was a collaboration between Access@UMassD and the University to integrate our findings into the interactive virtual campus map. Our fourth and final project, the Access@UMassD Exhibition presented our thesis through a display of all our research and documentation of our projects within a series of popup installations. This included the results of our first three projects, documenting student and faculty experiences, which consisted of stories, photographs and physical pieces from the installations, accompanied by a presentation and takeaway items such as information cards and pamphlets. We plan to present the outcome of this research to campus administration. Regardless of the final outcome, we want to take this opportunity to say that this research has been very informative. We learned how to conduct collaborative research projects; in our studies, we also learned about the ways in which architecture can limit or extend our access to resources and ideas; additionally, we learned how graphic design can play a significant role in various civic campaigns. We are grateful to our mentors Professor Pamela Karimi (Art History) and Michelle Bowers (Graphic Design) who guided us through this project. We are also grateful to the OUR that funded our project.

Research in Physics

Characterizing the Friction Induced Triboelectric Effect of Polymers

By Viktoriya Balabanova

Portrait of Viktoriya at work in the lab



Triboelectric generators (TEGs) use the triboelectric effect between two layers of materials to convert mechanical movement (e.g. sliding) into electric power (Figure 1)1–4. These generators were developed in recent years and provide the most effective approach to harvest low-frequency mechanical energy for distributed energy applications. Up to now, almost all reported TEGs are designed to work in a charge-saturation state, meaning that more than enough force is used to guarantee maximum triboelectrification of materials in the device, which results in the waste of mechanical energy and low energy conversion efficiency.

Unlike previous studies, our research group hypothesizes that the TEGs will achieve maximum efficiency if they work under the minimum friction force that induces the saturation of triboelectric charges. This hypothesis cannot be tested until we know the friction force-triboelectric charge correlations in materials. This study aims to characterize such correlations in selected polymers. These polymers are the key materials that make the TEGs versatile, efficient, and cost-effective. The results of this project are significant because they will (1) provide preliminary data to test our significant hypothesis about TEGs, (2) help us gain new insights into previously unknown charge transfer mechanisms between two sliding surfaces.


We designed and built the setup shown in Figure 2, in order to measure the dynamic friction force and triboelectric charge induction simultaneously in a working sliding-mode triboelectric generator (SM-TEG). The whole setup consists of three major parts. Part 1 is a typical SM-TEG, consisted of two acrylic plates, on which adhesive spray is used to first attach stainless steel electrodes and then bind polymer sheets on top of them. Nylon film was used for the top plate  (1×1 inch), and Polytetrafluoroethylene film (PTFE, 1×3 inch ) for the bottom. Part 2 of the setup consists of ATI-Nano17/IP68 six-axis force sensor firmly mounted and suspended from a frame. The top plate of the SM-TEG is attached to a specifically designed and 3-D printed holder, which is connected to the bottom of the force sensor. This second part of the setup remains fixed throughout the whole time data is being collected. In Part 3, a control mechanism is assembled for fine tuning of the normal force and the mechanical energy we put in the system. A very sensitive Newport M-270 Lab Jack is used to adjust the distance between the TEG’s plates, thus increasing or reducing it, allows us to control the normal force applied. For this part we hypothesize that the critical friction force that makes the system saturate can be very susceptible to changes, thus the precision adjustment of the normal force is required. On top of the lab jack a shaker plate PI C-891 is mounted and used to control the sliding mode of the TEG’s bottom plate, including amplitude, frequency and velocity. Another special holder for that plate was designed, 3-D printed and attached on top of the shaker. Lastly, the TEG’s electrodes are connected (open circuit) to a Keithley 6514 electrometer to read out the voltage/current induced by the triboelectric charges.




After the setup was built and calibrated, we initialized some preliminary tests to determine if the data from the force sensor and the electrometer was consistent with the behavior we expected to see. In this process we had to make micro adjustments of the setup, since we needed all parts of the TEG to be aligned and leveled. It was determined that we were ready to begin collecting data and we took several cycles of data sets for various initial forces. The obtained data was further analyzed and produced the results shown in Table 1, then it was plotted to create Figures 3 and 4.






This summer research project aimed to characterize the correlation between friction force and triboelectric charge for selected polymers in pre-saturation states. The final results we obtained confirmed the behavior we expected to see. In Figure 3 the averages of the friction force and the applied normal force were analyzed and from the plot we can observe that the friction coefficient between the two polymers used in the TEG has a linear behavior. In Figure 4, the root-mean-squared voltage vs the normal force were examined. The charge was expected to increase with the applied force, until it reaches a saturation point under a critical force. This figure shows that after a certain threshold point, the increase of the normal force applied in the system does not increase the induced voltage. In other words, the TEG has reached a saturated state and even if we put more mechanical energy into it, it does not improve the overall performance of the TEG, resulting in low energy conversion efficiency.

This preliminary data is very important for us since it sets a clear direction for our future work. In the next year we are going to repeat the experiment and try to understand why this behavior happens, how the charge increases with force and how the critical force is affected by material properties. We are hoping to be able to create a model that will help improving the overall efficiency of TEGs, since they are a cost effective, easily manufactured, alternative source of green energy. I would like to thank Ross Jacques for his help on my project, and Dr. Caiwei Shen for his guidance and support, throughout the whole process, without whom this would not be possible!




  1. Wang, Z. L. Triboelectric nanogenerators as new energy technology and self-powered sensors – Principles, problems and perspectives. Faraday Discuss. 176, 447–458 (2014). DOI:10.1039/C4FD00159A
  2. Xu, G., Li, X., Xia, X., Fu, J., Ding, W. & Zi, Y. On the force and energy conversion in triboelectric nanogenerators. Nano Energy 59, 154–161 (2019). DOI:10.1016/j.nanoen.2019.02.035
  3. Zhang, J., Darwish, N., Coote, M. L. & Ciampi, S. Static Electrification of Plastics under Friction: The Position of Engineering-Grade Polyethylene Terephthalate in the Triboelectric Series. Adv. Eng. Mater. 22, 1–5 (2020). DOI:10.1002/adem.201901201
  4. Rodrigues, C., Nunes, D., Clemente, D., Mathias, N., Correia, J. M., Rosa-Santos, P., Taveira-Pinto, F., Morais, T., Pereira, A. & Ventura, J. Emerging triboelectric nanogenerators for ocean wave energy harvesting: State of the art and future perspectives. Energy Environ. Sci. 13, 2657–2683 (2020). DOI:10.1039/d0ee01258k
  5. Zou, H., Guo, L., Xue, H., Zhang, Y., Shen, X., Liu, X., Wang, P., He, X., Dai, G., Jiang, P., Zheng, H., Zhang, B., Xu, C. & Wang, Z. L. Quantifying and understanding the triboelectric series of inorganic non-metallic materials. Nat. Commun. 11, 1–7 (2020). DOI:10.1038/s41467-020-15926-1



Research in Mechanical Engineering

Development of a Thermoplastic Polymer Electrolyte-based Structural Supercapacitor

By Payton Parker


Portrait of Payton Parker 


Through the continually evolving world of energy usage, new ways to store energy are becoming increasingly important. For instance, in space technology, finding new ways to store energy in lighter and smaller packages is highly desirable. If weight can be reduced and the amount of stored power can be increased, the space mission durations can be lengthened significantly. To do so, devices called structural supercapacitors were built1–4. These devices can store electrical energy while being able to support a load. These two properties allow components which originally would be used solely for structural support to also have energy storage capabilities (Figure 1 5). Previous attempts at creating structural supercapacitors use an electrolyte matrix imbedded with carbon fibers functioning as both reinforcement and electrodes. The electrolyte matrix consisted of a resin mixed with ionic liquid. This mixture creates what is called a bi-continuous electrolyte. This complete separation in the electrolyte substantially limits the electrochemical and mechanical performance of the supercapacitor device6–8.

Dr. Caiwei Shen‘s research group has recently developed a new polymer electrolyte to use in the structural supercapacitor that has much better electrical performance and mechanical properties9.  The key feature of this electrolyte is that it is a thermoplastic polymer-based single-phase electrolyte made using melt processing which has never been done before. This melt processing allows for increased ion transport and higher strength of the electrolyte matrix and potentially better performance of the structural supercapacitor devices.

In this project, we are proposing using this same polymer electrolyte in conjunction with carbon fiber fabric to construct new structural supercapacitor devices. The goal is to further improve the electrical and mechanical performance of the supercapacitor. To do this, we will (1) develop a new method for the manufacturing of the devices, and (2) optimize the composition of the electrolyte matrix.



    • Injection Molding Operation

An A&B Plastics AB-100 injection molder was used for all injection molded samples. This machine uses a pneumatic ram to force the melted material into the mold and must be connected to a compressor. To complete a “shot” (filling the cavity of the mold with molten plastic), the desired temperature of the chamber was set using the PID interface and the pneumatic ram pressure was adjusted using the built-in pressure regulator. At this point, a preheated mold was aligned under injector nozzle. Once the chamber temperature reached its target value, the ram was actuated using a lever filling the mold. After injection, the mold was removed and set aside for cooling. The part was then removed from the mold after a set amount of time.

  • DSC Sample Preparation

Sample preparation for differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) was done in an M-Braun Uni-Lab Pro SP glove box. These samples were around 10 mg each and were tested using a TA Instruments DSC machine.


    • Optimized Injection Molding Procedure

The goal in optimizing the injection molding procedure was to find the smallest sample thickness achievable. This is important due to relation between electrolyte thickness and capacitance. The thinner the sample, the thinner the final thickness of the full device, which in turn improves capacitive behavior. The mold shown in figure 1 was designed and machined for this purpose. It features an adjustable insert that can be shimmed to change the depth of the mold cavity from 0.040” to 0.000”. The mold can also be disassembled quickly for cleaning in-between material compositions. 6061 aluminum was chosen as the primary material due to its high thermal conductivity and machinability, however the insert portion was machined from stainless steel. This was done to reduce the chance of the insert becoming seized in place.

Insert mold design

Using this adjustable mold, a set of experiments was designed to determine the best injection parameters for polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET was chosen for these tests as it was the preferred material used for the matrix portion of the polymer electrolyte. Using the typical design of experiments layout made for multifunctional optimization, an initial set of parameters were established and used a basis for testing. Four separate tests were then done, varying each parameter one at a time. The characteristics of each result were carefully noted on for analysis at the end of each test set. In the following tables, each row highlighted in green represents the best result for the given experimental set. Characteristics such as clarity and ease of molding were the main forms evaluation.

From this procedure, it was determined that the best parameters for PET were the following: mold temperature of 160°C, barrel temperature of 270°C, injection pressure of 60 psi, and a minimum cavity depth of 0.020”. These parameters resulted in the most consistent, clear samples.


  • DSC Results

Differential scanning calorimetry was used to characterize two different polymer electrolyte materials. The first of which was PET+20%LiTSFI shown in figure 2. From the figure, it can be seen that the melting point is located around 234°C. The second was PLA+20%LiTSFI shown in the following figure.


Throughout this research project, many impactful discoveries were made. Most importantly a basis for injecting solid polymer electrolyte samples was established. Now the only step needed for injecting different compositions of electrolytes (changing the total lithium salt to polymer matrix ratio) was a DSC test to find the melting point of the specific composition. The other parameters could then be adjusted based on this temperature. On top of this, the DSC tests revealed that the PLA based electrolyte has a more definite glass transition point, around 50°C. This means even in a mostly solid phase, the PLA+20%LiTSFI begins to flow at low temperatures. This characteristic may be instrumental when attempting to impregnate weaved carbon fibers in future work.

It was lastly discovered that humidity plays a major role in the injection molding process. The ambient environment where the injection molding was done tended to have high humidity levels between 50-70%. It is well known that water content can significantly impact injection molding, so every precaution was taken including drying the material before injection, sealing the injection molding barrel when not in use, and preheating the barrel before injection. Unfortunately, these attempts only had a small impact on the results. Many of the samples were still dark in color due to water that was absorbed by the injection material. For this reason, a senior design team was sponsored in the mechanical engineering department to solve this humidity control issue.



  1. Xu, Y., Lu, W., Xu, G. & Chou, T. W. Structural supercapacitor composites: A review. Compos. Sci. Technol. 204, 108636 (2021). DOI:10.1016/j.compscitech.2020.108636
  2. Snyder, J. F., Gienger, E. B. & Wetzel, E. D. Performance metrics for structural composites with electrochemical multifunctionality. J. Compos. Mater. 49, 1835–1848 (2015). DOI:10.1177/0021998314568167
  3. Reece, R., Lekakou, C. & Smith, P. A. A structural supercapacitor based on activated carbon fabric and a solid electrolyte. Mater. Sci. Technol. (United Kingdom) 35, 368–375 (2019). DOI:10.1080/02670836.2018.1560536
  4. Shirshova, N., Qian, H., Houllé, M., Steinke, J. H. G. G., Kucernak, A. R. J. J., Fontana, Q. P. V. V, Greenhalgh, E. S., Bismarck, A. & Shaffer, M. S. P. P. Multifunctional structural energy storage composite supercapacitors. Faraday Discuss. 172, 81–103 (2014). DOI:10.1039/c4fd00055b
  5. Structural supercapacitor illustration.
  6. Shirshova, N., Bismarck, A., Carreyette, S., Fontana, Q. P. V., Greenhalgh, E. S., Jacobsson, P., Johansson, P., Marczewski, M. J., Kalinka, G., Kucernak, A. R. J., Scheers, J., Shaffer, M. S. P., Steinke, J. H. G. & Wienrich, M. Structural supercapacitor electrolytes based on bicontinuous ionic liquid-epoxy resin systems. J. Mater. Chem. A 1, 15300–15309 (2013). DOI:10.1039/c3ta13163g
  7. Tu, V., Asp, L. E., Shirshova, N., Larsson, F., Runesson, K. & Jänicke, R. Performance of bicontinuous structural electrolytes. Multifunct. Mater. 3, 025001 (2020). DOI:10.1088/2399-7532/ab8d9b
  8. Greenhalgh, E. S., Ankersen, J., Asp, L. E., Bismarck, A., Fontana, Q., Houlle, M., Kalinka, G., Kucernak, A., Mistry, M., Nguyen, S., Qian, H., Shaffer, M., Shirshova, N., Steinke, J. & Wienrich, M. Mechanical, electrical and microstructural characterisation of multifunctional structural power composites. J. Compos. Mater. 49, 1823–1834 (2015). DOI:10.1177/0021998314554125
  9. Joyal, N., Chang, Y.-C., Shonar, M., Chalivendra, V. & Shen, C. Solid polymer electrolytes with hydrates for structural supercapacitors. J. Energy Storage Accepted (2022).
  10. Anjum, N., Grota, M., Li, D. & Shen, C. Laminate composite-based highly durable and flexible supercapacitors for wearable energy storage. J. Energy Storage 29, 101460 (2020). DOI:10.1016/j.est.2020.101460



Research in Marine Science & Technology

The Influence of Lethality on the Magnitude of Prey Response to Predation Risk 

By Haleigh Nogueira 


This past summer I worked on a project to examine the effect of predator lethality on prey response using a rocky intertidal system. I carried out this experiment at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) and collected the animals from nearby sites. The summer research award from the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) allowed me to obtain all the needed supplies for my project and ensured I was able to solely focus on my work.

Portrait of Haleigh Nogueira at work in Buzzards Bay



Predators can influence prey via both consumptive, i.e., killing, and non-consumptive predation risk effects (Sih et al. 1985; Peacor et al. 2020). Predation risk effects can alter prey behavior, physiology and morphology, which can scale up to alter individual fitness. These prey risk-responses are dependent upon the environment or context in which the predator-prey interaction occur (Schmitz 2017; Sheriff et al. 2020b), e.g., refuge availability, prey state, and predator hunting mode all influence risk responses. While predator lethality, defined as the probability that an encounter with the predator proves fatal for prey (Cooper and Frederick 2010), has been theorized to alter prey risk responses (Brown 1999; Cooper and Frederick 2010) there is little evidence to support this assumption. In marine systems the idea of predator lethality driving prey responses to predation risk is particularly of interest given that predator-prey relationships and predator identity is largely influence by individual body size; i.e., an individual’s body size relative to another dictates whether that individual is predator or prey (Barnes et al. 2010). By using a rocky intertidal system, I can examine the effect of predator lethality on prey response.


To determine the lethality of predators, I first used an experimental mesocosm manipulation to measure the consumption rates of different predator species at different sizes. A single crab of each species was placed into a mesocosm with 5 snails and their consumption was measured over 24 h. Snails were separated into two size classes (and each size placed into separate mesocosms). The mesocosms were small enough to eliminate spatial refuge for the snails. The predator, and the size of the predator, with the higher rate of consumption will be considered to have greater lethality.

I tested the hypothesis that the lethality of a predator will alter the magnitude of prey risk responses. Specifically, I predicted that when exposed to the more lethal predator (expected that larger crabs are more lethal) snails will have reduced tissue and shell growth, increased shell: tissue ratio, reduced foraging, and increased refuge use. This was tested using two size classes of Hemigrapsus sanguineus and Carcinus maenas (predators tested in part 1) and two size classes of Nucella lapillus (prey); thus, I had a fully crossed design with large and small crabs and large and small snails. Animals were placed into a mesocosm with a single crab (rendered non-lethal) and snails of a single size class. The mesocosms had a tile-refuge added. Snail tissue and shell weight was measured at the start and end of experiment using the Palmer (1982) buoyancy technique that provides non-destructive estimates; foraging and refuge use of snails was measured by behavioral observations every 3 days. The experiment ran over 20 days.


This study will be one of the first to provide empirical evidence testing the long-held assumption that predator lethality influences prey risk responses. The results of this work will provide a better understanding of and insights into predator-prey interactions and how predation risk may alter prey phenotype and scale up to alter populations and communities. At this time I do not have any results to share, but plan to spend the rest of the semester working on my data analysis. I want to thank the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) and the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) for providing me with the funds to pursue this project. I also would like to thank Dr. Michael Sheriff and my lab mates for the guidance and support they have given me throughout.




Barnes C, Maxwell D, Reuman DC, Jennings S. (2010). Global patterns in predator-prey    size relationships reveal size dependency of trophic transfer efficiency. Ecology.        91 (1): 222 232.

Brown JS. (1999). Vigilance, patch use and habitat selection: Foraging under predation     risk. Evolutionary Ecology Research. 1: 49-71.

Cooper WE, Frederick WG. (2010). Predator lethality, optimal escape behavior, and         autotomy. Behavioral Ecology. 21(1): 91–96.

Palmer AR. (1982) Growth in Marine Gastropods: A Non-Destructive Technique for          Independently Measuring Shell and Body Weight. Malacologia.23(1): 63-73

Peacor SD, Barton BT, Kimbro DL, Sih A, Sheriff MJ. (2020). A framework and        standardized   terminology to facilitate the study of predation-risk effects.         Ecology. 101(12).

Schmitz O. (2017). Predator and prey functional traits: Understanding the adaptive          machinery driving predator-prey interactions. F1000Research. 6: 1767

Sheriff MJ, Orrock JL, Ferrari MCO, Karban R, Preisser EL, Sih A, Thaler JS. (2020b).            Proportional fitness loss and the timing of defensive investment: a cohesive       framework across animals and plants. Oecologia. 193(2):273–283.

Sheriff MJ, Peacor SD, Hawlena D, Thaker M. (2020a). Non-consumptive predator effects on prey population size: A dearth of evidence. Journal of Animal Ecology. 89 (6):1302-1316.

Sih A, Crowley P, Mcpeek M, Petranka J, Strohmeier K. (1985). Predation,

Competition, and Prey Communities: A Review of Field Experiments. Annual Review Ecological Systems.16:269311. 


Research in Mechanical Engineering


­­­­Owl-inspired experimental study on flow-induced vibration suppression with aerospace applications


By Abdul Raffae


Portrait of Abdul Raffae (left) at work in Fluid-Structure Interactions Research Laboratory at UMass-Dartmouth



In today’s industries, turbulent fluctuation causes flow induced noise that has been a major contribution to noise generation of modern structures. Many aeronautical and turbine application are rapidly developing to ensure noise reduction to better understand and control the acoustic of noise and structural vibration. In my research Fluid-Structure Interactions (FSI) is used to study the deformation or oscillation (Flow-Induced Vibration) of the structure that will go through fatigue failure in long term. In this proposed work, an owl wings will be going through detailed experimental campaign to understand the source of this turbulent and find strategies to suppress the FIV in such flexible structures. Three dominant noise-attenuation factors have been identified in owl wings that includes comb-like structure, trailing-edge feathers, and the velvet-like have been identified.


View of the Fluid-Structure Interactions Research Laboratory at UMass-Dartmouth where Abdul conducted his research



In Fall 2021, a flexible circular cylinder with trailing-edge serration was 3D modeled using SOLIDWORKS software cased from silicone material. This was done thanks to using the re-circulating water tunnel at Professor Banafsheh Seyedaghazadeh‘s Fluid-Structure Interactions Research Laboratory at UMass-Dartmouth. Subsequently, the effects of serrations geometry, length and aspect ratio were studied using FIV response. Since then I have been working closely with the lab to find solutions to the problem. I am planning to publish the result of this research in a peer-reviewed journal. While I cannot provide more details here, I can tell you that the impact of this research is essentially to determine the noise vibration in aeronautical and micro aerial applications. I want to thank Professor Seyedaghazadeh and other colleagues at the lab for their support. The Summer OUR fund provided an opportunity to be on campus and dedicate more time to lab work. I am grateful to the OUR for this unique opportunity.

Research in Business & Government

Congressman Barney Frank and his Contributions to the LGBT Community


By Carmen Zhao


I was first introduced to the OUR summer research project by my supervisor Chan Du. In 2011 Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank donated his archives collection that documented his U.S. congressional career from 1980-2012. They are currently located in the library’s Archives and Special Collections at UMass Dartmouth and are sorted in many boxes. During the summer, I was able to spend many hours in this room sorting through Frank’s archives to help with my research. The collection is categorized into 6 series, legislative files, district files, election and legislative records, correspondence, press and public relations, and artifacts and awards. This collection is currently in the process of being digitized. During the end of summer I was assigned a supervisor in the library, Ms. Judy Farrar. With Farrar’s help I learned how to navigate the archives and special collections. At the same time, I helped with scanning old photographs associated with Barney Frank, while investigating photographic materials for my own research. After I digitized the photos I had to try to identify the dates when these photos were shot; I was also charged with the task of identifying the photographers who took them. Subsequently, I helped write labels that would go along with these photos. When working on these descriptions it was important for me to recognize some of the people’s faces in the photos who had posed with Barney. Using Barney’s archives I was able to look through the boxes and go through newspapers and articles to try to identify and match any of the unfamiliar faces from the photographs to the names that appeared in newspaper clippings.

Portrait of Carmen Zhao


Barney Frank was a popular congressman, but to keep his political career “safe” he kept a secret about his identity for many years. When I first started this research project I knew little about the many sides of Barney Frank’s character. I first started by watching his documentary ‘Let’s Get Frank.’ Then I read about him in books, one an autobiography and another by Stuart E. Weisberg. These materials were helpful to me as they allowed me to get a more complete picture of Frank’s life and career. While looking through the photo albums I got to see digital images from Frank’s campaigns and public appearances. While conducting the photo research I was able to put some faces to the names that were mentioned in the books. I wrote my research paper about Barney Frank’s political career as a gay man. Frank’s biggest struggle seemed to be separating his personal life with his public life. I found how keeping his sexuality a secret effected some of the choices he made and how he was able to gain people’s trust back once he came out. I studied if he had come out earlier, he could’ve effected the outcome of his 1980 congressional run or the Democratic Primary when fighting conservative candidate, Arthur Clark. Barney defeated him in the general election in a close race. The same thing happened when Frank took on former Congresswomen Margaret Heckler in 1982, the disclosure of his sexual preferences may have lost him in these elections. It was interesting to see how these career choices and the timing of them effected the outcomes of Frank’s career. Delving into the archives was helpful because I was able to find press clippings from the years mentioned in the book related to his political fallouts that supported my paper.


Snapshot from Carmen’s contribution to the collection. More can be found HERE


UMass Dartmouth Archives and Special Collections where Carmen

conducted her research through an OUR Summer Award. 


I found reactions from different newsletters like the Attleboro Sun, Taunton Daily Gazette, Dover-Sherborn Suburban Press, Sun Chronicle, and Arizona Republic which published  stories when Barney voluntarily came out. These pieces expressed a variety of thoughts and opinions on the situation.  It was very informative to know that Frank was not alone in this struggle. There were many people who were closeted politicians as Barney mentions some of his gay colleagues in his writings. However, the important point to highlight here is that while still silent about his sexual orientation, Barney was an advocate for LGBT. In the archives legislative files are divided into sessions of Congress and special issues. There I found his dealings with LGBT issues and I was able to find more information on these issues that occupied a good portion of Frank’s career. I plan to expand my research paper based on my work at the archives and hopefully publish it in the near future. The extended paper will focus on Frank’s early struggles that soon forced him to make the decision to come out despite the possible negative effect on his career. For this research opportunity, I am grateful to the OUR as well as to my advisor Associate Dean Chan Du and supervisor Judith Farrar.



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