Biomolecular engineering senior Muskan Kanungo and biomedical engineering senior Noah Hutchinson tied for first place at the annual American Chemical Society (ACS) Milwaukee Chapter poster competition. The ACS Milwaukee Chapter is comprised of chemists from various backgrounds, including local colleges, universities and industry professionals.

Both Kanungo and Hutchinson participated in MSOE's NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Dr. Wujie Zhang, associate professor in the Physics and Chemistry Department, served as the advisor for both students.

Kanungo’s project, “Development of Gelatin-Coated Microspheres for Novel Bioink Design,” built off of past senior design teams’ projects. “This study focused on producing and characterizing gelatin-coated pectin microspheres for incorporation into bioink,” explained Kanungo. “Bioink is a formulation containing cells and biomaterials that can be used to fabricate tissue and organs through a strategy known as bioprinting. Microspheres are important in bioink because they have been shown to promote vascularization (formation of blood vessels) within bioprinted scaffolds.”

The project challenged Kanungo to adjust her mindset as she approached research problems. “Research is so different from the engineering courses we take here. When we are studying for classes, there’s an answer and we have solutions to the problems. Research teaches you to expect the unexpected and asks us to break out of our conventional problem-solving mindset.”

Hutchinson’s poster was titled “Biosynthesis of Gold Nanoparticles Using Upland Cress and their Biochemical Characterization and Assessment,” and was inspired by previous research conducted by Zhang and undergraduate researchers.

Upland cress is a readily available leafy green commonly found in grocery stores. For his project, Hutchinson “investigated the ability to synthesize gold nanoparticles using organic reducing agents found in upland cress, characterized the produced nanoparticles and then looked into biomedical applications of the gold nanoparticles.”

The biggest challenge Hutchinson faced in his research process was the translation of the ideas from the silver nanoparticle synthesis project. “We knew that the method of synthesis worked for silver, but when the method was used for gold nanoparticle synthesis it didn’t work. After extensive thought and a bunch of headaches, we decided to switch major components of our biosynthesis process in order to successfully and repeatedly produce the gold nanoparticles.”

Both Kanungo and Hutchinson assisted one another on their research projects, along with undergraduate research assistants Emma Kroll and Anna DeBruine. Kanungo and Hutchinson were humbled and appreciative when they earned first place.

“It felt rewarding,” said Kanungo. “I felt that I communicated my findings to the point that the judges learned something from my work.”

“For me the win was extremely exciting and fulfilling,” said Hutchinson. “It was amazing to see that the work I did was being recognized and felt an immense sense of pride in my work, my advisors and peers, and my school.”

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Associate Professor

Dr. Wujie Zhang

Department: Physics and Chemistry
(414) 277-7438 Cudahy Campus Center: CC250 Faculty Resume