Students creating solutions: Understanding nanoparticles

Last Updated 11 July, 2018

Pre-med junior Phillip Gwin (Orangevale, Calif.) was chosen along with three other students to work on individual chemistry projects this summer. He worked on synthesizing different types of nickel oxide (NiO) nanoparticles to carboxylic acids to see if, when the binding sites, or ligands, were burned off, he would just be left with nickel oxide.

“Why should you care?” said junior Phil Gwin when asked about his NiO nanoparticle study. “Besides the fact that nanoparticles are already used in a wide variety of products including sunscreens, cosmetics, and some kinds of medicine without being fully understood, we hope to one day be able to engineer nanoparticles specifically to target certain kinds of cells or even to modify the expression of one’s DNA in order to help fight genetic diseases.”

There were two overall goals for his summer project. Phillip explained, “the first was to synthesize nickel oxide nanoparticles and control their shape and size because shape and size of nanoparticles is directly related to their toxicity and how they react within any system.” There is not much research about how different systems are affected by nanoparticles depending on their shape and size. “The second goal,” Phillip added, “was to take the nanoparticles we made and introduce them to living cells and see how they react with them. We drugged them with macrophage cells, which was pretty exciting.”

Phillip and the three other research students went to the Embry Conference and presented their research to professors. “It was stressful, but super fun,” Phillip said. “They had a lot of input.” On their trip, they got to visit NASA.

“We learned so much over the summer,” Phillip said. “If anything, this research made my desire to become a doctor stronger.” He is excited to have such valuable research experience under his belt to help with future jobs and getting into grad school.

Phillip is continuing his research into the semester. Being able to work all summer on one project of his choosing was much more fun than working in a classroom setting. He said, “It wasn’t for a grade, I did it because I wanted good results. We were all motivated to do our work.”

On campus, Phillip is a part of pre-med honors society, which is technically a fraternity, the only one on campus. “We eat pizza instead of partying,” Phillip said. “We volunteer at MAF and help pack med supplies onto planes.” He is also an RA this year, a pole vaulter on NNU’s track and field team, and a Sunday school teacher at Crossroads Community Church.

Learn more about the other summer 2017 research projects→

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