Community college students research on campus

July 30, 2015

PLATTEVILLE, Wis.— Dr. Chanaka Mendis, assistant dean for faculty/staff services in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science and professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, is the recipient of a grant to provide a residential research program on campus in July.

The program, funded through the Wisconsin Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, involves eight community college students and two UW-Platteville student mentors assisting both Mendis and Dr. Muhammad Rabbani, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, on two separate projects.

“We hope this program will prepare, motivate, encourage and support the community college students who want to learn more about STEM education and possibly pursue careers in science,” said Mendis. “By allowing the participants to become immersed in a research project and work one-on-one with faculty and peer mentors we hope they will learn first-hand about undergraduate chemistry and other programs at UW-Platteville.”

Four of the community college students will be working with Mendis on gene profiling, a highly-pursued area of study directed at disease control. Through this project, students will experience multiple techniques such as gene/protein quantification, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis and enzyme-linked immune-sorbent assay. These techniques are not only the mainstay for many courses in biochemistry and molecular biology, but are frequently utilized at multiple biotechnical, pharmaceutical and chemical companies throughout the United States.

"I believe your ultimate purpose as a student is to engage in a field of study that makes you happy and excited, and undergraduate research is a great way to do so."
               –Jessica Sprenger Schulenburg

The other four community college students will be working with Rabbani on the synthesis of highly porous materials, allowing students to perform reactions under anaerobic conditions using glovebox and schlenk line techniques. The techniques include column chromatography, nuclear magnetic resonance, infrared spectroscopy, surface analyzer and scanning electron microscopy to purify and characterize the synthesized compounds. These techniques are also widely used in many industrial and chemical companies throughout the country.

Jessica Sprenger Schulenburg, coordinator of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors, helps support the students and faculty throughout the three-week process. “My overall goal is to show students the power of undergraduate research,” she said. “I believe your ultimate purpose as a student is to engage in a field of study that makes you happy and excited, and undergraduate research is a great way to do so.”

The students will be presenting their final research at a closing ceremony on Friday, July 31 in the Nohr Gallery in Ullsvik Hall.

Written by: Carly Willman, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, 608-342-1194, willmanc@uwplatt.edu

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