Enhancing Nanotube Functionality: Research Initiative Award for Undergraduates

Enhancing Nanotube Functionality: Research Initiative Award for Undergraduates

February 13, 2017

New scientific discoveries often help to improve our lives, but sometimes it can take years or even decades before scientists realize the practical applications of their findings. In many cases, scientists have to be visionaries and wait patiently before they can reap the fruits of their labor. This kind of visionary approach is shared by Austin Bailey ’17, who received the Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries' Research Initiative Award for Undergraduates on January 19.

A Chemistry major, Bailey received the award for a research project that sought to find a way to enhance the functionality of nanotubes. Nanotubes are cylinders made out of rolled sheets of graphene (a one-atom layer of graphite, the same material found in pencils). In this configuration, graphene display exceptional properties such as tensile strength twenty times greater than that of steel.

While nanotubes already enjoy minor applications in biological imaging and transistor technologies, they are still far from being fully understood. Bailey's project helps to explore further potential usages by developing a process that simplifies the way nanotubes can be attached to other molecules. “Although my research will not likely reshape our current everyday lives,” he says, “it is humbling to take part in scientific progress that may find place in innovative technologies decades into the future.”

“Austin’s impact in the field could be significant,” says Todd Krauss, Professor of Chemistry and Optics, who supervised Bailey’s project. “We are already incorporating his research findings as preliminary data into our Department of Energy renewal grant proposal to be submitted this August, and I am very excited that his work will open up new important avenues of research in my group.”

Bailey’s research project required him to familiarize himself with the relevant literature in the field, which provided him with an opportunity to work closely with Sue Cardinal, Outreach Librarian for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. “The library skills Sue taught me were really invaluable for working on my research,” he says. Cardinal introduced him to Reaxys, a professional chemistry database that helped him sort through great amounts of chemical literature relevant to his project. “Sue did a great job guiding me and other students through Reaxys, which opened for us many doors,” he adds. “I am sure that other students who know Sue are grateful for her guidance and will be using the tools she taught them for the rest of their academic careers.”

Nadia Gribkova, who won second place in the Research Initiative Award for Undergraduates for her project on our collection of AIDS Education Posters, will present her work in the Fall.

The Research Initiative Award for Undergraduates recognizes excellence in undergraduate research, as well as the ability to work with faculty and librarians to develop a research strategy leading towards a senior thesis, capstone project, or an independent research project. Students who wish to learn more about the award and whether they might be eligible for it, can do so here.

In the photo (from left to right): Susan Cardinal, Austin Bailey, and Todd Krauss.


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