New High-Tech Collaborative Research Laboratory
- By Dawn Marie Densmore
Four leading researchers from Mechanical Engineering, Environmental Engineering and the new Bioengineering programs will be cross-pollinating in a new high-tech laboratory on the second floor of Votey Hall. Drs. Rachael Oldinski, Mary Dunlop, Britt Holmén, and Jane Hill, have access to nearly 3000 square feet of space for collaborative research in newly renovated lab space that connects to the existing Hill Lab.
“Our work to develop and test technologies to rapidly diagnose infectious disease is enhanced by this joint facility,” says Dr. Hill, assistant professor in the School of Engineering. “It is also a great environment to do some research cross-fertilization.”
"This renovation greatly improves our bio- and chemical-related engineering research facilities and capabilities for growth. More importantly, by linking faculty with different expertise, the space will foster student and faculty interaction across subdisciplines within engineering," says Dr. Holmén, associate professor in the School of Engineering whose environmental engineering research focuses on characterizing processes affecting the transport and fate of organic chemicals and airborne particles from agriculture and transportation sources. Dr. Holmén’s expertise ranges from the study of nanoparticles in vehicle exhaust to herbicide gas/particle partitioning at the farm scale.
“My research group is pleased to have this space to support our interdisciplinary work on biological feedback control systems,” says Dr. Dunlop, assistant professor in the School of Engineering. “The opportunity for greater interaction with colleagues and students in the other research areas is an important step towards supporting transdisciplinary research within CEMS.”
“The interdisciplinary research of my students will be enhanced by the close proximity of distinguished professors and their respective students,” says Dr. Oldinski, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering and an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation in the College of Medicine.
The Dunlop Lab studies how microorganisms use feedback to respond to changes in their environment. The focus is on engineering novel control systems in cells and studying how robust, predictable behavior is achieved with naturally occurring feedback loops. Dr. Dunlop’s interest is in processes that are dynamic or stochastic and the researchers use fluorescent proteins and time-lapse microscopy to image single cells over the course of many hours. Solutions using engineered control systems are being applied to problems in bioenergy and medical research.
The Hill Lab is focused on two primary research areas. The first area centers on the development of technologies to rapidly determine the identity of pathogenic bacteria. Mass spectrometry is the primary tool used to rapidly “fingerprint” bacteria in contexts ranging from food to the human lung. The second area focuses on studying how organic phosphorus compounds are cycled in the environment, with an emphasis on directing the release of phosphate near plant roots rather than in places where it can leach into nearby waterbodies and cause algal blooms.
Dr. Holmén leads the Transportation-Air Quality Laboratory (TAQ Lab) which aims to understand and model factors affecting vehicle exhaust emissions as they relate to effects on human and environmental health. With a focus on unregulated pollutants such as air toxics and nanoparticles, both primary exhaust composition and secondary transformation processes are quantified at high temporal resolution under real-world vehicle operating conditions. Studies on hybrid and conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles operating on diverse fuels, including biodiesel blends from multiple feedstocks, position the TAQ Lab with a unique dataset for modeling tailpipe emissions of the future on-road vehicle fleet.
Dr. Oldinski is the director of the Engineered Biomaterials Research Laboratory in the School of Engineering. Dr. Oldinski’s research encompasses the fundamental understanding and development of polymeric materials for biological applications with a specific emphasis on tissue regeneration and drug delivery. The research in her laboratory involves: (i) developing novel polymeric materials and precursors; (ii) utilizing processing techniques to fabricate scaffolds with the desired micro- and macroscopic structures both spatially and temporally; (iii) investigating the interaction of cells with these materials while developing materials-based techniques to control cell differentiation; and (iv) using polymers to control the delivery of therapeutic molecules.
The renovation and creation of this new laboratory space is the result of a commitment from the UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences to empower the research faculty and to enhance the undergraduate teaching experience for students.