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The Beckman Research Scholars Awards are made possible by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in support of truly exceptional undergraduate students who are committed to a research-based career in Biology or Chemistry. The Beckman Scholars will complete an Honors Thesis on their research.

2010-2011 Beckman Scholars

Ms. Pwint Khine

Mr. Jaspreet Sandhu


Ms. Pwint Khine
Mentor:  Dr. Richard Kaner
Title:  Synthesis of Polythiophene and Poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) Nanofibers for Thin Film Deposition

Pwint Khine is a fourth year student, pursuing a degree in Biochemistry.  Since Fall 2009, she has been working on the synthesis and fabrication of one-dimensional polythiophene (PT) and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT) nanofibrillar thin films.

One-dimensional (1-D) nanostructures of PT and PEDOT are the focus of intensive research due to their enormous potential towards applications in electronic devices and light-emitting diodes. A vast number of techniques exist for shaping of PT and PEDOT into nanostructures; however, they all suffer from limitations such as amorphous and a random orientated polymer chains.  On the other hand, our initiator-assisted polymerization successfully synthesizes bulk quantities of nanofibers by the introduction of additives  that lead to a network of interconnected 1-D nanostructures.  The purpose of this study is to synthesize conductive PT and PEDOT nanofibers using initiator-assisted polymerization under different synthetic conditions in order to produce free-standing thin films. To produce a thin, uniform, and transparent film, deposition of nanofibers on a variety of substrates has been developed. A monolayer of nanofibers, present at the interface between water and oil, is engineered to coat a solid surface using an interfacial surface tension gradient. A film grows in seconds and dries in minutes at ambient conditions, this transparent coating is collected on substrates such as glass, ITO, and mica. Characterization of a thin film is carried out via scanning electron microscopy to study morphology, ultraviolet-visible light spectroscopy to investigate chemical structure, and cyclic voltammetry to analyze redox behavior. Our results show a high yield of PT and PEDOT nanofibers, thin film deposition at the water-oil interface, and a novel technology for fabricating freestanding films.  Future goals include process scale-up, measurement of electrical properties such as sheet resistance, and device fabrication.

Pwint greatly appreciates the vision and funding from the Beckman Research Scholarship.  Here, Pwint would like to express gratitude toward Prof. Ric Kaner and Julio M. D’Arcy for their guidance, encouragement, and Dr. Hasson and Dr. Crosbie for assistance.


Mr. Jaspreet Sandhu
Mentor:  Dr. Kent Hill
Title:  Identification of Genes Regulating Social Behavior in T. brucei

Jaspreet Sandhu is a fourth year student, majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics.  He conducts his research in Dr. Kent Hill’s laboratory that studies Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African Sleeping Sickness.

Recent advances in Dr. Hill’s laboratory have shown that inoculating insect-stage T. brucei cells upon semisolid agarose surfaces induces social behavior. This behavior is defined by the formation and migration of macroscopic communities, and the ability for each community to sense and avoid opposing communities. Social behavior in T. brucei provides a system for studying environmental sensing, host-pathogen interactions, and cell-cell communication.

Jaspreet’s project seeks to identify genes that regulate the social behavior of T. brucei. He is taking two approaches. First, he is working on a forward genetic screen using a tetracycline-inducible RNAi library of T. brucei cells to identify knockdown mutants that exhibit aberrant social behavior. He is currently in the process of phenotyping clonal populations that have been isolated by flow cytometry. In addition, he is applying a targeted approach to investigate the potential role of classical secondary messenger pathways. To do this, he is performing functional studies on a number of candidate genes that may serve as downstream effectors in these pathways. .

Jaspreet will be pursuing a career in academic medicine, in which he will practice alongside his research. He would like to thank Dr. Kent Hill and the Beckman Scholars Program for providing him with an excellent foundation for his future career.  In addition, Jaspreet would like to thank HoangKim Nguyen, Dr. Tama Hasson, and the members of the Hill laboratory for their continued support and guidance.




Profiles of Students