Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2011-12 - (Page 14)
Summer Study in Spain
entific research, the students experienced the nuances of living and working in another culture. “Working in the lab in Madrid was just a completely different experience,” says Michelle Decepida, a junior in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering. “The work habits seem very relaxed there, but in a way that is maybe more efficient, and very serious and competitive. It was very interesting.” The four Rensselaer students— Decepida, senior Adriana Rojas, and doctoral candidates Eduardo Castillo and John Oxaal —arrived at IMM in July, and returned home in August. During their time in Spain, they traveled on the weekends. Along with exploring Madrid, they made time to travel around Spain. One particular highlight, Oxaal says, was their visit to the famous San Fermin festival in Pamplona—the annual spectacle where some brave souls “run with the bulls” down the city’s streets. In 2009, the Institute launched its Rensselaer Education Across Cul“Along with living in Spain and learning about another culture, these tural Horizons (REACH) students were performing leading-edge research that could have as an exchange program important applications in nanomanufacturing and energy conversion,” says Associate Professor Diana Borca-Tasciuc, project leader. for engineering students. REACH has since evolved to include all international the Nanoengineering Thermoelectrics opportunities for undergraduates, includLaboratory at IMM. Alongside students ing semester-long study abroad and and researchers from Spain and other exchange opportunities, short-term and countries, they worked to advance and faculty-led international programs, and optimize new procedures for manufacturother international experiences such as ing thermoelectric materials. These internships and service learning. materials, which generate electricity Today, all students are encouraged and when heat flows through them, could expected to take advantage of some sort play a role in the development of nextof international experience during their generation clean energy technologies. four-year undergraduate education. Beyond the challenge and rigor of sciFOUR ENGINEERING STUDENTS SPENT THEIR summer in Spain researching advanced materials at the Madrid Microelectronics Institute (IMM). The eight-week fellowship, funded by the National Science Foundation through an International Research Experiences for Students grant, offered the students a chance to perform leading-edge research while living, working, and learning in an international, multicultural environment. In addition to living together in an apartment in the countryside surrounding Madrid, the four students worked in
Ecolo PiezoMat: A Renewable Energy System
Rensselaer students have developed a patent-pending mat system that harnesses the use of piezoelectricity to convert foot traffic into usable electricity. Users simply walk on the mat and their pressure contributes to the charging of batteries, which in turn can charge any device. The flat, low-profile rubber mat can be placed anywhere with substantial foot traffic. The rubber mat can also incorporate traffic from wheeled objects. This renewable source of energy can be produced at mass scale for all floor surfaces.
Large-Scale Biomass Pretreatment
Rensselaer researchers have developed a patentpending method for the pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass with reusable ionic solvents, thus enabling the production of a lower-cost and largescale pretreatment of such materials. Acetate-based ionic liquids, which can be reused up to 10 times in the pretreatment, show dramatically reduced recalcitrance of corn stover, switchgrass, poplar, and maple wood toward hydrolysis and yield large percentages of fermentable sugars used for biofuel. The process also results in rich fractions of pristine lignin for use as biofuel or to fortify materials.
Antibody Development May Treat Neurodegenerative Disorders
Protein aggregation in the brain is present in several neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Generating antibodies that target specific aggregated protein conformers is extremely challenging. Rensselaer researchers have discovered that grafting peptide segments that regulate protein aggregation into certain regions of highly stable antibodies yields antibody variants that selectively target aggregates of the corresponding protein relative to the soluble, non-aggregated form. Using this approach, patent-pending libraries of grafted antibodies have been developed for targeting specific, harmful aggregates of multiple proteins. This development can be useful for generating conformationspecific antibodies against diverse toxic misfolded proteins that cause the neurodegenerative disorders. To learn more about Rensselaer commercializable technologies, go to rpitechnology.com or contact Natasha Sanford at email@example.com.
14 RENSSELAER/WINTER 2011-12
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2011-12
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2012
Taking Care of Business
One Last Thing
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Winter 2011-12