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Mentoring Academic Growth in the Community (MAGIC)


The Virginia Tech Macromolecular Interfaces with Life Sciences (MILES) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) has a strong interest in encouraging future scientists, enhancing interest in science and demonstrating the value of research to community members. To accomplish this goal has developed the Mentoring Academic Growth in the Community component of its program. As part of MAGIC, MILES participates in the NSF sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.

For this program, MILES hosted six undergraduate students during 12 weeks of the summer of 2008 in various laboratories at Virginia Tech. Lulit Affine studied the binding of charged polymers to DNA. Lulit was mentored by John Layman (MILES trainee) and Tim Long (MILES faculty). Allison Pagano researched the cloning of Alpha-synclein and firefly luciferase fusion constructs under the advisement of David Bryson (MILES trainee) and Webster Santos (MILES faculty). Paul Kim studied the antiproliferative effects of various fruits and vegetables against breast cancer cells grown in vitro. Paul was mentored by Kevin Zhou (MILES faculty). Jeneffer Bey conducted research on the kinetic isotope effects of para-substituted-N,N-dimethylanilines. Jeneffer was mentored by Amber Hancock (MILES trainee) and Jim Tanko (MILES faculty). Christine Seargeant studied the production of metallic flavor compounds by oxidation of oral cell membrane fatty acids and its prevention by antioxidants and chelating agents. Christine was mentored by Pinar Omur-Ozbek (MILES trainee) and Andrea Dietrich (MILES faculty). Dong-Chun Choi conducted research on ink-jet printing of cellulose nanocrystal substrates for cell micropatterning. Dong-Chun was mentored by Anjali Hirani (MILES associate) and Maren Roman (MILES faculty). SURP students and mentors met weekly at “brown bag” lunches to informally discuss research efforts. SURP students presented their work at a symposium at the end of the summer session.

As a second component of the MAGIC program, MILES faculty and trainees work jointly with the Science Museum of Western Virginia to provide high-quality science experiences related to oxidation to middle school students. MILES faculty and students participate in planning and carrying out a summer camp held at the Science Museum of Western Virginia where the middle school participants engage in hands-on activities designed by MILES trainees to demonstrate fundamental concepts of oxidation, and macromolecular chemistry and biology. For the 2008 summer camp, MILES trainee Michelle Grimm demonstrated how energy is released in a chemical reaction in the form of luminescent light and the basic principles of flash photolysis. Trainee Amber Hancock demonstrated how surface area, temperature, and catalysts can affect chemical reactions. Trainee Susan Mitroka demonstrated effects of oxidation on polymers, metals, and lipid systems. Trainee David Bryson and MILES Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) participant Allison Pagano demonstrated several oxidation reactions including the Briggs-Rayscher reaction, combustion of acetone in the presence of copper, dehydration of sucrose by sulfuric acid, combustion of sucrose in gummy bears by potassium perchlorate, and decomposition of hydrogen peroxide by sodium iodide in the presence of soap generating a dramatic amount of foam. Trainees Andy Whelton and Courie Cohen and MILES SURP student Christine Seargeant demonstrated effects of oxidation on water pipes and water chemistry and provided students with first hand experiences with how oxidation effects their daily lives by having students smell water samples passed through different types of polymer pipes used in current water distribution infrastructure. Summer camp attendees also visit MILES labs at Virginia Tech.

Understanding of and interest in the science concepts demonstrated is assessed before and after students participate in the laboratory activities. The results of these assessments showed that the amp improved the understanding and increased student interest in the impact of radical chemistry on materials and biological systems.

Address Goals

Through MAGIC, MILES reaches out to the community at several levels to advance understanding of and interest in science. Through interactions with the Science Museum of Western Virginia, the MILES program shares their research activities and emphasizes the value of the research that is being carried out to community members of all ages and backgrounds. The experiential learning that middle school students engage in at the “Let’s Think Radically” Summer Camp inspires these young scientists and increase their knowledge of potential future careers in science. In the SURP program, undergraduate students gain valuable research experience and carry out high quality research. Furthermore these students also participate in outreach activities. MILES trainees further develop their abilities to effectively communicate and act as scientific leaders through these experiences.