Ashley Figueiredo, a senior chemistry major at Sweet Briar College, has co-authored a scientific paper in the American Chemical Society journal Langmuir. Langmuir publishes peer-reviewed research on surface and colloid chemistry, and is frequently cited in those areas of study.
During the summer of 2006, Figueiredo joined a research team at James Madison University investigating a polymer-based microfluidic chip. Sometimes referred to as “labs on a chip,” microfluidic devices can be used in biomedical applications such as diagnostics or DNA analysis, said the paper’s lead author, Brian Augustine.
Augustine, an associate professor of chemistry at JMU, and his colleague, associate professor of physics Chris Hughes, led the research. Two researchers from the University of Missouri at Rolla also contributed to the paper.
Figueiredo was one of three undergraduate students involved in the project since 2004. Figueiredo, JMU chemistry major Kathryn Zimmerman and Randolph College (formerly Randolph-Macon Woman’s College) physics major Jessica Maidment participated under the Research Experience for Undergraduates program, which is administered by the National Science Foundation for the Department of Defense ASSURE program.
Figueiredo worked on manipulating the surface chemistry of a specific polymer the researchers hope to use as a coating in microfluidic devices. Augustine credits her with significantly advancing work begun in 2004, and says her careful research led to resolving why they were getting inconsistent results in lab tests.
“That’s what actually broke this open,” he said. “If she hadn’t done that, it couldn’t have been published.”
Over the past summer, Figueiredo returned to JMU to continue the project.
“She did really nice work this summer,” Augustine said, adding that they plan to submit a follow-up paper to Langmuir. “And [on] that one, she would be the lead student author.”
Figueiredo’s plans for 2007-08 include a full year of senior research with Sweet Briar physics professor Hank Yochum. They will be working on enhancement of electrochromic films using gold nanoparticles.
After that, graduate school seems likely.
“I am applying to Ph.D. programs in both chemistry and materials science, which is a direct result of the type of research I participated in as well as interaction with Dr. Augustine and Dr. Hughes,” Figueiredo said.
“Working at JMU was an amazing opportunity, and I had the privilege of presenting at both the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society conference as well as the spring 2007 National American Chemical Society Meeting.”
She also will present last summer’s work at the ninth annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Undergraduate Scholarship hosted by Sweet Briar College on Oct. 6.