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  • a_stein2001
    Hi All, My name is Andrew Stein. I curently live in the Dallas/Texas area. My main areas of research have been chemical/materials science, and some (neuro)
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 14, 2004
      Hi All,

      My name is Andrew Stein. I curently live in the Dallas/Texas area.
      My main areas of research have been chemical/materials science, and
      some (neuro) biological.

      Besides a number of good research projects in college, I did my
      required senior thesis on an experimental local anesthetic compound
      (drug) which was being used to investigate the sodium channel, a large
      protein that is responsible for mediating trans-membrane sodium ion
      currents during neural impulse ("action potential") transmission.
      That is, the portion of neural conductivity WITHIN a cell (i.e. along
      the long connective portion of cell body: "axon"), as opposed to
      BETWEEN cells (i.e. synapses). The pioneers of that field were two
      British researchers, Hodgkin and Huxley, who received the Nobel Prize
      for the method they developed for rigorously quantifying sodium (Na+)
      currents in nerves. This was a good culmination to my college studies
      (biology/biochemistry, and biochemistry).

      After a brief wildlife fieldwork project, I briefly worked with a very
      talented researcher who I had read about for my thesis. Of all the
      journal articles I read (~100), I thought his was the most promising.
      He would purify the sodium channel (protein) from rat brain, and then
      reconstitute it into a SYNTHETIC lipid bilayer, and then do single
      channel electrical recording under pharmacological (drug) treatment.
      This greatly improves the results, because you are testing the drugs
      in a much less complex, better understood system (i.e. compared to
      using natural nerual tissue).

      About five years later, I went to work for an individual who had
      private sector research grants from NASA and the US Air force to
      develop biosensors to test for bacteria contamination in drinking
      water, and nerve gas, respectively. First, a biosensor is (usually) a
      colorimetric or electronically coupled device that allows you to test
      for the presence of some (biological) analyte (e.g. AIDS virus). In
      this case, he was interested in developing synthetic POLYMERIC
      membranes which would mimic the biological cell membrane ("lipid
      bilayer"), and could host some biomolecule (e.g. the sodium channel),
      which could then be coupled to some electronic response if the analyte
      was detected. We met with limited success. Probably, the membranes
      we were using were inadequate to mimic the lipid bilayers necessary
      for an ion channel to function. The good part about this was it
      introduced me to polymer (plastics) science, which I later pursued in
      graduate schoool.

      A last project I worked on with this individual (another private
      sector government research grant) was to test a catalyst to facilitate
      biodegradation (digestion by bacteria) of petrochemicals. This was
      very good, in that it introduced me to biodegradation, which became my
      initial research field in graduate school. Also, it continued my work
      (i.e. from the previous project) in microbiology, which is the
      fascinating field of bacteria. (Bacteria, some of the simpleset
      (unicellular) of all life forms, are able to live in extremely diverse
      environments, and to subsist on (i.e. "eat") a wide range of
      nutrients, including, fortunately, many man made pollutants.)

      After working 2.5 years in those fields, I later went to graduate
      school. The first program I worked in was interested in developing
      biodegradable plastics. That group looked at both synthetic and
      bacterially synthesized plastics, which were biodegradable (i.e. would
      be completely consumed in a land fill in a relatively short period of
      time). The main project I worked on was ways to chemically modify
      starch to give it useful (in this case, detergent like, or
      "macro-emulsifier") properties. (Note: starch is the long chain
      (i.e. "polymeric") form of sugars, which plants use to store this
      critical energy source, which the produce (i.e. sugars) by
      photosynthesis.) This could have provided important industrial
      applications for starch, which is an extremely high volume, cheap
      agricultural comodity. The type of chemical derivatizations were
      knows as "acylations", and were carried out in both organic and
      (novel) aqueous phase reactions.

      I later joined another research group to complete my M.S. They were
      interested in opto-electronic polymer materials. These were plastics
      that responded to light or could conduct electricity. Some of their
      materials included nonlinearly active materials, which included ("2nd
      order", hosted organic chromophores possessing a dipole moment) those
      which would induce frequency doubling of an incident light beam and
      ("3rd order"), which would undergo a change of refractive index,
      causing an incident light beam to become redirected. These materials
      were being considered for optical computing applications, because they
      might be able to mediate the same sort of gated logic operations as
      transistors, while also being able to made smaller than transistors.

      The most interesting achievement I saw by this group was where two
      precisely focused laser beams could be combined to form a standing
      wave interference pattern, which could then be directed across the
      surface of an optically active polymer material to cause the formation
      of a refractive relief grating. This was essentially an extremely
      small (able to be imaged by atomic force microscopy) and regular
      pattern (looked at in cross-section) of hills and valleys.
      Essentially, the standing wave interference pattern would cause the
      optically active polymer to "boil" out of the region containing the

      My (relatively simple) thesis research project involved elucidating
      the mechanism of a "photobleaching" effect which had been observed in
      chloroform solutions of optically active polymers known as
      polydiacetylenes (fully conjugated, i.e. delocalized electrons,
      polymer backbones). Basically, these colored solutions turned
      colorless (i.e. were "bleached") when ultraviolet light was shined on
      them. My advisor argued that this was due to a conformational change
      in the polymer backbone. I argued that it was due to a chemical
      reaction. I was right, he was wrong.

      After I graduated I went to work for a small start-up company in the
      San Francisco, CA area. They were trying to develop coatings which
      would change their barrier properties with temperature. Products
      included packaging materials which would prolong the shelf life of
      vegetables and (my project) coatings which could be used to control
      seed germination by mediating water (vapor) permeation. These
      materials were "acrylics" with long hydrocarbon side chains. The side
      chains would crystallize, and it was their crystalline vs. melted
      state which mediated the material permeability. These interesting
      materials were sticky and proved hard to coat on the seeds. Most
      interestingly, these materials were prepared as "latexes" (e.g. the
      commonly used water-based house paints), making them much better for
      coating (i.e. "low VOC (volatile organic content") than plastics
      prepared in organic solvents.

      After that job, I got into computers (programming, UNIX, and
      networking). This didn't involve much research, but while working as
      an intern at a NASA research center, I was able to attend a number of
      interesting seminars in artificial intelligence and other topics.
      Probably the greatest take-away concept from that was the extremely
      high structural/functional similarity between a neuron (i.e.
      biological nerve cell) and a transistor. That is, both are able to
      receive controlling (conduction mediating, i.e. "gating") inputs, and
      both generate an "all or nothing" (i.e. "1" or "0") response. This
      suggests that the functioning ("thinking") of the brain might involve
      gated logic operations, the same as those mediated by transistors in
      an integrated circuit (e.g. CPU). This suggests that nature and man's
      greatest creations, both developed independently, might both function
      in essentially the same fashion.

      --- In bdresearchers@yahoogroups.com, "researcherbd"
      <researcherbd@g...> wrote:
      > Dear Members,
      > The purpose of bdresearchers group is not only to send newsletters
      > collecting from the web. The group members should share their research
      > and development oriented knowledge and information to make the
      > community more active. The industrial, academic or any other
      > institutional researches and developments are in the interest are of
      > this group.
      > Bangladesh is far behind in research-oriented works comaring to the
      > developed countries. But, still there are a number of successful
      > researches and developments in our country. The news of successful and
      > undergoing research projects in Bangladesh will inspire the group
      > members, specially the newcomers in research field.
      > Sharing innovative ideas is one of the major goals of this e-group.
      > Discussions on those ideas will help us to discover innovative
      > research and development tracks.
      > There should be some expectations of all the group members to the
      > group. Sharing those expectations of the group member will help the
      > group management to be more efficient in the group activites. The
      > group management always expects comments and ideas from the group
      > members. The group members can send those mails to the group
      > (bdresearchers@yahoogroups.com) or to researcherbd@g...
      > Thank you,
      > Moderator
      > bdresearchers Yahoo! Group
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