Re: Share your ideas
- 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
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 email@example.com, "researcherbd"
> 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
> (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to researcherbd@g...
> Thank you,
> bdresearchers Yahoo! Group