Monday, August 3, 2015

My First Summer at Mac

My name is Paul Chery, I am a rising Sophomore from Nancy, France.  I plan to major in Physics and Computer Science. This summer I am doing Physics research at Mac.  My advisor is Professor James Doyle of the Physics department, whose area of research focuses on material science.  

The research I am currently undertaking deals with protein adsorption, which is just a fancy way of saying proteins sticking to a surface.  There are two parts to my research: a computational part, involving a computer simulation, and an experimental part.  I am developing a computer simulation in C++ to model protein adsorption onto a surface.

The experimental part of my research involves doing actual protein adsorption experiments on various substrates. The ultimate goal of this research is to perform protein adsorption experiments on thin films made of biomaterials, which are films created by my professor and other students that could potentially be used inside the body for various biomedical applications (e.g. coatings on drugs or prosthetics).  The data that we obtain will help us in identifying biomaterials which are suitable for the body, preventing adverse reactions with the body such as clotting.  The computer simulation will help us make predictions, test hypotheses, and better understand the physics of the experiments. The idea is to expose a surface to a protein solution and then examine the surface with the Atomic Force Microscope.  Since this project is new to us, we are learning together how to use the new Atomic Force Microscope (that Macalester acquired last fall) and how to perform these biological experiments. There is a lot that is unknown to us, but it is rewarding because there is so much to learn.

I really enjoy the multidisciplinary aspect of the project; physics, biology, chemistry, and computer science. We frequently speak to faculty and staff in other departments and it truly feels like we are part of a tight-knit community. During the past weeks I’ve also grown to know my professor more, an experience which I do not think happens often at big research universities.  

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in research as a first-year student.  I have learned a a great amount about what it means to do research - a lot of uncertainty, a lot of patience, but a lot of excitement as well.  I felt like I had a lot of responsibility and that I was trusted. This experience will hopefully open doors and help me with my future research endeavors at other institutions. This would not have been as easy at other universities.  I really enjoyed spending the summer at Macalester doing research and exploring the surrounding neighborhoods and the Twin Cities.

By Paul Chery '17
Nancy, France