Senior chemical engineering major Sara Dale presented two poster sessions during the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in September about her work on the PAD Project. One session focused on general analytical chemistry and the other was called Sci-mix, a large session that highlighted a few posters from each division of the meeting.
“It was very fun and rewarding to talk with people interested in my work, and many of them had great questions and ideas about this project,” Dale explained. “I also enjoyed seeing the other posters and getting a larger perspective on the work that is being done now in analytics.”
Dale’s involvement with the PAD project began in the summer of 2012, when she was awarded a NDnano Undergraduate Research Fellowship (NURF). “I wanted to learn how to do research and see whether I would like it,” she said. “The NURF project on using surface acoustic wave nebulization (SAWN) as a method of detecting counterfeit pharmaceuticals caught my eye because of the practical nature of its goal and its use of analytical technology.”
With the guidance of faculty mentor David Go, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, Dale uses SAWN as an alternate ionization source for mass spectrometry (MS). They have shown that SAWN can be coupled with the PAD-based analysis and that it can successfully ionize and extract a variety of antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs from paper. The hope is that paper-SAWN MS could be used to analyze many samples from the field rapidly, with little to no sample pre-treatment.
Dale’s specific role in the project has been to test pharmaceuticals of interest with SAWN MS with samples in solution and those dried on paper. She is working to optimize conditions for different drugs and testing factors, such as different solvents, paper, and drying times.
Working on the PAD project has been beneficial for Dale because she realized that she really enjoys research and has had the opportunity to learn about her field in more detail. “One of the best parts of this has been getting to work with various mass spectrometers and getting to know more members of the research community at Notre Dame,” Dale said.