Over the summer, Professor Zhutian Zhang, a Lecturer of Chemistry at Holy Cross College, was appointed a Visiting Research Assistant Professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for the summer. The project, funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, allowed her to conduct research on paper microfluidic analytical devices with Dr. Marya Lieberman’s research group known as a Paper Analytical Device (PAD).

“These devices are currently used to solve prevalent public health problems of counterfeit and substandard drugs in low-resource countries around the world,” notes Zhang. “They are also used for detection of illicit drugs and environmental pollution in local communities.”

Professor Zhang brought her research work back to campus and has integrated the PAD’s technology with the Holy Cross College undergraduate research and lab curriculum.

“Currently we have six juniors involved in PADs research, and the students have designed their own Holy Cross six-lane PADs for identification of antibiotics. Students are discovering how these devices are instrumental for conducting drug quality control and anti-counterfeiting procedures in many countries around the world,” said Zhang.

Another major endeavor resulting from this amazing opportunity is to design and implement inquiry-based undergraduate experiments for general and organic chemistry students.

“This will allow the chemistry students to get involved in open investigation in procedure design, data analysis, and exploration of how chemistry can be used to solve real-world problems,” said Professor Zhang.

All the collaboration work with Dr. Lieberman’s lab inspired Holy Cross College students in the Biology Club to host fourth year Ph.D. student Rachel Roller in an information sharing session with Holy Cross College STEM students about her journey to pursue Ph.D. studies with Dr. Lieberman at Notre Dame. Thanks for visiting campus and taking part in discussions about discernment, the application process, and life as a chemistry doctorate student at the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department.  Many of our students, including freshmen, participated and greatly benefitted from this discussion.

Bringing faculty research into the classroom incorporates real-world experience to students at Holy Cross College. Through projects like this, students have the chance to carry out investigations through an open-inquiry approach, develop authentic scientific skills in designing procedures and data analysis, and see how science can be applied to solve real-world problems.

Photos provided by Professor Zhang.