Auburn University and Tuskegee University have partnered together for student research opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Maria Soledad Peresin, associate professor of forest biomaterials in Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, established the collaboration with Michael Curry, a chemistry and materials engineering professor at Tuskegee, earlier this year. The program allows students of different disciplines and backgrounds to pursue research on pressing environmental issues.
“We partnered up with the hope that we could establish this pipeline of students between Tuskegee and Auburn and also double as a tutoring and mentorship program,” Peresin said.
Jermya Hollins, a chemistry student at Tuskegee University, is the first Tuskegee student to join Peresin’s lab. The lab was created through the partnership to create a STEM research mentorship program with Auburn graduate students and faculty.
"[Curry and I] established a project and are both co-supervising her,” Peresin said. “The way we are implementing this collaboration is that Jermya goes to Dr. Curry’s lab and learns a certain skill set. Then she comes here and works with my research team to learn a complementary skill set that includes technical and soft skills."
Peresin said Hollins works as the project manager by figuring out her own schedule and reports for the project. Peresin and Curry's role is to help monitor and meet with Hollins on progress updates, Peresin said.
As a follow-up to the collaboration, Curry and Peresin are organizing a symposium for the American Chemical Society. These meetings are where chemistry professionals meet to share ideas and advance scientific and technical knowledge. This will be for both the November regional meeting in Birmingham and its national meeting in spring 2022 in San Diego.
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Peresin leads the Sustainable Bio-Based Materials Lab, which focuses on tuning the surface chemistry of plant cell wall components. The lab also uses nanotechnology to create high-value bio-based products.
Peresin focuses on chemistry, pharmacy, materials sciences, engineering and product development in her research. This research encompasses the need for stimulating new businesses in the food, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medicine sectors through new products made from biomass (wood, annual crops, agroforestry, sericulture, etc.). A possible application of this research is creating packaging that is biodegradable and more sustainable for the environment.
The team working in the Sustainable Bio-Based Materials Lab includes staff members from different technical backgrounds, demographics, genders and cultures. The partnership is focused on the importance of collaboration and is actively looking for more students to take advantage of the unique opportunity.
”I encourage students to apply and come learn from both labs how things work differently in different universities, different environments, and certainly different countries.This is a well-rounded program that seeks those individuals that are interested in environmental issues and the future of our society and sustainability issues from a materials point of view," Peresin said.
There is plenty of room within the collaboration of the two schools for more research to be done, and students are highly encouraged to apply.
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