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Rusty Rogers and Dr. Rigoberto Advincula at work in the lab.


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“You learn more in the laboratory,” says chemistry major Arthur Rogers, who graduated from UH in May. “It’s one thing to see pictures in a textbook, but it’s quite different to actually work in the lab. In the lab, everything is new, in textbooks, it’s already been done.”

Working in Associate Professor of Chemistry Rigoberto Advincula’s lab his senior year, Rogers had an opportunity to be involved in cutting-edge research focusing on ultrathin polymer films with applications in advanced electronics, display technology, and biomedical devices.

The opportunity paid off—at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society this past March in San Diego, Rogers received a first runner-up award for best poster in the Colloids Division poster session.

The award-winning research, titled “Synthesis of Thiol End-Capped Polymer Brushes via Surface-Initiated Reversible Addition Fragmentation Chain-Transfer (RAFT) Polymerization,” was guided and co-authored by graduate students Derek Patton and Timothy Fulghum, and Dr. Advincula.

It is directed towards understanding and developing new polymer coatings that have implications from lubricants to biomedical implants. The research was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The research also won honors at the April poster competition of the UH chapter of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.

"Derek and Timothy taught me excellent laboratory techniques and gave me a better idea of how things progress from the initial idea through the actual experiment," says Rogers, commenting on some of the things he learned from his mentors.

Having recently completed his undergraduate degree, Rogers is now interested in pursuing a PhD in this field, "I would really like to work in industry," he says, "I'm very interested in the applications side of science."

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Dr. Advincula guides Risheng Xu through an experiment. Risheng Xu stands beside his award-winning research poster.

Like Rogers, Risheng Xu, a UH biochemistry major finishing his junior year, also worked in Advincula's lab during the past year.

The research he participated in garnered first place at a national poster competition held in March at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences 19th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Xu's winning work, titled "Fabrication, Optical Properties, and Modeling of Gold Nanoparticle/Polyelectrolyte Layer-By-Layer Ultrathin Films," was developed and guided by co-authors Research Associate Dr. Akira Baba, PhD candidate Jason Locklin, Professor Kaoru Tamada of the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan, and Advincula. The research is part of UH's strong program in nanomaterials and nanobiotechnology, which Advincula is heavily involved in.

"I didn't expect to win," says Xu, who competed against 27 other students from as far away as Puerto Rico, "I was just looking forward to having fun."

Xu, who continues to work in Advincula's lab, spent as many as 40 hours a week last summer on research and has always wanted to work in the health field. He intends to pursue a PhD in biochemistry, in addition to an MD.

"I would like to be a family practitioner, but I want to do research, too," Xu says. "That way, I can bring different aspects of medicine to my practice."

Jason Locklin, who is now working on his post-doc at Stanford University, was Xu's first mentor in Advincula's lab.

"I learned from Jason that while research can be very frustrating-at times 99% failure and 1% success-it is that 1% success that makes up for the frustration," says Xu, echoing Thomas Edison's famous anecdote.

Since June of 2004, Dr. Baba has been Xu's mentor and has also been handing down advice to the young scientist. "Dr. Baba taught me that a good afternoon in the library is better than six months in the lab without reading. It's important to maintain that balance."

These undergraduate researchers are primarily supported from Advincula's grants with the National Science Foundation and the Welch Foundation, something Advincula has been passionate about since he started his academic career. He is currently hosting four undergraduate students and mentoring nine PhD students.

"I have mentored about 25 undergraduate students over the years, not including high school students," he says. "I am continuously impressed by their dedication to research and their many achievements. It has been fun!"

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