Monday, April 10, 2017

URSP Student Dora Obodo Analyzes Computational Fluid Dynamic Simulations to Optimize Particle Synthesis of Polymeric Nanoparticles

My name is Dora Obodo and my Undergraduate Research project is about optimizing the particle synthesis of patchy polymeric nanoparticles by performing and Analyzing Computational Fluid Dynamic Simulations. This project is an ongoing venture for the Lab of Nanotechnology and is very important in order to specify the key mechanistic parameters that are involved in patch formation during particle synthesis. Patchy polymeric nanoparticles are an important and novel technology due to their ability to effect two functionalities simultaneously. These include delivering a chemotherapeutic agent in an efficient manner while providing a way to image the cancerous tumor  itself. These two methods combined can expedite treatment regimens of ineffective chemotherapeutics that are currently utilized and make way for new ones to arise by taking advantage of the interactions between the chemistries of nanoparticles, drugs, and the tumor.

I was first drawn to this project after taking a class with my mentor, Dr. Morales, who opened my eyes to the potential for nanotechnology and nanomedicine to advance the state of cancer technology by leaps and bounds! I developed a passion to become involved in creating this change in cancer treatment and this project is helping me to discover the useful techniques, and methodologies that are unique to nanotechnology through synthesizing and characterizing nanoparticles, and performing cell culturing work for the ovarian cancer cells. In addition, I am also being exposed to ways in which nanotechnology is enhanced by multidisciplinary work with Fluid mechanics through the Computational Fluid Dynamic simulations.

 On a weekly basis, the project requires performing particle synthesis of the patchy polymeric nanoparticles under different conditions. with my mentor. This is an arduous process that often involves multiple personnel and often takes days to complete. Afterwards, we characterize the particles using methods such as DLS to look at certain features of the particles in order to improve the product. Next, we declare a parameter to isolate for the CFD Simulations. The simulations were are initialized at the beginning of the semester and run for several weeks at a time. Afterwards, the data is processed and we perform various post-processing procedures in order to extract the pertinent information that we need. Then based on the results presented, we modify the simulation parameters and run another set of data; many parameters are considered to make the simulations match the particle synthesis at the bench level. After we have multiple of these simulations in hand, we can perform statistical analyses and discern what are the important parameters that establish a trend in the data. All while keeping in mind the greater goal of increasing the yield of synthesis.

I have discovered so much since the beginning of this project! Not only is the ongoing task of performing and analyzing simulations teaching me about how to properly process bulk data and what it takes to perform in-depth analysis on bulk-data using powerful software's that are often not available to the common student. I am also learning new soft skills to connect the dots between two fields that make interdisciplinary projects such as this a success. These skills include effective communication, planning ahead, multi-tasking, time management, patience, and learning how to circumvent criticism and feedback into positive outcomes that generate use able results. All of these discoveries and more will help me to become a smarter, more adept engineer in cancer research throughout my career.