UA Little Rock is highlighting some of our student researchers in celebration of National Nanotechnology Day on Oct. 9. Ruby Trotter is an undergraduate student researcher at the Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences at UA Little Rock.
She is a recipient of a UA Little Rock Signature Experience program, which awards students up to $1,000 to support a research project, creative activity, or community service project that is influential to their academic development.
What is your Signature Experience project?
We’ve been working with graphene, a nanomaterial that’s promising for bone tissue regeneration technologies. Graphene is a single layer of carbon that is shaped in a flat sheet with a honeycomb-like structure and has several good biomedical properties. Graphene is tiny, so we mix it into a solution of water and ethanol to get it evenly dispersed. We have made scaffolds for bone tissue regeneration and want to see how graphene would interact with the human body.
Right now, we’re studying different pathways by which it would degrade the body, and are continuing to study how useful it would be for bone tissue regeneration in the future. Specifically, we’re using microscopic images and ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis) spectroscopy to study how graphene interacts with cells in the immune system and how it degrades over time in the cells. The UV-vis technique allows us to see how light is absorbed as it passes through the sample. Based on that, we can tell the concentration of the graphene mixture in the cells. That way, we can see how much the concentration of the mixture dropped degraded over time.
What do you find most interesting about this project?
I really enjoy the fact that this project incorporates a lot of chemistry and biology. After I graduate, I want to become a physician, and what I’m learning right now contributes to that goal. I love chemistry, and I appreciate that I get to explore biology along with it. I also think nanotechnology is fascinating, because you can take small materials and do big things.
What is it like to work with your mentor, Dr. Shawn Bourdo?
It’s really awesome to work with Dr. Bourdo. I started working with him in July 2019, the summer before my sophomore year. He’s always been very supportive and outgoing. No matter his schedule, he always accommodates me when I have questions. Even though some of my classes aren’t directly related to the work I do at the Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences, I have found a lot of topics that overlap with the work I do, and he has always been there to help me understand these concepts better. I always say I hit the mentor jackpot with Dr. Bourdo.
How did you hear about the Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences?
I didn’t know much about nanotechnology when I first started here. Before my sophomore year, I was looking for research opportunities, and the previous student researcher under Dr. Bourdo reached out to me and told me about this position.
What are your plans after graduation?
I want to be a pediatrician and also enter the Master of Public Health program, because I am interested in addressing health disparities in different communities. After graduation, I plan to take a gap year to work as either an emergency medical technician or a medical scribe to gain experience in the field. After that, I plan to enter medical school in 2023.