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2010 SPS Outstanding Student Awards for Undergraduate Research
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2008 ICPSThe 2010 SPS Outstanding Students Award recipients represented the United States and SPS and presented their research at the 2010 International Conference of Physics Students (ICPS), August 17-23, 2010, in Graz, Austria. Expenses for transportation, room, board, and meeting registration were paid by SPS and it's parent organization, the American Institute of Physics. They were joined by 2009 award recipient and returning ICPS attendee Joshua Fuchs.

The recipients also received a $500 honorarium and a $500 award for their SPS Chapter. In addition, they will be invited to give their research presentation at a SPS Research Session at a national meeting in 2010-11.


Anya Burkart
Anya Burkart
Creighton University

Feature Article: The 25th International Conference Of Physics Students

Elasticity determination of bone cells via static and dynamic optical stretching


Anya Burkart and Michael G. Nichols, Physics Department, Creighton University, 2500 California Plaza, Omaha, NE 68178

Under a mechanical load, bones are known to respond by increasing mass. However, little direct evidence shows which cell acts as the primary mechanosensor. We have used the optical stretcher, a dual-beam trap capable of stretching cells, to study the biomechanical properties of single cells. Our studies have accurately measured cellular elasticity over increasing applied optical strain intervals. Measurements of the elasticity of 2T3 osteoblast-like cells and MLO-Y4 osteocyte-like cells show that these osteogenic cells are approximately 5.4 times stiffer than red blood cells.  We now compare the measured cell stiffness with respect to time at a fixed strain. This dynamic stretching method would minimize the time cells are exposed to the lasers, reducing cell heating. These investigations into the stiffness of osteogenic cells improve understanding of debilitating diseases such as osteoporosis and osteopetrosis, as well as low gravity skeletal structure changes.

This research is funded by grant number P20 RR16469 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Daniel Glass
Daniel Glass
Elon University

Feature Article: 2010 ICPS–Graz, Austria

Size Control of Ferroelastomeric Microparticles



Colloidal suspension of FFPDMS particles using SDS as a surfactant.

Magnetic microspheres are used in a wide variety of applications within the scientific community; they are pertinent to the medical field to transport drugs throughout the body, chemistry to cleanse a solution of radical particles and physics to test torques and forces of specific materials on a microscale. In past studies I have found a gap in the size range (0.5 µm- 1 µm) of commercially available magnetic microspheres. This can be traced back to the current production methods; particles are either surface labeled or volume labeled. Current volume labeled particles are magnetic throughout, but cannot be larger in size (<0.5µm); while surface labeled particles can be larger in size, but are only magnetic on the surface (>1 µm) with a non-magnetic, polystyrene base. Through my research, I have succeeded in producing a microemulsion of an uncrosslinked magnetic-polymer composite (FFPDMS) in water, and have developed a method for crosslinking the colloidal globules (below) to form solid ferroelastomeric spheres, which are volume labeled magnetic spheres. Volume labeled particles are essential because a larger magnetic moment can be obtained while still having a small overall volume. Larger particles, with an even higher magnetic moment can also be created if the application requires a larger particle using our novel method and material.

The material used to create such particles is a mixture of FFPDMS and excess PDMS. FFPDMS is the magnetic polymer composite, while PDMS is the polymer matrix; excess PDMS is used to assist in crosslinking. Once we have our material, 1% hydrogen peroxide in water is added. Hydrogen peroxide is a heat activated crosslinking agent that will crosslink particles at eighty degrees Celsius. Different percentages (relative to the quantity of water-hydrogen peroxide mixture) of sodium dodecly sulfate (SDS) are added to the solution and shaken. To confirm that particles have been crosslinked, they are immersed in chloroform, vortex mixed and sonicated. If the particles do not re-suspend we know that they are now immiscible in chloroform which is not the case if they are not crosslinked.

With this novel material that can be crosslinked, my research aims to fill the size gap and explore the factors that affect the size of our magnetic microspheres. In an attempt to control the size distribution of the particles we have altered the surfactant concentration. It was found that using a 1% concentration, by weight, resulted in particles that were 3.5 microns with a standard deviation of 2 microns. Recently I have been working on changing the surfactant concentration in an attempted to gain control of the particle’s sizes, this will allow me to create volume labeled particles that will fill the critical gap.

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