Monday, November 20, 2006
Graduate student’s research wins awards
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
Oakland University graduate student Zhihong Shen is currently completing her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences in the area of health and environmental chemistry while working in the lab of Associate Professor of Chemistry Xiangqun Zeng. Through her work with the biosensor development using quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) technique, Shen is equipping herself with the skills needed for a career in research, while working on a project that can help protect the health of the public.
The QCM is a device capable of measuring nanogram quantities of a substance. Specific coatings can be applied to the surface of the crystal to allow only certain chemicals to bond, creating a detectable mass change. The technology of the QCM can be used in sensing toxic gas; detecting explosives, drug, biological or chemical agents; and clinical diagnostics.
Shen is researching the different coatings that can be used on the QCM to detect biomarkers such as cancer antigen for diagnostics and bacteria like the one that causes Ecoli, for biodefense and environmental monitoring.
For her research, Shen earned two prestigious awards earlier this year. At the Nanomedicine Conference at Michigan State University in April, Shen earned an award for Outstanding Abstract for the paper, “Detection of Cytochrome P450 CYP1B1 using Recombinant Antibody (scFv) Piezoimmunosensors,” on which she worked with Heping Yan, Ray Mernaugh, Paul Fritz, Tatiana Delaney and Zeng.
Shen was also awarded the Ash Stevens Award for Best Poster Presentation at the Second Annual Midwest Carbohydrate Symposium in September at Wayne State University.
Shen came to Oakland University in 2002 after earning her bachelor’s degree from Tianjin University in China. The daughter of a chemistry professor, Shen wanted to explore her interest in bioanalytical and electroanalytical chemistry.
“I came to Oakland University because Xiangqun Zeng is a great professor and her research program is unique that is cross-disciplinary involving electrochemistry, spectroscopy, material science, bioengineering, biology and medicine, with a focus on electroanalytical and surface chemistry at metal electrode interfaces for biosensor and chemical sensor development,” Shen said. “During my research, I have interacted with her collaborators in biology and medicine at Vanderbilt University and in carbohydrate biology at the Ohio State University, which has been a great part of my learning experience.”
Shen performs experiments using the QCM technique, developing different surface immobilization techniques to create coatings that have high sensitivity, specificity and stability for detection of various biological and environmental significant target analytes. By working with engineers, her research findings can be used to develop low cost, portable biosensors that provide better sensitivity and selectivity than current available sensor techniques.
“The research I’m doing is really exciting and very important to a broad range of applications relating to national security, health care, the environment, energy, food safety and manufacturing,” said Shen.
Shen’s research will allow her to have six papers published before she graduates in April 2007. Currently, three are already published, one is in review and two more are in preparation. Upon graduation, Shen would like to work within the pharmaceutical or biotechnology area in research and development.
“Her accomplishments are very outstanding for a Ph.D. student,” said Zeng. “She really sets up an example for her peers and few graduate students can achieve her level of accomplishment in such short period time. We are truly doing first-rate research with top-quality students. Zhihong’s publications have been cited by many people and I often got requests from around the world for reprints of her work. Her success came from her inner motivation and hard work. She has a very positive view of life and everyone in the lab likes her and she always volunteers to help others.”
For more information on the QCM or the team of researchers working in Zeng’s lab, visit Zeng’s Web site.