NanoDay@Penn Hands Out Research and Image Awards

By Madeleine Stone

On Wednesday, Oct. 22, the University of Pennsylvania’s Nano/Bio Interface Center hosted its annual NanoDay@Penn, a public education and outreach event that featured a series of talks, demonstrations and exhibits concerning nanotechnology, a rapidly expanding scientific discipline that involves the manipulation of matter on the atomic and molecular scale.

NanoDay is also an opportunity to recognize student achievements, both in research and in creativity. The NBIC grants a yearly Graduate Student Research Award, as well as awards for interesting, informative and beautiful images produced in the course of research.

This year’s Graduate Student Research Award went to Beatrice Markiewicz, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences. 

Markiewicz, a member of the Feng Gai Lab, has already published six first-authored papers on her graduate research.  Her work uses biochemical, physical and spectroscopic methods to understand the mechanisms that drive protein folding, with applications in areas of controlled drug release and the development of light-responsive tissues and networks.

The NBIC’s image awards are given in three categories: scientific, artistic and animation.  

Zhengqing John Qi, a graduate student in Arts & Science’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, is this year’s winner in the scientific category for his transmission electron microscope image of a carbon nanotube being torn apart under mechanical stress. Carbon nanotubes are one of the strongest and stiffest nanomaterials known, with potential applications in electrical, structural and biomedical engineering. 

Iris Liu, a doctoral candidate in the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is this year’s winner in the artistic category for “Liquid Crystal,” an image that shows a thin layer of smectic liquid crystal spread over glass. Smectic crystals form different structures in contact with air versus solid surfaces, creating intricate patterns that resemble ancient woven textiles.

Martha Grady, a postdoctoral fellow in Engineering’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is this year’s winner in the animation category. Her video, “Cell Injection,” depicts human dermal fibroblast cells injected with food coloring. Less than a nanoliter of liquid is shown diffusing through each cell, which is about the thickness of a human hair.