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Awards Received At Fourth Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium
December 21, 2017

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) recently announced that the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Initiative (DURI) Symposium showcased the work of juniors and seniors who have completed rigorous, year-long research fellowships in VCU’s engineering labs. The Nov. 22, 2017, symposium took place in the School of Engineering East Hall Qimonda Atrium and featured conference-style poster presentations. Biomedical engineering major Alexandria Ritchie, computer science major Clint Cuffy and chemical and life science engineering major Tien Vuong took top honors.

Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., Alice T. and William H. Goodwin Chair and dean of the VCU School of Engineering, instituted DURI in 2013. DURI gives undergraduates a long-term, immersive research experience alongside faculty, graduate student and postdoctoral fellow mentors. It also gives graduate students and postdoctoral fellows the opportunity to develop managerial and mentorship skills.

Ritchie, a senior, received first place for a study using nanoparticles to regenerate lung tissue. Her project suggests that introducing nanoparticles to the lung’s macrophages (cells that engulf and digest cellular debris) changes their phenotype and may encourage tissue growth and healing. Her research took place in the laboratory of Rebecca Heise, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Ritchie’s graduate student mentor was biomedical engineering doctoral candidate Patrick A. Link.

Cuffy, a senior, received second place for a study that compared and contrasted various word embedding generation models and concept vectors in biomedical texts for semantic similarity (such as “liver-organ”) and relatedness (such as “headache-aspirin”). The project will ultimately help improve the automated cataloging and retrieving of information from massive text databases. Cuffy’s study was conducted in the laboratory of Bridget T. McInnes, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science. His mentor was doctoral candidate Sam Henry.

Vuong, a junior, received third place for her investigation of nanoreactors containing gold nanoparticle catalysts that combine reaction and separation to improve efficiency and minimize hazardous waste in liquid-phase chemical reactions. Vuong worked in the lab of Christina Tang, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering. Her mentor was Ph.D. student Andrew Harrison.

This article reprinted from materials provided by Virginia Commonwealth University.

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