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“My experience showed me that there is a big gap between basic scientific discovery in the lab and the ability to convert that discovery into an actual product,” she says. “I wanted to learn how to bridge the two worlds and connect their priorities so I could take that knowledge of commercialization back to the basic research setting.”

After this year’s Commencement, Lund headed to a postdoctoral research position at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. She says she hopes to bring her knowledge in translating research to the marketplace to her future research, which will focus on tumor cell interactions with the immune system.

Another Ph.D. graduate spent her time at Rensselaer working on research that has drawn international attention and could help protect the lives of millions of people. As a doctoral student in biochemistry and biophysics, Melissa Kemp has already helped develop research that has implications for drug safety, spinal injury repair, and malaria prevention.

Following the death of more than 80 people around the world from contaminated batches of the blood thinner heparin, Kemp went to work in the lab of Robert Linhardt, one of the foremost experts on heparin and the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. ’59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering at Rensselaer. Linhardt was among the scientists to discover the contamination known as oversulfated chondroitin sulfate, which has a structure so similar to heparin it was nearly undetectable. Kemp was involved in studying the detection of contaminant using five methods commonly utilized by drug manufacturers. Kemp and collaborators found that two of these methods would fail to accurately detect the sneaky contaminant.

In addition to her work on detecting heparin contamination, Kemp also worked with Linhardt on the formulation of a synthetic heparin by screening its interaction with other proteins, which was one of the first steps in making a purely synthetic heparin.



“These experiments provided proof of concept that heparin could in fact be created chemoenzymatically with anticoagulant activity, meaning that we could develop a batch of heparin in the lab without using animal sources,” she says.

Along with her work on heparin, Kemp remains heavily involved in research to stop the spread of malaria at its source. The findings could help stop any man, woman, or child from needing to take a drug.

Fighting Fire With Engineering

Conventional smoke detection and sprinkler systems are important safety tools and help to save lives, but indiscriminately soaking an office building, home, or workplace with water can cause tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

A group of graduating engineers set their sights on this problem, and have developed a promising solution. Jake Pyzza, Erik Kauntz, and Ryan Clapp researched, designed, and built an early prototype of a new “smart” fire suppression system that pinpoints the location of a fire in a building and douses the fire with flame suppressants.

“Our sensors sweep a room, sense where the fire is, and then deliver a suppressant to just that area, while the sensor is still sweeping the rest of the room to see if the fire spread,” says Pyzza, a mechanical engineering major. “If it continues to scan and doesn’t see any more sources of fire, it turns the suppression system off to help minimize any damage to the room’s contents.”

The group developed and built their invention last year as their final project for a yearlong capstone mechanical engineering course, and they are among a handful of winners of the fall 2008 “Change the World Challenge” competition.

“We felt there was a resounding need for an update for home sprinkler systems,” says Clapp, who studied product design and innovation. “The original home sprinkler system was invented in 1873, by an RPI alumnus, and it hasn’t really changed since then. So we felt it was time for an update, and that this was the perfect place to do it.”

The group is currently investigating the possibility for licensing and refining the system, and potentially starting the formal process of filing a patent.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.