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MURI Program: Fabricating and Testing Potato-Starch Based Plastics

DUE is home to IEL and the CRL which is administering the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Institute (MURI) both in the academic year and the summer, which creates and supports multidisciplinary research teams consisting of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, senior staff and faculty. The primary purpose of these teams is to provide undergraduates a unique opportunity to gain research skills by working with mentors on real world problems.

Overview of department:
The Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology engages in fundamental and applied research on molecules, including how they interact in biological, physical and ecological systems. Research also includes developing novel analytical techniques for understanding these interactions.

Project summary:
Researchers will learn to fabricate potato starch based plastics into films and 3D objects using a variety of techniques including injection molding and 3D printing. Researchers will also be required to test physical, mechanical and chemical properties of the fabricated plastics, and experiment with different additives and different methodologies to enhance the process. Researchers will be expected to carefully document results, present results at group meetings and at a Poster Session, and contribute to a peer-reviewed journal article.

Specific tasks that the MURI student will complete: 

  1. Learn about starch-based plastics through literature review
  2. Work in a lab with other researchers, following existing protocols and testing new processes identified through literature review to improve protocols
  3. Learn the use of equipment for material characterization
  4. Carefully document all research accomplished
  5. Draft reports, an abstract, and a poster

Specific qualifications (knowledge, skills, class standing, etc) we desire the MURI student to have:

  1. Willingness to work in a research laboratory.
  2. Preferred for students to have completed at least one lab course (any subject) with a grade of B or better.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this position assignment, the student will meet the following learning objectives

  1. Students will learn laboratory techniques and scientific writing skills that will translate to future research opportunities in academia and/or industry.
  2. Students will get to experience first hand the joy of scientific research.