Southeast Students Receive SPS Chapter Research Award for Biomedical Engineering Project

Five Southeast Missouri State University students recently were awarded a $2,000 Society of Physics Students (SPS) Chapter Research Award for their project to develop technology to boost the success of cancer treatment. They are Heath Parkinson of Gideon, Missouri; Colten Peterson of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Varun Sadaphal of New Delhi, India; Dylan Wolk of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri; and Sean Thomas of Imperial, Missouri. Sadaphal, Peterson, Wolk and Parkinson are all engineering physics majors, while Thomas is a biochemistry major. Their project, “Hybrid Photo-Magnetic Actuation for Target Specific Killing of Damaged Cells,” began as part of a senior capstone design class last spring with an added research component in biomedical engineering, said Sadaphal. The students developed a safer and alternative multimodal treatment strategy to guide cancer cell destruction. The new technique uses low-intensity photo-magnetic irradiation and reduced nano particle dose levels during treatment. The goal of the project was to develop a point-of-care technology to improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment. Their project called for using small amounts of chemicals and nano-carriers, in conjunction with a less intense external magnetic field and laser irradiation compared to existing treatment. The study revealed several properties of synthesized particles at the nano-scale, and how they can be used in a biological environment to treat diseases. Developing target specificity in nano-carriers may lead to a better understanding of particle interactions with biological entities and how to take advantage of these interactions, he added. The students were supported and guided by Dr. Santaneel Ghosh, professor of physics and engineering physics, and Dr. Jonathan Kessler, assistant professor of physics, at Southeast. The award recognizes the students for their imagination and contribution to strengthening their local SPS chapter. Being selected to receive this nationally competitive award is an honor, said Sadaphal. “Receiving this award from a highly-recognized society has boosted our confidence,” he said. “This helped to establish ourselves in the same league as other top-tiered schools.” Ghosh added, “This is an amazing project. The students accomplished a lot in innovation, design and implementation. Even though it was for their capstone project, their work and recognition from the SPS Chapter speaks to their entrepreneurial skills and the application of their fundamental education to help support and launch their ideas.” The study has a broader impact for not only the students but also nano-bio engineering researchers. The study is important, Sadaphal says, because, if successful, it will prove that smart nanostructure-based photo-magnetic hybrid irradiation is viable for remotely guiding neuroblastoma cancer cell destruction. This may be adopted in the clinical management for treating aggressive cancers. The grant award will be used to purchase electronic and optical experiment related lab equipment to perform nano-structure actuation in a highly efficient manner. Funds also will be used to buy materials to help them perform cellular hyperthermia experiments. The project has given the students an opportunity to think beyond their classrooms and get exposed to real-life engineering design problems, said Ghosh. “This project and award are going to be a crucial recognition for their career and education, whether it’s for graduate school or a job,” he said. “Having a solid portfolio will be a positive impression on future employers.” The students’ success speaks volumes about the quality of the program at Southeast and its students, he added. “They took a classroom project and pushed it further,” Ghosh said. “Even now they are looking ahead to the next step, and with this award, can take their project and innovation device to the next level.”