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Student Highlights

Degree being sought: Polymer Science BS
Institution: University of Southern Mississippi
Research group: Patton Group
Hometown: Kosciusko, MS

Give a brief synopsis of research/work being done:

Synthesis of degradable thiol-ene thermosets with incorporation of antimicrobial aldehyde containing essential oils. By devising a method of prevention of food borne pathogens, many food-borne illnesses can be avoided. Employing the use of essential oil, antimicrobial resistance can be avoided as well as maintaining the viability of the food itself. The essential oils can be functionally modified to allow for incorporation into a polymer network, while also degrading over time back its original functionality. As the network degrades, prolonged release of the essential oil is obtained thus maintaining an antimicrobial environment.

From your current perspective, what do you see as an ideal fit for your skills, goals and career moving forward?

By attending USM and partaking in undergraduate research, I have discovered that I have a passion for research. Because of the skills I have developed from researching alongside graduate students, I am confident that a Ph.D. is an ideal fit for me. Also, because I have a biology background and a strong foundation in polymer chemistry, I see that research of biomaterials would be the best application of my current skillset.

An interesting (personal) fact about yourself

Throughout high school and community college, I was an assistant instructor of Tae Kwon Do.

Why did you choose USM?

In community college, I took organic chemistry as an elective as it was not required for my Associate’s degree. Within this course, I discovered that I enjoyed it, and later wanted to continue to study chemistry, but still apply biology. One of my professor’s suggested that I attend USM’s polymer science program because the biomaterial field seemed to offer everything I was asking for.

What USM-related scholarships did you receive?

2016 Eagle Wings Travel Fund Recipient-funding support for undergraduate researchers to travel to scholarly conferences.

2016-2017 Northrop Grumman Scholarship Recipient-Competitively awarded based on academic achievement.

2017 Barry Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention

2015-2018 Junior College Achievement Scholar- academic scholarship awarded based on academic achievement and record of leadership at community college.

2015-2018 Shelby F. Thames and Shirley D. Thames Scholarship for High Ability Students Endowment -awarded exclusively to incoming high-ability students pursuing any degree in Polymer Science and Engineering.

2017-2018 Brady Leo Vanhuss Memorial Scholarship- a scholarship awarded to an outstanding student majoring in Polymer Science.

2017-2018 Ingalls Shipbuilding Scholarship- a scholarship awarded to a junior or senior level student majoring in Chemistry, Biochemistry or Polymer Science based on merit and academic record.

2016-2017 Mississippi Manufacturers Association Scholarship- a scholarship awarded to an outstanding junior majoring in Polymer Science

Awards won

2016 43rd International Waterborne Symposium 1st Place Undergraduate Poster

2016 80th Annual Mississippi Academy of Sciences 2nd Place Undergraduate Poster

2016 USM Undergraduate Research Symposium 2nd Place Undergraduate Poster

2017 44th International Waterborne Symposium 2nd Place Undergraduate Poster

Publications

Amato, N. D.; Amato, D. V.; Mavrodi, O.; Martin, W. B.; Swilley, S. N.; Parsons, K. L.; Mavrodi, D; Patton, D. L. “Pro-Antimicrobial Networks via Degradable Acetals (PANDAs) using Thiol-Ene Photo polymerization.” ACS Macro Letters 2017, 6, 171-175.

Amato, D. V.; Amato, N. D.; Blancett L.; Mavrodi, O. V.; Martin, W. B.; Swilley, S. N.; Sandoz, M. J.; Shearer, G.; Mavrodi, D. V.; Patton, D. L. “A Bio-based Pro-antimicrobial Polymer Network via Degradable Acetal Linkages”. Acta Biomaterialia 2017 (Under Review).

Who or what influenced your USM education the most?

Douglas and Dahlia Amato by pushing me to step outside my comfort zone and present my research at many conferences, while also providing a strong source of motivation.

Main USM extracurricular activity – why is this important to you?

Tutoring and Mentoring Committee Chair, 2016-Present (PSA) and participation in High school science demonstrations and competitions.

Being a community college graduate, I understand that the transition into university life can be somewhat difficult, and that mentoring within the committee can ease the transition for incoming freshman and transfer students. Also, coming from a small town private school of around 15 people each class, I wish that our school held science demonstrations and competitions to make the students excited for science while encouraging the students to pursue a degree in STEM.

Your most profound turning point while at USM?

Prior to attending USM, I had inspirations of attending medical school to become a doctor. When I transferred to USM in 2015, I joined the Patton Research Group where I discovered my passion for research. Through my undergraduate research, I realized I can help people by creating new materials and knowledge for the scientific community, thus, rather than becoming a doctor and treating patients, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry.

What USM memory do you treasure the most?    

In fall of 2016, I received a scholarship that funded travel to a national conference. This allowed me to fly for the first time to attend   252nd American Chemical Society National Meeting where I presented my research and attended talks by distinguished professors in my field; professors that discovered processes that I learned about in my polymer coursework.

*What are your plans for next year and beyond?

After completion of my undergraduate degree, I plan to attend graduate school in pursuit of a PhD in materials science. Attending graduate school will allow me to pursue my research interest in biomaterials for tissue engineering. Once I complete my PhD, I will pursue a post-doctoral position that will focus on incorporating biomaterials within patients for future treatments of disease and disorders, such as joint replacement. Upon completing my education, I believe I will be well prepared for a career in academia. I will leave the University of Southern Mississippi with a well-defined foundation in polymer science that will give me the skills I need to further pursue my research.

While at USM, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of?

Over the course of my undergraduate career, I’ve had the opportunity to present my research at a total of nine regional and national conferences, thus far. The benefit I gained from attending these conferences has allowed me to expand my professional network and obtain a deeper understanding of research within my field by speaking to other research professionals.

What was one of your greatest challenges attending USM?

Working as much as possible in the lab, while also taking senior and junior classes. I was motivated to work alongside graduate students to obtain research experience and coauthorships, however, doing so while trying to maintain high grades in my classes was one of my biggest challenges. By overcoming this, I have developed excellent time management skills and self-discipline to overcome the strenuous workload.