ChemE student Joanne Huang ’19 takes top honor in annual Lehigh-Lafayette engineering research showcase

More than 30 engineering students from Lehigh University and Lafayette College competed in the 16th annual David and Lorraine Freed Undergraduate Research Symposium on March 27.

The event, which included judged presentations and a poster session in the STEPS building lobby, showcased top research across engineering disciplines completed by undergraduates at the two schools over the past year. Prizes awarded by the judging panel are scholarships to attend professional conferences.

“Everyone is excited and hyped up to present their research—and they’re really taking ownership of what they’ve been working on,” said Lesley Chow, an assistant professor of bioengineering and materials science and engineering at the Rossin College, who was involved in this year’s event. “These students were hand-selected and should be proud to represent their department and college,” said Chow. “It’s always good to have some friendly competition with Lafayette beyond the football field!”

Chemical engineering student Joanne Huang ’19 won the top prize for her work "Anti-bacterial and Anti-toxin Activities of Catechins."

“We are looking at green tea extracts to fight bacterial infections,” said Huang, who is advised by Angela Brown, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. “Antibiotic resistance is a really big thing that we’re dealing with right now, so we’re looking at alternative ways to fight bacteria.”

Lafayette students Emma Leeds, Angie Orellana, and Simba (Yue) Wu placed second with their research on “Development of Sustainable Techniques for the Production of Nutrient-Rich Compounds from Wastewater.”

Third place went to bioengineer Lara Reid ’19 for “A Biomimetic Microfluidic Platform for Anti-tumor Drug Evaluation.”

Challen Adu ’20, Lafayette senior Nahin Ferdousi, and Nicole Malofsky ’19 were recognized with honorable mentions.

Malofsky, a bioengineering student who presented her research on “Developing Functionalized Bioresorbable Membranes Using Natural and Synthetic Polymer Blends,” also took home the People’s Choice Award, voted on by symposium attendees.   

Steve DeWeerth, professor and dean of the Rossin College, presented the awards during the symposium’s closing ceremony.

“This is always one of the fun days of the year. It’s amazing to learn about the research that you all have done,” said DeWeerth. “Students and the rest of us faculty and judges really appreciate the opportunity to see what you’ve accomplished.”

Undergraduate research is an important component of the Rossin College’s focus on experiential learning, DeWeerth said, and participating in the event gives students the opportunity to practice their public speaking and presentation abilities—skills they’ll rely on no matter how they put their engineering degrees to use in the real world.

Students, including symposium winner Huang, also recognize the benefits of hands-on learning.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a classroom and it can be hard to see the applications of what I’m learning in class,” she said. “Doing research and reading papers has really brought value to my education because I see that I’m not just learning this for no reason. People actually study these things and people are actually learning more about them.”

The symposium was launched by materials science and engineering faculty members Wojciech Misiolek, professor and department chair, and Himanshu Jain, Diamond Distinguished Chair and Professor, and is endowed by metallurgy and materials engineering alum Andrew D. Freed ’83 in honor of his parents.

Photos by John Kish

Joanne Huang

Rossin College Professor and Dean Steve DeWeerth presents Joanne Huang ’19 the first place award for "Anti-bacterial and Anti-toxin Activities of Catechins."

Emma Leeds

Emma Leeds, a member of the Lafayette team that took second place at the symposium, discusses her research during the poster session.

Nicole Malofsky and professor Lesley Chow

Bioengineering student Nicole Malofsky ’19 (left), pictured with her advisor, professor Lesley Chow, received an honorable mention as well as the People's Choice Award.

Nahin Ferdousi

Lafayette College senior Nahin Ferdousi, a chemical engineering major, won an honorable mention for her research examining gasses emitted by’ 3-D printers and how they impact health and indoor air quality.

Challen Adu

Honorable mention winner Challen Adu ’20, a mechanical engineering and mechanics student, explains his research during the poster session.