The NSF grant project described below was motivated in part by student Biidaaban “Daabii” Reinhardt sharing her perspective on the lack of Native American female students in physics. She recently completed a summer research experience for undergraduates (REU) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Reinhardt worked on a collaborative project with another REU student. Her portion was titled "Improving Sensing of Gold Nanoparticles in Biological Samples using MALDI Mass Spectrometry." It involved using Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-MS) to evaluate if the presence of gold nanoparticles changes the biological composition of tissues.
“One of my main responsibilities was learning how to run the Autoflex MALDI-MS, and then learning how to analyze the data by characterizing the parts of the molecule,” wrote Reinhardt in a report following the program. “I worked directly with a near-peer graduate student mentor, Kristen Sikora, for the majority of the summer.
“The objective of this REU was to give students that wouldn’t normally have access to research opportunities at their [institutions] a chance to experience research. Most of these students, including myself, plan to continue our education into graduate and doctoral programs. This experience was a way to see how research is done, and if it would be a good fit for me to do in the rest of my education and career.”
Reinhardt said the 10-week program culminated with a collaborative research poster session. She and her REU partner described their respective research projects around the theme, “Nanomaterials in Biological Systems.”
Reinhardt is a double major in physics and Native American studies.