As participants in Virginia Tech’s Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program (MAOP), Hadeia Liburd and Tryston McCaskill, rising juniors majoring in chemical engineering at Howard University, will work with the GlycoMIP user facility team.

The duo will work under the mentorship of Ryan Porell, a research scientist and technical manager of the GlycoMIP user facility, who designed the summer project to support Liburd’s and McCaskill’s chemical engineering undergraduate program.  A crucial skill in chemical engineering is the careful design of flow diagrams. The project epitomizes the concepts of process design by engaging the students from the start of a synthesis effort to the creation of novel glycomaterials. 

In support of the synthesis services offered by the GlycoMIP user facility, the students will assemble a flow chemistry workstation using a series of components including pumps, static mixers, and a programmable computer controller. They will also learn to use the system to synthesize glycomaterial building blocks. These building blocks can be thought of as Lego pieces that, when assembled, are used to create a wide variety of glycomaterial structures. 

Liburd and McCaskill will use their flow system to synthesize glycan building blocks that can be directly incorporated onto GlycoMIP’s automated glycan assembly instruments (Glyconeers).

While developing the student’s research skills, the project will be equally rewarding for GlycoMIP.

"By establishing a flow chemistry approach for building block synthesis, these students will enhance our capability in the user facility to not only prepare our own building blocks but also to access structures that didn't have commercial building blocks," said Porell.

Liburd and McCaskill will also gain hands-on research experience that supports their budding interests in pursuing graduate degrees, including GRE prep coursework and other professional development workshops. Their summer experience will culminate in poster presentations during the university’s summer undergraduate research symposium poster on July 27.