Pioneer Talk: SAIF

Associate professor of engineering Dr. Yan Wu and assistant professor of biology Dr. John Peterson presented a Pioneer Talk in the Nohr Gallery, detailing their work with the Scholarly Activity Improvement Fund.  The SAIF is a fund that University of Wisconsin-Platteville staff to use to begin research projects alongside students. This gives the opportunity to teach students how to conduct hands-on research and to create unique challenges for students and staff.

Wu presented her research on characterizing the mechanical properties of biomaterials, like synthetic and natural hydrogels used in body tissue engineering, and measuring those properties in realistic environments, like skin, hair and other proteins.

To make the measurements necessary for this project, Wu and her team developed a low-cost device to probe the interactions between the hydrogels and proteins.  The device they developed creates a compartmentalized microenvironment that mimics the environment that cells being tested would normally live in.

Wu presented the preliminary results of this project, detailing on the viability of protein-based cell development, using the measurements made possible by her team’s device.

“The results are promising, but our research is still in its early stages.  Testing with different types of proteins will give us a true confirmation on the viability of this process,” said Wu.

Peterson then spoke on his research concerning the conservation of an endangered species known as the Blanchard Cricket Frog.

Peterson spoke about his research goals, the process of documenting frog populations and, ultimately, determine the cause of their decline to hopefully reverse it.  Peterson talked about his primary method of collecting data on the frogs, and the accuracy of his findings.

“We have these little recording devices we put out on trees in the wetlands.  When we go to pick them up, we listen to the frogs and crunch the numbers.  Based on various criteria, we can figure out fairly well how many are out there,” said Peterson.

Peterson will continue his research over the summer, as he received additional funding from Trout Unlimited, a conservation group that he has worked with in the past.  Students will be able to work with the Department of Natural Resources over the summer, placing the recording devices on various public lands.

“The ultimate goal of the research is conservation.  These recording devices go a long way in making sure we can take accurate data, and eventually coax this species back into a larger presence,” said Peterson.