HIGH POINT, N.C., March 1, 2023 – Members of the High Point University community frequently conduct, publish and share research and creative works in a variety of ways. Below is a recap of recent research initiatives.
Physics and Astronomy Professor Participates in NASA Expedition
Jeff Regester, instructor of physics and astronomy in the Wanek School of Natural Sciences, recently captured data in support of the NASA mission called Lucy. Regester worked with more than 100 other scientists to prepare for the Lucy flyby of the Polymele asteroid, which will happen in September 2027. Lucy is a probe that was launched in October 2021 to visit 10 asteroids in the outer solar system.
He traveled to Colorado to help staff at the Southwest Research Institute prepare equipment and train volunteer telescope observers, who operated 94 telescopes spanning 200 kilometers on the ground. The mission was to observe Polymele as it passed in front of a distant star; its shadow was predicted to cross the United States on Feb. 3. Regester says the mission was successful and they were able to collect data in Kansas, which had cloud-free skies on a crucial evening to watch Polymele’s shadow.
Regester shared that he talked about this expedition with his students ahead of time and gave regular updates from the field to help them learn.
“Sharing this experience with my students, I hope gives them an appreciation for science as a process, and that the cost of expanded knowledge is a lot of effort,” said Regester. “When the news stories covering the flyby are published in 2027 on the expedition I helped with, most people reading them will have no idea of the years of work leading up to that accomplishment. I am pleased to play a small part in it.”
The Lucy asteroid mission will have its first flyby this November and the last in 2033.
Junior Biology Student Presenting Research at the American Chemical Society
Junior Angelina Pierre, a biology student from Lewisville, North Carolina, will present her research titled “Synthesizing and characterizing a library of rhodamine B amide dimers with varying covalent linkers” at the American Chemical Society Conference this month.
She works with a fluorescent dye called rhodamine B and makes an amide dimer in the lab of Dr. Pam Lundin’s, assistant professor of chemistry. This is a collaborative lab project with Dr. Keir Fogarty, assistant professor of chemistry, where he and his research students analyze the fluorescence and optical properties of rhodamine B.
The end goal of this research is to be able to control the photo-switching of rhodamine B, which is the moment and conditions that the closed neutral form switches to the open acidic form. Rhodamine B is very sensitive to both light and water from the ambient environment. As a result, the equilibrium of the reaction highly favors the acidic open form, and it is harder to force it back into the closed form.
“During my time at HPU, I have learned to take advantage of every opportunity that is offered and to push myself out of my comfort zone,” said Pierre. “I have learned to condense two-plus years’ worth of data and figures into a poster or a presentation and be able to talk about my research, as if I am telling a story, to people with different backgrounds in science, from my 8-year-old brother to other professors in academia.”
Pierre will give her oral presentation on March 26 and her poster presentation on March 27 at the Sci-Mix Poster Session during the American Chemical Society Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sci-Mix features the top 10% of abstracts submitted to the meeting, and this is the second year in a row that Pierre has been selected for this honor.
Pharmacy Students Present Research in Las Vegas
Nearly 20 students and professors in the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy represented HPU at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Midyear Conference in Las Vegas. The students presented their research posters during the Student Research Showcase.
Students presented on a variety of topics, including how pharmacists learn about insurance, reducing opioid use for chronic pain in primary care, implementing structured support of residency research and publication, health disparities affecting minority groups and more.
“The student posters that are presented at the ASHP can come from a variety of research collaborations that they do either with faculty, on their experiential rotations in pharmacy school or at their place of work,” said Megan Carr, assistant professor of clinical sciences. “Research posters provide students with hands-on experience. Creating and presenting a poster presentation of their work at a national conference like the ASHP Midyear Conference gives them a chance to display and explain the impact of their research to other pharmacists and pharmacy students across the country.”
Students will participate in the annual conference again in December.
HPU Physics Major Conducts Research in Chile and Publishes Paper in a Top Physics Journal
HPU senior Bryce Smith, a physics major, recently published a peer-reviewed research paper in the Astrophysical Journal, which is the highest-ranked journal in astronomy and astrophysics, according to Google Scholar metrics. He is both the first and corresponding author of the work that details his findings from research he acquired remotely from a telescope in Chile.
The paper discusses BPM 36430, a new star that “pulses” once every six minutes — the stellar equivalent of a beating heart. Smith says the pulses sometimes arrive earlier or later than expected. He says this is a sign the star is wobbling in an orbit due to the gravitational influence of another nearby star.
Smith, along with Dr. Brad Barlow, associate professor of astrophysics, and other astronomers, used NASA’s Transitioning Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) spacecraft to obtain the initial data set that led to this discovery. He then obtained follow-up data using a high-resolution spectrograph on the SMARTS 1.5-m telescope in Chile with Barlow to back up his findings and confirm the presence of a new, hidden white dwarf companion to BPM 36430.
Smith’s research was made possible by experiential learning opportunities at observatories in places like Chile that HPU’s Department of Physics and Barlow regularly provide.
“HPU has provided me with an unrivaled number of opportunities to engage in undergraduate research, which has given me experience in my field, something that most people don’t get exposed to until graduate school,” said Smith. “These opportunities are setting me up to become my best self as I go into the next phase of my career.”
He and Barlow recently returned from a weeklong trip to the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, one of the premier astronomical observing sites in the world, where they collected data on other similar objects. Smith also traveled to Belgium last summer, with Barlow and another HPU student, to present his findings at the 10th Meeting on Hot Subdwarf Stars.