Lyme Disease Diagnostic Tool Emerges from Summer Research
When Temple Douglas, TJ ’10, was a senior, she was recognized as an Intel Science Talent Search Finalist for her work on a novel method for early detection of Lyme disease (pictured in 2010). Spurred by family members’ battles with the disease — her family lives in rural Loudoun County — she came up with the idea of using nanoparticles to detect Lyme disease bacteria in a patient’s urine, which could provide an accurate diagnosis at an earlier stage than existing tests. Douglas worked on her project as a participant in George Mason University’s Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program (ASSIP) when a rising senior and continued that work during her senior year via TJ’s Mentorship Program. She returned to GMU the summer after her 2010 graduation and again for a few weeks during the summer of 2012 to conduct further work on the test.
Douglas is listed along with GMU researchers on the patent for the diagnostic process, filed November 2009. The “Nanotrap Lyme Antigen Test,”which is now commercially available, promises to revolutionize Lyme disease detection.
At a ceremony on June 23rd, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recognized Douglas for her contribution to public health (see Connection article, July 1, 2015).
Student Researchers are Powerful Force at GMU’s Summer Program
Established in 2007, George Mason University’s Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program (ASSIP) places high school and college students alongside experienced researchers who mentor the students as they complete projects in several GMU departments, from Bioengineering to Environmental Science and Policy.
Of the program’s 86 students, 28 were from TJ. Projects included Senior Michael Rodriguez’s 3-D computer models for analyzing carbon dioxide emissions, and shading and skylines, respectively (above right — Michael Piccione, on a grant from GMU, was one of his advisors in the Department of Geography and GeoInformation Science); senior Ross Dempsey’s projects in the Department of Physics and Astronomy involving simulated dynamical (chaotic) systems (above); and juniors Suhas Sastry, Eric Wang, and William Xu’s Electrical and Computer Engineering projects proposing current and future message authentication systems to prevent cars from being hacked (right).
At the poster session held at GMU’s Hylton Performing Arts Center on August 14th, ASSIP co-founder Lance Liotta, MD, PhD, recognized all the student researchers, noting that through programs like this one, students can become true scientists, with the full complement of needed skills. Successful scientists are “writers and lawyers and artists and showmen,” he said, because they must demonstrate, explain, and defend their work. They’re also creative, innovative, and not afraid to take risks. “Experiments do fail,” he added.“The work lies in how you extract information out of failure.”