By Amanda Olavarria
Recently, MSE Sophomore, Joyce Caliendo received the NASA CT Space Grant Fellowship. This grant will go towards Joyce’s current research on chitosan antimicrobial coatings. This research involves developing an antimicrobial coating for paper-like materials, which will keep its barrier properties and withstand the bacteria present in the International Space Station.
Joyce’s overall goal is to develop a nanocoating with exceptional barrier and antimicrobial properties. To achieve this, she must first discover whether antimicrobial chitosan can withstand the bacteria formed by human cells in the International Space Station (ISS). Her second objective is to help decrease the growth of bacteria on the paper-like material found in the ISS. Joyce claims that by applying the antimicrobial chitosan coating to many surfaces and materials in the ISS, it could diminish the amount of bacteria present. Furthermore, she states that this coating could be used for food packaging containers to ensure food is not contaminated with bacteria the astronauts produce. Joyce also proposes that air filters in the ISS be sprayed with chitosan to decrease bacteria growing on them. She explains that this antimicrobial coating could be put on any paper-like material or fabric used by astronauts to prevent harm to their immune systems. This prestigious grant will allow Joyce to search for advancements in the field of aerospace through research.
Once she completes her undergraduate career, Joyce aspires to go to graduate school and pursue research on materials that can be applied to renewable energy. As for careers, she hopes to become an astronaut in the future.
Currently, Joyce’s research involves working with polymers in Associate Professor Sun’s lab. Specifically, Joyce works on MMT nanocoatings that are spray coated onto paper-like materials to keep oxygen and water vapor molecules from permeating through.
Joyce enjoys how her research allows her to expand upon the material she learns in the classroom. In fact, some processes she learned in her introductory materials science class she was able to do in the lab. As a result, Joyce was able to understand the material on a deeper level by applying it to her research.
Not only does Joyce enjoy the research MSE has to offer, she also appreciates the faculty within MSE as well. She finds the professors in the department to be very friendly and eager to help students learn. Specifically, her advisor helps her apply for grants and come up with new ideas for research. He praises Joyce for being an enthusiastic researcher and claims, “She not only works hard to complete the tasks assigned to her but also contributes ideas to advance the project she is on.”