September 16, 2008

Nafis Hasan ’11 Investigates Antibodies that Fight Cancer Cells

Alumni guided and helped fund nanotechnology research at Georgia Tech

Nafis Hasan ’11 conducted research this summer at Georgia Tech in which he used nanotechnology and bioengineering to investigate antibodies that fight cancer cells. The goal was to uncover the minimum number of antibodies that can detect cancer cells.

“We took a pre-manufactured silicon wafer and made a pattern on it, then we coated the pattern with gold,” explains Hasan, a neuroscience major from Dhaka, Bangladesh. “After developing the water, when it was ready to use, we incubated [cancer] antibodies on the pattern and then saw how well they bound to their antigens [substances that prompt the generation of antibodies and can cause an immune response].”

Hasan used state-of-the-art equipment, including lithography, electron microscopes, and evaporators, in his work with Paul Joseph, senior research scientist in Georgia Tech’s Microelectronics Research Center. Among many other things, he learned how to handle sophisticated equipment and the protocol for incubating antibodies and preparing them to be observed.

His participation was supported by the Dorflinger Summer Research Fund endowed by Laneta Dorflinger ’75 and Mark Graham. Peter d’Aubermont ’73 promoted the program and helped guide Hasan through the research.

“Few students have opportunities to do nanotechnology research,” says d’Aubermont, a dermatologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta who specializes in skin cancer and teaches courses on it at Emory University. “It is a cutting-edge area and an exceptionally new technology in the field of medicine. It is great preparation for medical school or entering into the workforce.”

D’Aubermont has been supportive of the College over a number of years, as evidenced by the d’Aubermont Study Room, located on the second floor of Skillman Library, overlooking Kunkel Hall and Hugel Science Center. He also donated a laboratory and office suite in Kunkel.

Hasan hopes to become involved in nanotechnology research at Lafayette, and d’Aubermont anticipates helping to provide more opportunities for that. In August 2007, James Ferri, associate professor of chemical engineering, received a $198,316 grant from the National Science Foundation to build a nanotechnology program at Lafayette. D’Aubermont made a $1 million donation toward a life sciences center at Lafayette that will include equipment for nanotechnology research.

“Hopefully, the students who come through the program at Georgia Tech will take their new knowledge and experience back to Lafayette to contribute to research happening there,” says d’Aubermont. “It would be even better if they would return to a facility that supports such high-quality research.”

Previously, Hasan participated in research with Bradley Antanaitis, associate professor of physics. Antanaitis taught him how to use a simulation program for molecular modeling that could allow researchers to predict how certain proteins interact with each other at the molecular level.

“I believe that opportunities like this are available only at schools like Lafayette that have a completely undergraduate focus,” adds Hasan. “This is because there are many more research opportunities and student-teacher interactions available for undergraduates.”

Hasan plans to attend graduate school for bioengineering and continue doing research in the field.

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