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James Ferri, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Lafayette, has received a travel grant from the Max Planck Institut for Kolloid und Grenzflochenforschung (MPIKG) in Golm-Potsdam, Germany, to continue his research there this month.

He is collaborating with Reinhard Miller, a prominent researcher in the field of interfacial dynamics and group leader of the Soluble Monolayers Group at MPIKG. They are developing a technique by which very small droplets (a fraction of one millionth of a milliliter) can be deposited onto a larger droplet (one thousandth of a milliliter) in order to study the interfacial behavior of lipids, the building blocks of biological cell membranes.

Ferri received a grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) for a three-month summer research visit to the institute last year. His stay in Berlin began Jan. 5 and will conclude Jan. 25.

Animal cells are often cultured on large scales because of the materials they secrete, including ones used in pharmaceutical products, says Ferri. Polymeric surfactants are added to the cell culture medium because they help protect the cells against mechanical disruption (getting ripped apart by fluid stresses.)

“The mechanism of action is two-fold,” he explains. “They coat the surfaces of bubbles and attenuate the stress generated by bubble rupture, and they adsorb to the cell membrane, adding mechanical strength.”

Studying how lipid membranes interact with polymer surfactants can provide insight into the protective effect of the additives and provide a rational basis for their use, he adds.

Ferri has worked closely with Lafayette students on advanced research projects. He advised Marquis Scholar Dan Connolly ’02, who graduated last May summa cum laude with honors in chemical engineering, on his senior thesis, “Calibration of Process Shear Conditions Using Shear Marker Fluids: Hybridoma Cell Death as an Indicator of Hydrodynamic Shear.” A paper based on the thesis (co-written by Ferri and Connolly) earned second place in the National Student Paper Competition sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. A member of Phi Beta Kappa who earned a 4.0 grade point average at Lafayette, Connolly presented the paper at the institute’s national meeting in November in Indianapolis, Ind., and with Ferri at Rohm and Haas in Spring House, Pa., and the monthly meeting of the Lehigh Valley Section of the Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society.

Ferri mentored EXCEL Scholar Tim Wetzel ’02, who also graduated summa cum laude in May, in a study involving adsorption from solutions of surfactant mixtures. A publication based on the research is being prepared. In Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, students assist faculty with research while earning a stipend.

Along with Shyamal Majumdar, Kreider Professor of Biology, Ferri led a continuing EXCEL project last summer with chemical engineering major Ryan Collins ‘03 (Whitehouse Station, N.J.) on “Factors Affecting the Shear Induced Death of Hybridoma Cells.”

Two Lafayette senior chemical engineering majors are conducting honors thesis projects this school year under Ferri’s supervision: Collins, “Effect of Amphiphiles on Hydrodynamic-Induced Death of Hybridoma Cells Suspensions,” and Alanna Cleary of Bloomsburg, Pa., “Extraction of Energetics Using Supercritical CO2 / Surfactant Mixtures.”

Ferri has published his research in conference and meeting proceedings of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and publications such as Advances in Colloid and Interface Science, Colloids and Surfaces, and Journal of Colloid and Interface Science. Along with co-author Scott Moor, assistant professor of chemical engineering, Ferri received recognition for third best paper at the American Society for Engineering Education regional meeting last April in West Point, N.Y. He has given talks at AIChE annual meetings, ACS Colloid and Surface Science Symposia, and a Society of Formulation Chemists Meeting. He was also research chemist at American Cynamid in Princeton, N.J.

Ferri joined Lafayette’s chemical engineering department in January 2001. His teaching areas include momentum, heat, and mass transfer, separations processes, and laboratory applications. His research interests include interfacial phenomena, bioengineering, and applied math. Ferri received a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

Categorized in: Academic News