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01-25-2016

Clarkson University Student Earns Travel Award to Discuss Her Cancer Research

Clarkson University graduate student Saira Bakshi works with particles that are smaller than the width of a hair in hopes of achieving a big reward -- earlier detection of cancer cells. Her expertise has earned her a travel award, which means she will be able to discuss her work with top scientists at a convention this summer.

Saira BakshiBakshi, of Canton, N.Y., is pursuing her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. She recently received word that she has been chosen to receive a Sensors Travel Award from the journal Sensors, which explores the science and technology of sensors and biosensors. The award will pay her expenses to attend the fifth International Symposium on Sensor Science this July at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

“I can go anywhere with the award, but I liked this conference," says Bakshi. "People from all over the world will be attending. I'm really excited."

Prof. Evgeny Katz, Milton Kerker Chair in Colloid Science at Clarkson University, is very happy for his student. She's an excellent student, one who has already published seminal papers, he notes.

“This is a very important conference. Very good people have are invited, and she will get the chance to meet great scientists and discuss the results of her work,” Katz adds. “That's very important for a young student. This is about her being encouraged by recognition from other people; she deserves for people to know about her success.”

Bakshi works with Natali Guz, a postdoctoral fellow, in Prof. Katz's lab. The opportunity to do so is one reason she chose to continue her studies at Clarkson University after receiving her undergraduate degree there.

“This is the place to be to work with faculty and learn. They're very good to work with, and I love working with Prof. Katz,” she says.

Simply put for non-scientists, her work involves finding, or sensing, certain levels of chemicals within cells. Tiny nanoparticles can be used in many ways, often to detect levels of disease or levels of contaminants such as chemicals in drinking water. She prefers working with biosensors and living material.

'I'm deploying nanoparticles inside human cells to detect cancer. By sensing certain chemicals -- we call them 'biomarkers' -- around the cancer cells, we can tell them from normal cells,” she explains. “The next step would be to use the nanoparticles to release certain amounts of drugs to deactivate the biomarkers and stop the cancer cells from growing.”

All of this must be fine-tuned in the lab, and she's excited about the opportunity to hear from other researchers at the conference this summer. The gathering will also be her chance to meet face-to-face with some of her collaborators. Five labs teamed up on this project. One is at the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake, two are at Clarkson, and the other two are in Florida and Georgia.

“My colleagues from Georgia and Florida will be at the conference at UNH this summer. I'm looking forward to meeting them,” she adds.

Her collaborators on the biosensing project are Prof. Dmitry Kolpashchikov, University of Central Florida; Prof. Sergiy Minko, University of Georgia; Prof. Craig Woodworth, Clarkson University; and Alexei Tumanov, Trudeau Institute.

For more information on Bakshi's research, see the video at https://youtu.be/V4dR0hujFFY.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/sbakshi.jpg.]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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