Chemical Engineering Major: ‘SURF Has Been a Great Learning Opportunity for Me’
For Madison Liguori ’23, the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program enabled her to research how skin responds to various stimuli – something that, she believes, will be invaluable as she pursues a career in the cosmetics industry.
September 13, 2022
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Madison Liguori ’23 has always been interested in chemistry and physics – so much so that she decided to major in chemical engineering. When researching the field, she found it combined both of her passions. She particularly enjoys the abstract thinking required to excel in the field.
This summer, Liguori further explored her interests as a member of the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program. Her project, titled “Skin Thinning Mediated Bacterial Penetration During Space Travel,” enabled her to apply what she has learned in the classroom while conducting hands-on research with her faculty mentor, Huan Gu, Ph.D., an assistant professor of chemical engineering.
“When astronauts embark on a space travel journey, they undergo different levels of gravity,” explains Liguori. “This environmental change causes severe skin-related issues that many astronauts experience. Staphylococcus aureus is one of the opportunistic bacteria that commonly reside on our skin and can cause persistent infections once they penetrate our skin.”
‘This research will guide me to get to where I would like to be’
Liguori and Dr. Gu used a microcentrifuge and a bacteria-to-fluid solution to replicate the gravity change expected during space travel. She says their method can be used to investigate how the gravitational change impacts the bacteria’s activities and functions. They concluded that microgravity encourages the bacteria to become more resistant to antibiotics.
“SURF has been a great learning opportunity for me,” said Liguori. “Before this summer, I had some experience with research with my adviser. During my SURF experience, I have been able to use more equipment and techniques that I had never used before. I believe my research experience will help me tremendously.”
"Dr. Gu has not only helped me learn new research techniques and how to use specific equipment, but she also helped prepare me to be successful in the future."Madison Liguori ’23
Liguori, who hopes to work as a chemical engineer in the cosmetics industry, was particularly interested in this research because in the development of cosmetics it is critical to understand how the skin responds to a variety of stimuli. She knew she wanted her SURF project to focus on skin, and it has inspired her to continue to explore how skin functions and reacts in various scenarios.
“Dr. Gu was a huge help during my SURF project,” says Liguori. “She helped me tremendously, and I have gained so much knowledge from her. Dr. Gu has not only helped me learn new research techniques and how to use specific equipment, but she also helped prepare me to be successful in the future. She has been a great help, and she has taught me so much. I truly enjoyed conducting research with her and learning from her. My research and the knowledge I gained from this research will guide me to get to where I would like to be.”