Professor Robbie Iuliucci launched the project associated with the Research Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment and Protection (RIFEEP); Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF) by developing protocols for isolation of metabolites from plants. The on-campus research took place this summer with chemistry major Halie Tucci ’19 and with guidance from Dr. Donghui Yan of CAF. Unique compounds found in nature can assist in developing novel pharmaceuticals and the discovery of new chemicals that can benefit society. Our interest is with endophytes -- fugal species living within another plant -- that produce volatile metabolites, which may serve as potential biofuels. Our mission is two-fold, in addition to finding a viable means of producing green energy, we wish to understand the symbiotic relationship between the endophyte and host species to better preserve our natural resources. Some of the host plants of interest thrive in the Jianfengling tropical rain forest of Hainan province. To properly characterize, the metabolites must first be separated. This process typically involves chromatography. Halie presented her work as a poster at Duquesne University.
In addition to developing separation techniques, efforts in creating new laboratory experiences that center on traditional Chinese medicine were explored. Two new experiments were adapted for the fall course CHM 385 -- Chemical Measurements Laboratory. One of the experiments involves red yeast rice, which is a traditional Chinese food, proven to reduce heart disease. Due to its classification as a food supplement, red yeast rice is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. When grown naturally and unregulated, red yeast rice contains citrinin – a mycotoxin that damages the kidneys and liver. Students in CHM 385 will use fluorescence measurements to determine the presence of citrinin in red yeast rice supplements sold in the USA. A second experiment involves characterizing the compounds found in Gardenia plants. Gardenia, or zhi zi as it is known in China, is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat various aliments from anxiety to bladder infections. However, scientifically little is known of how these benefits manifest. To study the organic compounds in Gardenia plants, an extraction technique using supercritical fluids is used. This summer the new extractor was installed.
W& J LIASE faculty members Professors Nichole Fifer and Zheya Gai of Political Science traveled to Shandong province, China, and conducted a preliminary research on their LIASE project titled “Transition of Resource-based Cities in China” in June 2017. They met with their project collaborators Professors Hui Li, Ying Ma, and Jun Wang and some of their colleagues and students in the School of Economics & Management at the China University of Petroleum (CUP) in Qingdao. Professors Fifer and Gai and their CUP colleagues conducted several exiting and productive brainstorming sessions on the research themes and plans for the next four years. They decided that the research will be conducted in three cities: Zaozhuang - a traditional coal city, Dongying - a traditional oil city, and Qingdao – a major city whose economy is associated with natural resources in multiple ways. They also decided that the research will be focused on three main themes: transition of the industrial structure in the city, the environmental impact of the transition, and the social welfare and quality of life considerations during the transition. Additionally, Professors Fifer and Gai met with some CUP students for an open discussion on many issues of mutual interest, such as similarities and differences in education in China and the United State. The two professors also visited some potential research sites in Qingdao, such as the Qingdao Planning Exhibition Hall and the Huangdao West Coast Development District Exhibition Hall. They then traveled to Zaozhuang and Dongying and met with some government officials there, who provided valuable information on the transition of their cities from a heavily resource based economy to a more diversified economy in recent years.
Another W&J LIASE faculty member Professor Ye Han of Chinese and three of her students were in Qingdao at the same time for their ASIANetwork-Freeman Student-Faculty Fellows project. They were invited to join Professors Fifer and Gai for some of their LIASE activities in Qingdao as well. The three students are Capri Backus, Katherine Campbell and Kyle Carroll.