NATURE camp students shine light at Dr. Jayaraman Sivaguru’s lab

By Dr. Jayaraman Sivaguru, Ramya Raghunathan and Ravichandranath Singathi

Dr. Jayaraman Sivaguru and his Center for Sustainable Materials Science (CSMS) team hosted NATURE Summer Camp students during the Summer of 2016 and provided them with hands-on experience in scientific research. The NATURE (Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education) program, funded by ND-EPSCoR, was initiated to promote and encourage Native American students to step into a STEM career.

This summer, two high school students, Heather One Horn and Sasha Azure from Solen High School, ND, chose to work with graduate students Ravichandranath Singathi from Dr. Sivaguru’s CSMS research group and Ramya Raghunathan from Dr. Sivaguru’s and Dr. Mukund Sibi’s CSMS research groups, to get in depth knowledge about biomass derived polymers and their degradation using light. Heather and Sasha are two of eight high school students who traveled to the NATURE camp from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation with Dr. Mafany Mongoh, NATURE coordinator from Sitting Bull College.


During their time in the lab, Heather and Sasha researched the breaking down of polymers by using one of the abundant and greener reagents “Light”.  This research has the potential to be developed into materials that can be degraded in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. The materials they chose to work with are hydroxy acetophenone, a phototrigger, and methacrylic acid, a monomer.  A phototrigger is a light sensitive unit, which is incorporated during the polymerization process with the monomer. Light can then break the polymer down to give the monomer back, making the material recyclable.

Apart from synthesizing the polymer and degrading it, Heather and Sasha also learned the theory behind techniques such as thin layer chromatography (TLC), using a Rayonet reactor, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and rotatory evaporator, all of which they used to analyze their experimental results.

By the end of their 4-day research experience, the students had learned new techniques and gained scientific insights, which they shared with other NATURE camp students in a PowerPoint presentation at the NATURE camp’s closing ceremony.


Two NATURE Camp students participate in NATURE+ research with NDSU CSMS researcher Dr. Mukund Sibi

By Catherine Sutton

NatureCamp-2This summer at NDSU from June 13-16, the Dr. Mukund Sibi-CSMS team became involved in the NATURE program. The NATURE program, funded by the ND EPSCoR program, is in place to promote the experiences of Native American Students in STEM careers.

As enthusiastic college students, Connie and Kimberlee were a part of the NATURE+ program which afforded them a more in depth experience into a STEM field of their choosing. In this case, the students chose to learn about Biomass-derived chemistry with graduate students Eric Serum and Catherine Sutton from Dr. Mukund Sibi’s CSMS research group.

The biomass of choice out of the three available for Connie and Kimberlee’s mini-projects was cellulose, more specifically fructose from which the foundational compound 5-hydroxymethylfurfural is derived. HMF is the basis for the starting materials used in the reactions run by Kimberlee and Connie, facilitated by the graduate students. The goal product for Kimberlee’s reaction was the formation of 2,5 diformylfuran while Connie’s was a dimethylnaphthalene.


Connie and Kimberlee learned about the process of running a reaction and analyzing the products of such a reaction by:

  • Gathering materials
  • Reacting the materials under specific conditions
  • And analyzing the products

NatureCamp-1Committed to their respective projects, Kimberlee and Connie learned as much as they could in a four-day period about the theory behind Thin-layer chromatography, column chromatography and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance in order to properly analyze their results.

At the end of their successful four-day projects, Connie and Kimberlee, having learned a great deal of new information, presented their projects to other NATURE camp students on the last day of their time here at NDSU.

CSMS collaborating with ND EPSCoR NATURE Sunday Academy Program. NATURE program recently featured in the ND Department of Public Instruction’s STEAM newsletter

NATURECoverThe Center for Sustainable Materials Science has collaborated with the North Dakota EPSCoR Sunday Academy program to present two lessons related to their research during the 2015-2016 Sunday Academy. The Sunday Academy program, part of North Dakota EPSCoR’s NATURE programming (Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education), is coordinated by Chad Ulven, Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering department at North Dakota State University.

The Sunday Academy program is designed to generate interest in math, science and engineering among American Indian high school students in North Dakota. Once a month during the academic year, high school students from the four Indian Reservations in North Dakota are brought together on a Sunday at their local tribal college in North Dakota and are presented with practical day-to-day problems involving simple math, physics, chemistry and engineering in an informal and friendly atmosphere requiring them to think, analyze and seek solutions.

For the 2015-2016 school year, seven lessons have been planned that will be taught on a Sunday between September and March. One of the lessons related to the Center for Sustainable Materials Science research is ‘Purification of Water with Biobased Materials’ led by Jayaraman Sivaguru and Long Jiang both from North Dakota State University. Chad Ulven also helped with the planning of this lesson. The other lesson is ‘Engineered Composite Building Products’ led by Dilpreet Bajwa from North Dakota State University. Other lessons will be led by other faculty from North Dakota State University as well as faculty from the tribal colleges and the University of North Dakota.

An article regarding North Dakota EPSCoR’s NATURE program has recently been published in the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction’s Aug/Sept issue of their STEAM newsletter. To read the article, please see pages 19-20 here . You can also visit the North Dakota EPSCoR NATURE website for more information about the NATURE program.