Barry McNamara  |   Published March 23, 2016

Tops in nation

Poster by Monmouth’s Davila wins first place at ACS meeting
  • Jasmine Davila is pictured with her winning poster at the 251st American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, Calif.
Jasmine Davila, a Monmouth College junior from Moline, Ill., earned first-place honors for a poster presented at the 251st American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, Calif.
  Titled “Stimuli Responsive Cyano-Oligo (Phenylene Vinylenes),” the poster involved research that Davila conducted with a graduate student and an adviser at a 10-week Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) last summer at the University of Southern Mississippi. It earned first place in the polymer division.   “I applied for a couple of REU programs last year, and I got accepted at Southern Mississippi, which has a School of Polymer Science,” explained Davila. “The project had already been started, and we furthered the research.”   Davila and her team worked on “creating a new dye that can be incorporated into a material that will glow when stressed. A common application could be bridges. If one of the beams is glowing, that means it’s under stress.”   Davila said color-changing materials already exist, but the material must be broken in order for the color to change. Her team’s material would indicate the problem before it reaches that level.   “It would also be useful in designing various prototypes,” she said. “As you work on the design, you’d be able to see if there was stress,” which would help the designer determine if the project was going on the right track.   At Southern Mississippi, her research earned first place in competition with a dozen other REU posters, which earned her the trip to San Diego. Still, she was pleasantly surprised that the research again took top honors at the ACS meeting, which came with a $500 prize.   Davila has had STEM aspirations for much of her academic career, attending the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) for her final three years of high school. She visited Monmouth on a scholarship day and was impressed by the science faculty, including associate professor Laura Moore, who is now her adviser.   “It felt like Monmouth really, really cared about it students,” said Davila. “I talked with science faculty about the research I’d done at IMSA, and they were very welcoming, very warm. I knew I didn’t want to go to a big university and get lost in the crowd.”   Davila was in the first class of students to have the College’s $40 million Center for Science and Business for all four years, and she got a head start on most of her peers in the building, participating in that year’s SOFIA (Summer Opportunity for Intellectual Activity) program. The next summer, she stayed on campus to participate in the College’s Kieft Summer Research Program.   Though interested in polymer research and material science, the biochemistry major said she is likely to head to medical school following her graduation next year. But she might not have to leave the other fields behind.   “I would like to combine them, working with materials that can be used in the medical field,” she said.
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