THORNBURY – A gift of a new $ 100,000 lab to Cheney University in Pennsylvania will help students conduct research projects, but will also demonstrate the success of the school’s new focus on public-private partnerships.
At a news conference Tuesday, officials unveiled high-performance liquid chromatography, or HPLC, a tool donated by Waters Corp., an analytical research company with 7,800 employees based in Massachusetts with offices in Collegeville.
The company also provides scholarships to two students to conduct their research projects on campus at the school’s 9-year research center.
HPLC separates substances by breaking them down to the molecular level and then analyzing them for use in the food and medical industries.
Cheyney President Aaron Walton said the gift showed the positive results of a public-private partnership that the university began holding four years ago.
“In our new model, private companies locate their businesses on our campus – it brings our students paid internships and much-needed profits for the university,” Walton said. “For our partner companies, the model provides modern, affordable conditions for their activities and a ready pool for their interns.”
Six companies have moved to campus, and Walton said they have room for more.
ASI Chemicals, a biotechnology company, is one such company. Their staff assisted students in preparing proposals for the use of HPLC in support of their research.
Yuhen Shu, vice president of ASI, said the move to Cheney gave the company a quick start when they arrived in January 2020, just weeks before the closure of COVID-19.
Despite the pandemic, the university helped them survive, and in return his firm was able to help students in their labs.
“ASI helps the student gain real hands-on experience in our lab,” Shu said. “We are very pleased that Cheney has become our partner and I am very confident that in the coming years it will be much more fruitful and we welcome more students to do an internship.”
Companies calling Cheyney home include: Navrogen, Sure-Biochem Laboratories, Epcot Crenshaw, Herban Farms and Mosaic Development Partners.
American laboratories of additive production and advanced alchemy are expected to move to campus soon.
“Our job is to prepare Cheney students for work in the 21st century, including in areas where black and brown people are very underrepresented,” Walton said. “With our private on-campus industry partners such as ASI, and this new relationship with Waters, we are once again demonstrating how our public-private model benefits our university, our students and the companies we work with.”
He also noted that over the past four years, Cheney has doubled the percentage of students enrolled in STEM.
The HPLC gift is part of the Waters Kory Morrow Research Award, named after the Chief Waters Specialist who died unexpectedly in 2020. Shortly before Morrow’s death, a graduate of Taskigi University, he began a program that spreads opportunities for colored people focused in STEM fields at historically black colleges and universities across the country.
“We know that Cheyney has many promising scientific talents,” said Julius Agila, Director of Waters Corp., Eastern Region. “We would like to help develop skills and interests in the analytical sciences through the use of technologies such as HPLC instrumentation.”
Agila said that analytical research is the foundation of all science and includes the early development and quality control of food and medicine, ensuring the purity, effectiveness and safety of products.
He said the use of HPLC provides students with an analytical experience that will help them further their studies and careers.
Part of the donations from Waters includes scholarships, and two students who received these awards were on hand to discuss the research they were doing with the new equipment.
Zainab Suleiman, a senior biology major at Cheyney, uses HPLC to measure perception and reality in the concentration of capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers.
“I’m a pepper lover, so the result of this project to see what really makes peppers spicy is of great interest to me,” said Suleiman, who plans to go to medical school and eventually become a surgeon. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to conduct research using this technology.”
Sophomore Kishor Ovus is working with HPLC to study vitamin D metabolites.
“There are many forms of vitamin D. I’m trying to do a HPLC method to separate them all,” Owus said when asked to describe his work in the simplest terms. “I try to make it as efficient and effective as possible.”
Ovusu said the HPLC system is commonly used in clinics and science, and being able to use it at Cheney will give him the lab experience needed to stand out.
Two other schools, the University of Delaware and the University of Clark-Atlanta, received similar awards. Students from three universities will present their results at the Waters Virtual Symposium in June.