Additional Participants

Graduate Student

Eric Berkenpas
Erik McCarthy
Thomas Pollard
Dana Gallimore
Shivashanker Bitla

Undergraduate Student

Teressa Egeler
Tim Beaucage
Jennifer Deane
Zachary Richards
Patrick Noonan
Matthew Petraszewski

Technician, Programmer

Lee Bickerstaff

Research Experience for Undergraduates

Qian Gao
Justin Tribbet
Matthew Dunn

Other Collaborators or Contacts

Scott LaPatra, Clear Springs Foods, Inc.
Carol Kim, University of Maine
Mark McKenna, Luna Innovations

Project Period

September 1, 2003-August 31, 2009

Level of Access

Open-Access Report

Grant Number


Submission Date



This SENSORS proposal integrates research and education to exploit the sensitivity of a new family of LGX crystal devices operated in novel Shear Horizontal Surface Acoustic Wave (SH-SAW) propagation directions by combining them with highly selective molecular padlock probes to detect specific nucleic acid sequences associated with bacteria such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella typhi, and Vibrio cholerae in aqueous solutions. The anticipated fundamental advances in sensor science and engineering will be relevant to numerous applications, including rapid response to bioterrorism, healthcare, epidemiology, agriculture, food safety, and pollution avoidance and mitigation.

This SENSORS program builds upon the initial proof-of-concept results provided by an NSF SGER project funded by the divisions of Electrical and Communication Systems, and Bioengineering and Environmental Systems. The intellectual merit of this proposal rests in the creative, integrated research and education activities related to combining the recently identified LGX SH-SAW devices with molecular padlock probe technology to permit the design, fabrication, testing, and optimization of prototype biosensors. The specific research objectives of this SENSORS program are to:

(i) Identify the surface density chemistry for increased sensitivity;
(ii) Investigate and identify the optimal LGX SH-SAW orientation and device design for operation with the padlock technology;
(iii) Study and develop the molecular padlock probe system to operate effectively in conjunction with the LGX SH-SAW device;
(iv) Fabricate and test the prototype SH-SAW liquid biosensors; (v) Identify and optimize a procedure for sensor regeneration; and
(vi) Characterize and optimize the sensor's dynamic range and cross-effects due to temperature and other physical and chemical factors.

The educational objective of this SENSORS program is to provide a multidisciplinary learning experience to students ranging from high school to graduate student level in the area of sensors in general, and biosensors in particular. Broader impacts will be achieved through the following programs and activities to:

(i) Train and interact with high school audiences through two major ongoing programs at University of Maine (UMaine), NSF Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) and the GK-12 Sensors;
(ii) Involve undergraduates from Maine and other institutions directly into the research project under the umbrella of the ongoing NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the UMaine;
(iii) Expand existing undergraduate Sensor Technology and Instrumentation and Biochemical Engineering Engineering courses at the UMaine by adding modules relating to biosensors devices and systems;
(iv) Identify appropriate Capstone projects for undergraduates involving cross-disciplinary research and design projects;
(v) Enhance existing graduate level courses Microscale Bioengineering and Design and Fabrication of Acoustic Wave Devices by incorporating research results into the course; (vi) Contribute to the new interdisciplinary multi-institutional NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program in functional genomics, which involves UMaine, the Jackson Laboratory, and the Maine Medical Center Research Institute;
(vi) Provide a experimental and/or theoretical thesis topics for Masters and Ph.D. students;
(vii) Disseminate the research and educational material on a project website, and through conferences and printed literature.

The SENSORS project proposed here is designed to result in tangible research and educational benefits. It will provide a knowledge base critical to creation of the next generation of biosensors for single unit production and future integration into arrays. It also seeks to establish a model program whereby cross-disciplinary education is integrated with a state-of-the-art research program, providing a rich learning experience for students ranging from high school to graduate student level. Finally, the project will help to strengthen U.S. research and educational capabilities in an area of high technology that currently is in need of highly trained industry and academic professionals.

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