Photoactive Vanadium Bioplastics

Hope Brown is a third year biochemistry senior at Bowling Green State University. She is originally from Middletown, OH and serves as a learning assistant and elementary school tutor. She is a research undergraduate assistant in Dr. Ostrowski’s lab. For the 2020 CURS Symposium, Hope completed a research project entitled “Photoactive Vanadium Bioplastics.”

9 Questions with Hope Brown

I began with a few questions to start my work. The first was, how can I make a single-use plastic that’s biodegradable and eco-friendly? The second question was, how do photoactive vanadium clusters affect mechanical properties and degradation of hybrid metal cluster/polysaccharide materials?

During my research, I worked with polysaccharides and vanadium to make plastic films. I then tested the films using pH stability tests, water solubility tests, and swell tests. I then measured the diffuse reflectance of the films, used IR spectrometry to obtain spectras, used a dual cantilever for a frequency sweep test, performed tension measurements, and performed SEM measurements. The tests were all done using non irradiated and irradiated films.

I have always been fascinated with animals and nature. There has been an increase in single use plastics that have filled our oceans and planet. I wanted to see if it would be plausible to create a single use, biodegradable plastic with metals already found in the environment.

One very interesting discovery that was found through the SEM images, is that there are not any big structural changes with irradiation- with or without vanadium in the films.

The largest challenge in this project was attempting the dynamic mechanical analysis measurements because the attachment for the rheometer would break the films. The was remedied by testing and finding new attachments.

My CURS project allowed me the experience for what I want to do in life. I have always pondered about being a research scientist, but the CURS project allowed me to immerse myself and know that research is what I want to do.

As a student, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship has allowed me to make connections and find resources that I would have never had before. I have made great mentor relationships and friendship with my project.

If you’re not sure- do it! You miss 100% of shots you don’t shoot, and applying was one of the BEST decisions I have made.

I’m a big animal lover! I have 20 fish, 3 crested geckos, 3 guinea pigs, and a cat!


"If you’re not sure about a CURS grant—do it! You miss 100% of shots you don’t shoot, and applying was one of the BEST decisions I have made."

Updated: 03/07/2021 05:07PM