$25,000 Scholarship Recipient
Port Jefferson Station, NY
Project Title: “Creating a Framework for a Flexible, Biodegradable, and Biocompatible Gelatin-Chitosan Biosensor.”
Ashley’s project consisted of developing a framework for a biosensor that has the unique properties of being flexible, biodegradable and biocompatible. Ashley’s initial interest in biosensors began when she learned about a biosensor that could detect the BRCA1 gene associated with breast cancer; her own mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago. A major barrier hindering the application of biosensors outside a laboratory environment is the lack of a flexible substrate with low toxicity and high biodegradability. She sought to overcome this obstacle by constructing a biosensor consisting of gelatin and chitosan, a polysaccharide that is derived from crab shells. By lowering the pH of the gel the chitosan was activated, allowing DNA to adhere to the gel. Methylene blue was used as an indicator to detect the presence of DNA on the gel. One of the main factors that prompted Ashley to do this research was the many ways biosensing technology could be applied—from medical to environmental fields of science. Gelatin-chitosan gels are also flexible; this allows them to be placed on any type of surface. Add to this, the abundance and low cost of gelatin and chitosan, these gels have a fantastic potential of being highly marketable biosensors.
Ashley feels it is important that as technology improves, measures must be taken to avoid the release of toxic wastes into the environment. That is why it is essential that there be a next-generation of “green” projects that are not only efficient, but are also made of all-natural materials with the lowest toxicity. Ashley’s research combines the idea of a next-generation “green” project with the intent of pushing biosensing research onto a whole new level. Research has already proven that biosensors are capable of detecting the BRCA1 gene as well as in detecting tuberculosis. Biosensors can also be used for environmental purpose such as monitoring the safety of drinking water. If a biosensor is cost effective and can be used without extensive lab equipment, the range of its accessibility increases. One can even make a portable biosensor “toolkit.”
As the Salutatorian of Comsewogue High School, Ashley hopes to be a physician and is a freshman at Shepherd University in the MedSTEP B.S.-M.D. program with a major in Biology.
Click the links below to view hi-res photos of Ashley:
Click here to view the full listing of the 2012 Davidson Fellows.
Click here to view Ashley's press release.
For all media inquiries, please contact DavidsonFellowsMedia@davidsongifted.org.