SAFE Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Nicholas Shaw
Dr. Nicholas Shaw, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) fund recipient
Project: “Proving Commercial Viability: The Use of Nano-Reactors in Peptide Synthesis”
A SAFE fund grant allowed undergraduate research students to conduct experimentation necessary to engage investors for the commercialization of technology developed in Shaw’s research laboratory. Having recently patented the technology from his laboratory, the university and Shaw have begun the process of commercialization.
Specifically, Shaw and students are trying to determine how to reliably manufacture pure amino acid peptides at commercial scale. One of the long term goals of the project is the continued engagement with other commercial entities.
“The SAFE grant funds were crucial as we needed to demonstrate our technology's capabilities beyond 'proof-of-principle' to conceptualized commercial application in order to interest outside investors,” explained Shaw.
Not only did the funds support the purchase of necessary materials for experimentation, but also the continued scientific development of students involved in the research.
“My research group works exclusively with undergraduates and has two main objectives: the advancement of our science and the development of the scientist, which are of equal importance. Following rigorous training, my research assistants are asked to design and execute their experiments, collect and analyze the data and use their results to perpetuate the scientific cycle. Students that embrace this opportunity are quick to thrive in this environment. Students that thrive in this environment become well trained scientists capable of independently producing publication worthy results,” said Shaw.
The technology produced by undergraduate research assistants in Shaw’s laboratory represents the university's first attempts at intellectual property protection and commercialization in over twenty years. However, working toward this goal presents unique challenges.
“The funding landscape is particularly challenging as traditional support from research grants is difficult to secure given the need to keep details of the technology from potential competitors. Thus, internal university funding becomes the only source of funds until private investors can be engaged. This SAFE grant was the lifeline we needed,” explained Shaw.
Students involved in the research project include:
Cailyn Kirkaldy, senior, Department of Biology
Sam Miller, senior, Department of Biology
Kiera Blom, senior, A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
Megan Pike, senior, A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
Matthew Bonacci, senior, A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
Ilas Figlow, sophomore, A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
Anderson Noonan, junior, A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
Graham Aldridge, senior, A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
Sarah Altman, senior, A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
Carson Shivers, junior, A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
Baylee Smith, senior, Department of Management
Addison Thames, junior, Department of Health and Exercise Science
James Sanford, senior, Department of Philosophy and Religion
About The SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at: https://cas.appstate.edu/students/student-and-faculty-excellence-safe-fund.
About the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
The A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences offers a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry, a Bachelor of Science in chemistry with eight different concentrations and an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree in fermentation sciences. The department’s programs prepare students to attend graduate and professional schools, as well as for employment in the pharmaceutical and fermentation industries and other business sectors. Learn more at https://chemistry.appstate.edu.
Compiled and written by Sophia Woodall and Ellen Gwin Burnette
April 23, 2021