impact doane .edu

Two things frustrated Andrea Holmes when she was the student.

Research that was only for science -- (Shouldn’t one be able to say “My research can make life better?”)

And research or researchers who didn’t give students credit.

Today, Holmes is an assistant professor of chemistry at Doane, and those frustrations are two things her students won’t have to worry about.

In her classrooms, research impacts real life.
She and her students discovered chemical sensors to detect date rape drugs and club drugs in liquids, then created a personal testing strip -- similar to a pH strip -- that one could carry to tests drinks.

The research has now broadened to include detection of methamphetamines, Ketamines and cocaine in liquids.

The team also developed DETECHIP (patent pending) that identifies unknown substances by the use of a binary code. “DETECHIP” is an assay that allows for the definitive identification of compounds, such as drugs, without the occurrence of false negatives or positives. DETECHIP represents an innovative departure in research that cuts across traditional boundaries of scientific disciplines, in this case the synergistic fusion of chemistry, physical applications, bioinformatics, and the transition towards product development and marketing with industrial partners.

Another group of student researchers are working to develop new fluorescent compounds that could revolutionize cosmetic and other industries, compounds that mimic the optical brightness of a baby’s skin and camouflage imperfections. This invention (also patent pending status) reaches consumers interested in anti-aging cosmetics, personal care advertisers, and cosmetic industries.

Holmes is the students’ biggest supporter – her students are co-researchers, co-authors, co-everything - sharing both success and defeat.

A couple of years ago, she encouraged two students to enter the chemical sensor research in the National Collegiate Inventors competition, even though the prizes usually went to Ivy League schools and large universities.

The Doane students went on to be among 11 finalists nationwide, bumping elbows with giants of the inventors world, like the co-inventor of the electret microphone found in cell phones and medical devises.

When the story of Doane’s research made international news, students were the ones in front of the radio microphones and television cameras.

And in 2008, six of the students were the ones standing before audiences at the National American Chemical Society conference in New Orleans, sharing their findings and defending their science against the scrutiny of other world-famous and much more senior chemists.

A 2008 grant from the National Science Foundation worth $525,000 over five years gave Holmes the freedom to take research to a higher level than what’s found in many undergraduate classrooms.

Ten or more student researchers are employed each year. They work closely with post-doctoral research scientists hired to provide direct support in the lab.

The grant allows Holmes to give students, post-doctoral fellows, and consultants good-paying jobs that are meaningful to their future careers.

Holmes’ work with animals is a reminder for students that there should also be meaningful aspects of their lives outside of the lab. When she’s not at Doane, she operates an animal rescue shelter on her acreage near Crete.

Holmes’ students will go on to be chemistry teachers, dentists, pharmacists, doctors, researchers and more. But she is proud to say, while at Doane, they are a team.

She tells the team to dream big.

Tells them they can compete among the best in the country.

Tells them to be humble and modest.

Tells them to go above and beyond what is expected, work relentlessly with high ethics. And the most important lesson she teaches her students is: “Intelligence comes from within. Look into your heart to find the answers for all your questions.”

“I feel like we can be part of the biggest and the best.”

Those lucky enough to be part of the last two years in Doane’s chemistry department are seeing their research make its way to the part that impacts real life; so far two patent applications, media inquiries, license agreements with chemical business companies, publications and talks.

Holmes spends a portion of her time working through the maze of patent laws and handling inquiries from chemical companies around the world.

Soon, she will be ready to publish the first written accounts of their findings.

“We just want to keep going – we want to continue to ride the train, you know?

Andrea
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