(April 28, 2011)

Contact: Rick DelaHaya, Centenary News Services, 318.869.5073

Students Perfect Gas Detection Technique; Research to be Published

SHREVEPORT, La. (Centenary News Service) — For the past three years, Centenary College students have been collaborating with a local Shreveport physician on oxygen-carrying properties of soybean oil emulsions, a fluid that someday might be able to be used as a resuscitation fluid in patients.

Everett Grimley
Everett Grimley, biophysics major at Centenary College, prepares a sample for testing. Grimley, along with two other Centenary students will have their research published in the Journal of Chromatography B.

During the research process, they discovered a new technique for measuring gases, such as oxygen, in a variety of fluids and will have their findings published later this year in the Journal of Chromatography B.

It all started in 2008 when Dr. Cuthbert Simpkins, who at the time was the Chairman and Founder of Innovative Resuscitation Technologies based in Shreveport, was developing fluids that could be administered to patients that had lost massive amounts of blood. He contacted several labs around the country to see if anyone had the capability to do the research.

After a nation-wide search, he found the one place that could do it...Centenary College.

"I really didn't have to look far," said Dr. Simpkins. "All I had to do was look in my backyard at the research that was being conducted at Centenary. The research the students were conducting was far superior to anything else out there."

He contacted Dr. Juan Rodriguez, Professor of Physics and Biophysics who was at the time, developing instrumentation for detecting the biological molecule nitric oxide, which plays a vital role in blood pressure, disease immunity and memory formation. According to Dr. Rodriguez, one of the problems they had while developing the technique for detecting nitric oxide was the instrumentation's sensitivity of oxygen interfering with the readings.

"When he approached me I was really excited because an unexpected offshoot of our findings could be used to further his research," said Dr. Rodriguez. "I told him we had the right tool and techniques he had been looking for."

The first student Dr. Rodriguez approached was biophysics major, Nicole Turner '09, who had been working on the original nitric oxide project. He asked her to look into the possibility of testing for other gases, such as the oxygen in the soybean oil fluid.

"When I first got involved in the research for Dr. Simpkins I had no idea the results I obtained would grow into this new direction and project years later," she said. "You never know where you'll end up or what limitless opportunities can come from your initial intention."

They continued the collaboration over the years, and realized they had created a unique process and tool that could measure other gases that are dissolved in liquids and biological cells.

"We felt the process we discovered should be characterized and shared with the scientific community," Dr. Rodriguez added. "The new method certainly represents an important development for areas of biological, medical and chemical research."

Over the past summer, Dr. Rodriguez worked with sophomore biophysics major Everett Grimley to make sure the technique and apparatus would work under very general conditions.

Grimley had come to Centenary College for several reasons, with the biophysics major being the one of the biggest ones. He was undecided if he wanted to pursue a career as a physician or a research scientist and when this opportunity arose while still a second-semester freshman, he jumped at the chance.

"I took it hoping that I would be able to determine whether I thought research science would fit me well as a career," said Grimley. "I knew that I enjoyed the laboratory classes I had been taking, so I was excited for the opportunity to conduct similar sorts of experiments on more original projects."

In order to proceed with the research, Grimley first had to first familiarize himself with science that has previously been established and apply those findings to this particular project.

"I spent a fair amount of time browsing works that related to our research; these works were primarily composed of measuring gas solubility into fluids," Grimley commented. "With this knowledge at hand, Dr. Rodriguez and I designed experiments to validate our apparatus as suitable for measuring gas content in fluids, particularly in complex or mixed fluids since we are interested in measuring the gas carrying capacity of resuscitation fluids. I carried these experiments out in the laboratory, which primarily involved preparing samples, injecting the samples into the apparatus, and analyzing the resulting data."

Once convinced the process worked, they submitted their research for publication.

"This demonstrates that Centenary College takes the living-learning-action concept to heart," said Dr. Rodriguez. "The College offers a wide range of research opportunities, including the opportunity to be involved in cutting-edge instrumentation with real-world applications. The remarkable part of this whole journey is that the technique was entirely developed by undergraduate students."

Echoing his sentiments, Dr. Simpkins praised the students and the biophysics program at Centenary.

"It was a joy working with such eager and intelligent students," he said. "Dr. Rodriguez is providing Centenary College with graduate-level teaching and experience usually only found at the Postdoctoral level."

Their findings, Quantitation of dissolved gas content in emulsions and in blood using mass spectrometric detection will be published later this year. Those involved in the research include:

  • Everett Grimley, sophomore biophysics major
  • Nicole Turner, '09, Biophysics major
  • Clayton Newell, '10, Biochemistry major
  • Cuthbert Simpkins, Physician, Rapides Regional Medical Center, Alexandria, La.
  • Juan Rodriguez, Professor of Physics and Biophysics, Centenary College

About Centenary College of Louisiana

Centenary College is a private, four-year arts and sciences college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1825, it is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Centenary is one of 16 colleges and universities constituting the Associated Colleges of the South and has been recognized as "One of the Best 373 Colleges" by the Princeton Review and one of "America's Best Colleges" and one of "America's Best Private Colleges" by Forbes.com. In 2008 Centenary College celebrated 100 years in Shreveport and Bossier City.