#ISAutoIrl 2011 Honours Degree Award

To be awarded, on the nomination of any third-level institution, to the best fourth-year Honours Degree student studying Instrumentation-Applied Physics in Ireland. The award comprises a medallion and the Ger Dullea* bursary of €750 which is to be used to assist postgraduate studies.

Recipient: Ms. Jennifer Gaughran, School of Physical Sciences, Dublin City University
Nominated by: Dr. Enda McGlynn & Prof. Jens Ducrée School of Physical Sciences & Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI), Dublin City University (DCU)

Jennifer Gaughran with her parents and ISA Ireland President John Downey and Lord Mayor of Cork Tony Fitzgerald

Ms. Jennifer Gaughran has recently graduated from the B.Sc. in Physics with Astronomy, degree programme. This nomination is based primarily on Jennifer’s outstanding 4th year project work entitled “Centrifugo-Pneumatic Valving using Dissolvable Films”, which is an excellent example of the application of physics in the development of cutting edge automation of applications in biomedical diagnostics and the life sciences. For this project work Jennifer had to utilize her core physics knowledge and abilities in the research intensive environment of the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI), an industrially focused SFI-funded Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) based at DCU. The project developed instrumentation for the key element of flow control in microfluidic lab-on-a-chip systems.

Jennifer significantly improved the instrumentation and automation for centrifugal microfluidic “lab-on-a-disc” technologies which are well-known for their superb capability of liquid sample preparation and detection. With a concept adopted from optical disc drives such as CD-, DVD- or Blu-ray-players, a conceptually simple instrument essentially comprising of a reusable unit with a spindle motor and an optical detection unit called “pick-up” spins a microstructured disc. Instead of optically stored data represented by submicron-sized features (“pits and lands”), the microfluidic disc contains a network featuring cavities and interconnects representing reservoirs for loading sample fluids and reagents, transport channels and detection chambers for bioassays. The objective is to devise fully automated sample-to-answer instruments which take up for example, a patient’s blood sample, and precondition and analyze it, to provide a diagnostic result on the disease state of a patient at the point-of-care.

Because they determine key performance factors such as metering precision and flow control for automated and quantitative bioassays, valving structures are of paramount importance for such versatile lab-on-a-disc technologies. In this context, Jennifer has pioneered a completely novel, centrifugo-pneumatic valving principle which has by now become a core element of several microfluidic platforms developed with the industrial partners of the BDI. By means of these novel dissolvable films valves, Jennifer’s work could significantly facilitate the instrumentation and optimize the performance of highly automated bioassays on the lab-on-a-disc platform. For the first time, these dissolvable films valves could reliably control sample preparation (blood filtration, metering and mixing) as well as the release of on-board stored liquid reagents to demonstrate highly integrated, multi-step biological immunoassays on an instrument derived from a CD player.

* Ger Dullea was President of the Ireland Section of ISA in 1991/92 who died tragically in early 1993. RIP.  This bursury was instituted shortly afterwards in his memory!

About Eoin Ó Riain

Sé Read-out iris uaithoibríoch, ionstraim agus stiúradh na hÉireann agus an "Signpost" a áit ar an idirlín! Read-out is Ireland's journal of automation, instrumentation and control and the Instrumentation Signpost is it's web presence.
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