Research Highlight

Learning Through Research: Hennecys Perez Castro ’25

Hennecys Perez Castro is a sophomore environmental engineering major from the Bronx, NY. In her short time at the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), Hennecys has participated in the Air Force ROTC program, a Marine officer program, she is an active member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and she is doing paid research relevant to her field of study.

“Doing research creates a great baseline to explore what you want to do. Being at an R1 university means there is a lot of funding and that opens up a lot of opportunity,” says Hennecys.

Hennecys learned about research opportunities through ECS Laboratory Manager and SHPE advisor Mario Montesdeoca. He helped her get started as a trainee in the environmental engineering labs as a first-year student. It gave her an opportunity to ask questions and learn how to apply for a Research Experience for Undergraduates.

Hennecys’ first research project involved measuring CO2 and O2 concentrations from different soil depths to explore soil respiration response and testing new low-cost CO2 sensor technology. During the fall semester of her sophomore year, she presented her research at the Long-Term Ecological Research All Scientists Meeting in California and took second place in a poster competition.

In addition to her ongoing CO2 censor testing, Hennecys is facilitating a lab project under University Professor of Environmental Systems and Distinguished Professor Charles Driscoll. The project involves conducting a sediment core analysis on samples collected from Skaneateles Lake just west of Syracuse. The research is a continuation of a larger project aimed at determining how the lake sediment is evolving due to the environment. Currently, Hennecys and her lab partner Oliver Raycroft are prepping the samples for chemical extraction. Once extracted, they will begin a data analysis to determine the effects of algae blooms, marine life viability, and to measure phosphorus concentration.

“The samples in the sediment cores tell a story. This research is small part of a bigger story,” says Hennecys. “The overall goal is important because this is information people need and can use.”

Research has helped Hennecys build a network and skillsets that will be important for her career development. It’s just one example of how she is utilizing resources available through ECS to prepare for her future. She says the support she has received through the ECS Office of Inclusive Excellence and SHPE, along with participation in several Syracuse University student leadership programs has augmented her education.

“Taking about my research has taught me how to present to a non-engineering audience. Overall, research is helping me learn skills I need to incorporate as I look forward to my career,” says Hennecys. “In addition to being a peer leader and an orientation leader, research helps me connect with others and build my confidence for post-graduation.”

Funding for Hennecys’ research is provided by Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program, Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the The Syracuse Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement.

Syracuse University Part of Collaborative Team Researching Preventing Infections in Engineered Tissue and Implantable Devices

Advancements in biomedical devices such as knee and hip implants, heart valves, pacemakers, dental implants, stents, and catheters have improved quality of life for patients worldwide. These devices, however, introduce foreign material into a patient and are prone to chronic infections. Through a new grant, a cross-disciplinary group of experts will collaborate to develop new approaches to prevent device-associated infections and enhance the use of these implants.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $3.6 million grant to a team of researchers from five universities in a project titled “Collaborative Research: Growing Convergence Research: Infection-Resisting Resorbable Scaffolds for Engineering Human Tissue.” Syracuse University researchers teamed up with partners at Stevens Institute of Technology, Binghamton University, City College of New York, and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School.

The project will address the development of healthy tissue and mitigate the risk of infection in implantable devices as new biomaterials are being developed to replace failed, damaged, or defective body parts. 

The Syracuse University team is led by Shikha Nangia, Associate Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, and Dacheng Ren, Associate Dean of Research, College of Engineering and Computer Science and Stevenson Endowed Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering. 

“The novelty of this project is the cross-disciplinary convergence of microbiology, polymer science, computational biochemistry, and biomaterials science,” said Nangia.

Another aspect of the project is to train the next generation in infection control.

“The Ph.D. and undergraduate students in the research labs will travel to partner institutions during summer and gain immersive research experience in a new lab to broaden their expertise,” Nangia added.  “I am very excited about this opportunity.”

“This project team includes researchers from five institutions, who have been working together over the past several years. It is a great example of how researchers from different disciplines can work together to solve challenging problems through convergence science,” said Ren.