An undergraduate and a professor stand around a poster presentation at a physics conference.
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Physics Major Wins Poster Award for Research on Nanoparticles

Sophie Taylor (CAS’24) was recognized for her research on nanoparticles at this year’s Physics Congress, held by the Society of Physics Students (SPS).

Taylor, a physics major and Spanish minor in the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences, won a poster prize for her presentation on the research she’s conducted in Edward Van Keuren’s lab, which studies nanoparticles, materials invisible to the naked eye and as miniscule as one one-billionth of a meter. 

“We are looking at creating nanoparticles that contain two or more separate types of molecules in them,” Van Keuren explains. “We also work on the application of these particles, mostly for biomedical uses such as treatments for acute kidney injury, a common side effect of surgery, or as contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging.”

In the lab, Taylor has worked with Van Keuren to develop highly adaptable nanoparticles that contain a liquid core with a solid polymer shell. 

A girl in black-framed glasses smiles in front of a white background.
Sophie Taylor (CAS’24)

“On the most basic level, we inject a concentrated solution of different polymers, or chemicals, into a rapidly mixing water,” Taylor explains. “Then, the polymers disperse in such small amounts that they form nanoparticles. We’re interested in the mechanisms that govern this so we can create recurring, planned results.” 

Taylor has conducted research in Van Keuren’s lab since May 2021, first as a part-time volunteer and then as a full-time research assistant over the summer. 

“Sophie has done an outstanding job with her work, and has really progressed into becoming an accomplished researcher,” Van Keuren says. “She has also gone from just following my instructions to becoming an integral part of the research, suggesting new experiments we could try or models to help us understand the results.”

As a triennial conference, this is the first Physics Congress that Sophie had the opportunity to attend. 

“The conference was an incredible opportunity for our students to interact with other physics students from all over the country, as well as hear some great talks,” Van Keuren says. “This was not only a great opportunity for Sophie, but also a springboard for her to present at other conferences. For example, she will be giving a talk at a conference of the mid-Atlantic section of the American Physical Society in December.”

Earlier this year, Georgetown SPS was recognized as an Outstanding Chapter by its parent organization, the American Institute of Physics. Taylor, who is co-president of Georgetown’s SPS chapter, is happy to not only continue researching, but networking with other physics students. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics after graduating in 2024.

-by Hayden Frye (CAS’17)