Research & Internships

Students can receive hands-on experience with State-of-the-Art Facilities and Chemical Instrumentation while receiving credit towards their chemistry degree, elective or ACCT credit by working with faculty on independent research projects pertaining to fermentation science. Students have different options to perform research in terms of courses (either FMT 495, CHE 495A & B, or can count as HON 420). Individual faculty have diverse research projects currently underway in the department.  If you are interested in performing a research project in any of these areas or want to propose your own project, please contact a faculty mentor directly.

In addition, faculty are working with local and regional institutions to assist in establishing internships or cooperative opportunities that could be used for course credit (FMT 349 or 349A-N).  Students would be able to apply their knowledge and skills in real world situations while connecting with members of the industry.  Opportunities are always changing so positions might be available in Spring, Summer, or Fall semesters.  Notices of positions will be announced through student list-serves and social media.

Research Projects

Dr. Darrin Smith (darrin.smith@eku.edu) - Analytical Chemistry

Dr. Smith's research is based on the application of mass spectrometry for the analysis of compounds, readily found in different fermentation products. The employment of ambient ionization methods has been key to attaining mass spectrometry information on a wide variety of samples with little to no preparation (including derivatization) or prior separation. This class of ionization sources, including desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) and direct analysis in real time (DART), are available to directly desorbed molecules from sample surfaces. This method has the potential to become rapid and reliable form of analysis (even for quantitation) of analytes directly from complex mixtures. In addition to using ambient ionization, nanospray ionization can also utilized for the determination of protein identification (through peptide sequencing) to gain information about proteins available in finished products.

Dr. Christian Paumi (christian.paumi@eku.edu) - Biochemistry / Molecular Biology

Dr. Paumi’s research is focused on determining the role of glutathione (GSH) in reducing cellular oxidative damage in fermenting yeast and in reducing oxidation of beer and wines during storage. Currently, Dr. Paumi is planning on having two projects available.  The first of these projects is to determine if increased cellular GSH synthesis and recycling decreases oxidative stress in yeast and increases fermentation efficiency. The goal of this project is to decrease yeast cellular oxidative stress via increasing the mechanisms by which GSH is synthesized and continually reduced from the oxidized form, GSSG. To carryout this work a number of molecular and genetic methods will be used, including, taking advantage of Dr. Paumi’s yeast deletion collection.  The yeast deletion collection contains over 5000 yeast clones in which a single gene has been removed at the chromosomal level.  These 5000+ clones represent greater than 90% of the yeast genome.  The use of the single gene deletion clones will allow for a systematic analysis of the GSH synthesis and recycling pathways during fermentation.  The second project is to determine if increased GSH synthesis and recycling results in decreased oxidation of bottled wine and beer.  The goal of this work is to reduce oxidation in bottled wine and beer via increasing extracellular GSH via increasing the cellular pathways responsible for GSH synthesis and GSSG reduction.  Similar methods as those described above will be used to carryout these studies.  An important aspect of these studies will be the collaboration with other members of the chemistry department for the analysis of the organic compounds that give specific beers and wines their characteristic flavors.

Working with the Industry

The following examples are EKU students working with the Brewing & Distilling Analytical Services Lab in Lexington, KY (http://www.alcbevtesting.com/) on specific projects:

Armanda McFadden:

The determination of the proof a spirit is important for several reasons. Taxes for spirits are adjusted, and depend upon, the percentage of ethanol in the spirit. Furthermore, when drinking the product, it is the consumers’ right to know the concentration of ethyl alcohol in their beverage. In order to determine the percent ABV, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulates that the spirits must be distilled and restored to the original volume and temperature by addition of pure water to the distillate.

Flavored spirits are growing in popularity ten times faster than regular spirits. However, for reasons unknown, flavored spirits do not distill precisely nor accurately, such that the ABV cannot be quantified. As stated above, this would affect the distillery because of the tax implemented on the beverage and the consumer because the ABV listed should be correct.  The project revolves around developing a specific method for ABV measurements with changes in additives that have influenced these measurements.

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