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Undergraduate student Ashton Lee and her faculty mentor Dr. Swadeshmukul Santra have been awarded UCF’s SMART Grant for spring 2012.

Ashton and Dr. Santra will receive $1,000 each to help fund their research. As part of the SMART program, Ashton will participate in Directed Independent Research with Dr. Santra through the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences.

Student-Mentor Academic Research Teams is UCF’s premier undergraduate research program that is designed to help students identify and work with faculty mentors in a research area of shared interest. SMART students assist faculty on their ongoing research projects or develop their own independent research projects under the supervision of their faculty mentor. The Burnett Honors College awards no more than three SMART Grants per semester.

The objective of Ashton and Santra’s project is to understand the underlying mechanism of nanoparticle transport through plant roots, stems, and foliages, and how the size, surface functionality, and surface charge of nanoparticles affect how they are transported. They hypothesize that nanoparticles are small enough to be transported through plant roots and foliages, and this ability may one day allow for them to be used to deliver pesticides, antibiotics, or nutrients to plants from their water source. Effective, efficient delivery throughout the plant from the water source could provide healthier plants more resistant to disease, providing a boost to the agricultural industry and our communities.