(August 1, 2014)

Two Centenary students tackle diabetic retinopathy research

SHREVEPORT, LA — Chantel Lee '15 and Eli Capello '15 sacrificed a leisurely summer to conduct research for 10 40-hour weeks with Dr. Juan Rodriguez, Professor of Physics, in an effort to combat the effects of diabetic retinopathy, a common diabetic eye disease caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.

Eli and Chantel
Eli Capello and Chantel Lee in front of the imaging equipment that measures oxygen in the retina

"What Chantel and Eli accomplished is quite remarkable," said Rodriguez. "They took on a graduate level project, that was only a concept when they started, and together carried it to near completion in just a few short months."

Both Lee and Capello started the project last spring while taking Rodriguez's Biophysics Research class and were asked to continue their work through the summer as a paid position through a grant by the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases at LSU Health Science Center.

"This spring we created cells that would mimic the retina," said Capello. "Now we are making an imaging system to monitor how much oxygen is in the cell."

Capello machined parts of the system himself using drills along with a dose of trial and error.

"The imaging process will help us see how diabetic retinopathy affects the retina," said Lee. "By figuring out how the oxygen travels, we can pinpoint a solution."

In addition to completing impressive work, Lee and Capello have also had the opportunity to garner skills in self-management.

"Whenever Dr. Rodriguez was gone, he let us stay in charge of the lab and learn how to be our own bosses," said Capello. "That's a rare opportunity."

The equipment the students helped create will eventually be moved to LSUHSC where Capello will teach graduate level students how to operate the machinery for continued research.

Lee and Capello are only two of 10 other Centenary students performing research this summer. Every Wednesday, those working in the sciences gather for seminars sponsored by faculty members who provide lunch and discuss topics such as careers in science.

Friday, August 1, the group of students will give presentations about their summer research in Mickle 110 at noon. The event is free and open to the public.

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