$100G lab instrument gift to Cheyney University demonstrates success of public-private partnership

THORNBURY — The gift of a new $100,000 lab instrument to Cheyney University of Pennsylvania will help students conduct research projects, but also demonstrates the success of the school’s new public-private partnership focus.

At a press conference Tuesday, officials unveiled the high-performance liquid chromatography, or HPLC, instrument donated by Waters Corp., a 7,800-employee analytical research company based in Massachusetts with offices in Collegeville.

The company is also providing scholarship awards for two students to conduct their research projects on campus at the school’s nine-year-old science center.

The HPLC separates substances, breaking them down to the molecular level, and then analyzing them for use in the food and medical industries.

Cheyney President Aaron Walton said the gift showed the positive results of the public-private partnership that the university began pursuing four years ago.

“In our new model, private companies locate their businesses on our campus — that brings paid internships to our students and much needed revenue to the university,” said Walton. “For our partner companies, the model provides modern, affordable facilities for their operations and a ready pool for their intern talent.”

Six companies have moved onto the campus and Walton said they have room for more.

ASI Chemicals, a biotech company, is one of those companies. Their staff assisted students in preparing proposals to use the HPLC in support of their research.

Youheng Shu, vice-president of ASI, said the move to Cheyney gave the company a jump start when they arrived in January 2020, just weeks ahead of the COVID-19 shutdown.

Despite the pandemic, the university helped them survive and in return his firm has been able to help students in their labs.

“ASI helps the student gain real hands-on experience in our lab,” Shu said. “We are very glad to have Cheyney as our partner and I am very confident it will be much more fruitful in years to come and we welcome more students to take the internship.”

Companies calling Cheyney home include: Navrogen, Sure-Biochem Laboratories, Epcot Crenshaw, Herban Farms and Mosaic Development Partners.

American Additive Manufacturing and Advanced Alchemy Labs are expected to move to campus soon, officials said.

“Our job is to prepare Cheyney students for 21st-century jobs, including in fields in which Black and brown people are severely underrepresented,” Walton said. “With our on-campus private industry partners like ASI and this new relationship with Waters, we are again demonstrating how our public-private model is benefiting our university, our students, and the companies with which we collaborate.”

He also noted that in the past four years, Cheyney has doubled the percentage of students majoring in STEM.

The HPLC gift is part of Waters’ Kory Morrow Research Award, named for a Waters principal systems specialist who died unexpectedly in 2020. Not long before his death, Morrow, a graduate of Tuskegee University, began a program extending opportunities to people of color, focused in the STEM fields at Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country.

“We know there is a wealth of up-and-coming scientific talent at Cheyney,” said Julius Aguila, Waters Corp. director of services, East Region. “We’d like to help develop skills and interests in analytical sciences through the use of technology such as the HPLC instrument.”

Aguila said analytical research is the foundation of all science and it involves the early stage development and quality control of food and medicine that assures purity, efficacy and safety of products.

He said the use of the HPLC gives students analytical experience which will help them in their education and careers going forward.

Part of the donation from Waters includes scholarships and two students receiving those awards were on hand to discuss the research they have been doing with the new equipment.

Zainab Sulaiman, a senior biology major at Cheyney, is using the HPLC to measure perception versus reality in the concentration of capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers.

“I’m a pepper lover so the outcome of this project, to see what really makes peppers hot, holds great interest for me,” said Sulaiman, who plans to go on to medical school and eventually become a surgeon. “I am so grateful for this opportunity to conduct research with this technology.”

Sophomore Kishore Owusu is working with the HPLC to research vitamin D metabolites.

“There are many forms of vitamin D. I’m trying to make a method using the HPLC to separate all of them,” Owusu said, when asked to describe his work in the simplest terms. “I’m trying to make it as efficient and effective as possible.”

Owusu said the HPLC system is commonly used in clinics and science and having the chance to use it at Cheyney will give him lab experience needed to stand out.

Two other schools received similar awards — Delaware State University and Clark-Atlanta University.  Students from the three universities will present their findings at a Waters virtual symposium in June.

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