Dec. 10, 2004

Contact: Jill Hummels, School of Engineering, (785) 864-2934.

KU engineering student’s research paper wins 2nd in national competition

LAWRENCE -- A University of Kansas engineering student won second place in a national engineering paper contest.

Theresa LaFollette, Olathe senior in chemical engineering, won second place in the Technical Presentation Competition at the 2004 Society of Women Engineers (SWE) national conference, held Oct. 14 through 16 in Milwaukee. She is the daughter of Rodney and Ann LaFollette and is a graduate of Olathe North High School.

In order to compete, LaFollette first had to win the SWE Region I paper competition, which focused on a student's original research. Her submission was “Modeling and Monitoring in Vivo Dissolution of Naproxen in Rats.” Her work studied how the poorly water-soluble drug naproxen, the key ingredient in Aleve painkiller, reacted in a low pH medium. With guidance from Marylee Southard, KU associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, and Malonne Davies, assistant professor of chemistry and science education at Emporia State University, LaFollette devised a mathematical model to predict how the drug reacts in the stomach.

The subject presented some challenges.

“ Poorly water-soluble drugs like naproxen are hard to model,” LaFollette said. “It's hard to get the experimental data to validate your model.” However, results from the study indicate her model is valid.

The second-place award provides LaFollette with a $1,000 prize. She plans to use the money to pay for applications to graduate schools. Her goal is to earn a doctorate and ultimately focus on bioprocessing or pharmacokinetics.

“ KU has a lot of great opportunities to do research at the undergraduate level very early on,” LaFollette said. “This definitely influenced my decision to go to graduate school.”

LaFollette also submitted her work in the 2004 American Institute of Chemical Engineers poster competition, held during the American Institute of Chemical Engineers national conference in November. That effort earned her a second-place award in the Food, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology division of the Undergraduate Student Poster Competition.

LaFollette, who is in the KU Honors Program, has been involved in the KU student chapter of SWE since she arrived as a freshman. She is fulfilling her second term as vice president of the chapter and serves as the president of KU's student chapter of Tau Beta Pi, an all-engineering honor society.

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