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NC A&T female professor leads 1st joint lab partnership with an HBCU and U.S. soldiers

Dr. Kristen Dellinger will be leading the nanoengineering efforts in this innovative lab.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Sometimes in life – you wind up in the right place – at the right time – meeting the right person. Other times – you need a connection – to make an introduction happen. In this case - NC A&T student Jessica Norcott’s mother was the connection – between her and Professor Kristen Dellinger.

"I met her by fate," Norcott said.

Norcott says Dellinger was her mom's customer at the DMV in 2019. Her mother spotted Dellinger's NC A&T lanyard.

"She gets to talking and telling her that she's a professor over at the joint school," Norcott said. "So, my mom was like: what's that? Then my mom is like 'Oh, my daughter is into the science field. She might be interested in that school. She's actually about to graduate 2020' and then Dellinger offers for me to take a tour of the school and from there is history."

For Ph.D. student Ivy Cockleree, she came across Dellinger's work at the North Carolina A&T Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

"I am so grateful to have found Dr. Dellinger's lab,” Cockleree said.

The lab is one of a kind.

“This joint school of nanoscience and nanoengineering is really an unprecedented place in the US and even across the world because there is such a focus on working at the nanoscale,” Dellinger said.

Dellinger says the current work focuses on using nanoscience to help patients rapidly diagnose diseases.

"One thing we are working on is early screening devices for Alzheimer’s disease," Dellinger said. "This means people can screen themselves, if they have the potential for developing Alzheimer’s disease before the onset of clinical symptoms."

Dellinger's lab work attracted the Department of Defense. They joined forces becoming the first and only joint collaborative lab to use nanotechnology to help U.S. soldiers.

"We are going to be using something called a DNA-zyme, which is going to be incorporated into a microfluidic chip," Dellinger said. "The ultimate application of that work will be to allow soldiers to detect whether their water is clean and safe to drink."

Dellinger has a personal connection to the project too.

"My husband's best friend and brother who served in the U.S. military from 1998 to 2013," Dellinger said. "He's a highly decorated combat veteran and is very, very close to our family so the ability to work on these projects with the soldier center is very meaningful to me."

In the future, her work could eventually help you and me.

"We are hoping that that can also be useful for communities impacted by hurricanes or by natural disasters so we are hoping these can also be deployed in those emergency scenarios," Dellinger said.

And, maybe Jessica's research can help us too!

“We’ve been going through this journey together," Norcott said. "She’s really given me lots of inspiration to continue to get my PhD.”


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