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Noor Mohammad and Sherafghan Iftikhar Receive 2023 Vivian T. Stannett Graduate Awards for Outstanding Early Publication

The 2023 winners of the Vivian T. Stannett Graduate Award for Outstanding Early Publication are exceptional graduate students, Noor Mohammad and Sherafghan Iftikhar.

Noor Mohammad
Graduate Student  Noor Mohammad

Noor Mohammad, whose dissertation research is supervised by Prof. Qingshan Wei, is being honored for his 2022 Angewandte Chemie paper, “A Sensitive and Nonoptical CRISPR Detection Mechanism by Sizing Double-Stranded λ DNA Reporter.” In this work, Noor demonstrates a simple and inexpensive CRISPR-Cas12a-based biosensing platform to detect short single-stranded DNA targets using λ DNA as a nonfluorescent reporter molecule.

The results are exciting because they contradict the conventional knowledge that Cas12a cannot trans-cleave double-stranded (ds) DNA. However, Noor’s elegant experiments show that ds λ DNA could be an outlier and, furthermore, that this can be exploited to achieve sensitive detection without preamplification steps. Noor serves as first author on the paper, with Shrinivas S. Katkam (MSChE, advised by Prof. Wei) as second author, and Prof. Wei as corresponding author.

Noor started exploring CRISPR-based diagnostics at the beginning of his second year as a graduate student, and due to the pandemic, he first worked on a review article summarizing the recent advance of CRISPR-Dx. That article was published in 2021. He then started working on the research that led to the award paper. He has published one other first-author paper and is a co-author on two additional journal publications.

Noor matriculated at NC State in 2019 after obtaining his BS and MS degrees at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. He loves to drive in the country and sight see in his spare time. After his PhD, Noor intends to become an academic.

Graduate Student Sherafghan Iftakhar
Graduate Student Sherafghan Iftikhar

Sherafghan Iftikhar is performing his dissertation research in catalysis supervised by Prof. Fanxing Li. His award-winning publication, “LaNi­xFe1–xO3−δ as a Robust Redox Catalyst for CO2 Splitting and Methane Partial Oxidation,” was published in Energy and Fuels in 2021. The article is significant because it reports low-cost, platinum-free redox catalysts for low-temperature CO2 and methane conversion.

The catalyst is found to maintain satisfactory redox performance over long-term operation by reactivating the redox catalyst periodically, e.g., once every 40 cycles. The mechanism of the deactivation, which involves iron carbide formation and subsequent reactivation by oxidation, is anticipated to be of substantial interest to researchers in related fields. Co-authors include Qiongqiong Jiang, Yunfei Gao, Junchen Liu, Haiming Gu, Luke Neal, and Prof. Li, all of whom are past or present members of Prof. Li’s research group.

Sherafghan, who is from Lahore (The City of Gardens) in northeast Pakistan, matriculated at NC State in 2019. He has been particularly productive and creative in his dissertation research, with two additional first-author papers published, four papers published as co-author, and another first-author paper in preparation. He obtained his BS in chemical engineering from COMSATS University in Lahore and his MS from the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore.

Sherafghan loves to explore different cultures. Since moving to Raleigh, he has been performing stand-up comedy and really enjoys putting smiles on people’s faces. He also enjoys playing cricket in his spare time. After completing his PhD, Sherafghan intends to pursue an academic career.

The Vivian T. Stannett Graduate Award for Outstanding Early Publication recognizes research excellence, initiative, focus and tenacity during the early career of PhD candidates in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. It is named in memory of Professor Vivian T. Stannett, a CBE faculty member who was an internationally renowned polymer scientist, research leader, and National Academy of Engineering member. Professor Stannett published over 400 research papers and reviews during his distinguished academic career. Funds for the cash prize of the award are made possible through the Vivian T. Stannett Memorial Fund.