Erica Ricker

DEPT: Chemical and Biochemical Engineering                           

MENTOR(S): Eric Nuxoll                 
SOURCE(S) OF SUPPORT: American Heart Association, National Science Foundation,
CBB NIH Fellowship

Montana State University  BS 2012 Chemical Engineering
Montana State University  BS 2012 Bioengineering

2013-2015 National Institutes of Health T32 Trainee Fellowship, University of Iowa
2013 Vetter Service Award, University of Iowa
2012 Kammermeyer Graduate Fellowship, University of Iowa
2008-2012 Western Undergraduate Exchange Scholarship, Montana State University
2011 Tau Beta Pi Honors Society, Montana State University
2010-2011 Lloyd Grainger Becraft Scholarship, Montana State University
2009 Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society, Montana State University

08/2015 – 12/2015 Graduate Teaching Assistant
Mass Transfer and Separations
Professor Eric Nuxoll, PhD University of Iowa Graded homework, held a weekly discussion section, and office hours
10/2013 – 12/2013
Tutoring for Athletic Learning Center
​University of Iowa Tutored mathematics and engineering classes to athletes
08/2012 – 12/2012
Graduate Teaching Assistant
Engineering Problem Solving I 
Professor Julie Jessop, PhD University of Iowa Graded homework, set up and monitored laboratory portion of the class
01/2010 – 05/2011
Tutoring for TRiO
Montana State University
Tutored students in the fields of chemistry, mathematics, and engineering
08/2010 – 12/2010
Laboratory Course Assistant
Introduction to Chemical and Biological Engineering
Professor Abigail Richards, PhD
Montana State University
Assisted in carrying out the laboratory portion of the class by directing students and answering their questions

RESEARCH EXPERIENCE (prior to entering program):
Senior Thesis 08/2011 – 05/2012
Montana State University, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
“Production of Cyanobacteria to Create an Organic Fertilizer”
Mentor: Brent Peyton, PhD
Independent Undergraduate Research 08/2010 – 08/2011
Montana State University, Center for Biofilm Engineering
“Isolation and Enrichment for Magnetotactic Bacteria”
Mentor: Abigail Richards, PhD
Undergraduate Research 08/2009 – 08/2010
Montana State University, Center for Biofilm Engineering
“Culturing Siderophores to Optimize Micelle Conformation”
Mentor: Abigail Richards, PhD
Research Intern at GTC Technology Inc. 01/2009 – 04/2009, 01/2011 – 08/2011
GTC Technology Inc., Bozeman Research and Developmental Laboratories
“Improvements on Industrial Separation Techniques”
Mentor: Randi Wytcherley, PhD

Each year in the United States thousands of people have implants removed due to biofilm infections obtained during the implantation of the device, ultimately requiring invasive surgeries and long-term antibiotic treatments. These biofilms form on the surfaces of the implants and are difficult for doctors to treat and for the immune system to eradicate due to an extracellular matrix the bacteria form. A promising new approach to address this problem is heat application. By coating the implant with a polymer encasing iron oxide nanoparticles, an alternating magnetic field can induce remote heating that conductively transfers to the biofilm infection. The synergism of applied heat with antibiotic treatment is proposed as an effective treatment for eradicating the biofilm. We have demonstrated experimentally that heating decreases the biofilm viability and have quantitatively correlated this decrease to the temperature and exposure time of the thermal treatment via analytical equations. We are now investigating the applicability of this model to biofilms grown under harsher conditions. Heating, paired with antibiotic treatment, will be explored through experiments using ciprofloxacin, tobramycin, and erythromycin during heating phases, which will be compared to antibiotic treatment alone. Once a better understanding of the in vitro model of these biofilms is formed experiments will be done in vivo to determine the validity of this treatment strategy for infected implant devices. These studies will evolve the understanding of biofilms and how to efficiently eradicate them on implant surfaces. The introduction of such a novel coating in conjunction with antibiotics could obviate thousands of surgeries and save billions of dollars spent on ex-plantation, recovery, and re-implantation.

COURSES TAKEN (this graduate program):
Transport Phenomena I, Polymer Chemistry, Computational Fluid and Thermal Engineering, Engineering Ethics, Introduction to Literature and Proposal Writing, Finite Element I, Cell Material Interactions, Intermediate Thermodynamics, Introduction to Biocatalysis, Perspectives in Biocatalysis, Design of Experiments, Microscopy for Biomedical Research, Graduate Pathogenic Bacteriology



O'Toole, A., E.B. Ricker, and E. Nuxoll, "Thermal Mitigation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilms." Biofouling,  2015, 31(8): p. 665-675