All posts by Julia Dolive


Not Ready to Say Goodbye

Last Day with Beniam and his brother Mattie

Yesterday was the last day working with Beniam and Mattie. I am so impressed with these two! Beniam is a rising sophomore at UT and Mattie is a rising sophomore in high school. Very thankful to work with both of them this summer.

Still Working!

Thank you to Sara in Dr. Alvarez lab for providing us some data on concentrations of extracted pyrene in soil samples! We are almost finished comparing the data between extracting pyrene with their Accelerated Solvent Extractor (ASE) verses by filtration only. So far, the SERS data suggests that we can take soil samples and run Raman in situ (in the field) without needing this awesome piece of equipment below. Instead of taking a soil sample back the the lab, doing the extraction with the ASE machine and doing LPHC/MS, we can get contaminated soil sample out in the field, pour acetone on top, shake and drain through a mechanical filter to extract PAH’s and analyze with portable Surface-enhanced Raman!

Accelerated Solvent Extractor in Dr. Alvarez lab that uses acetone, heat and pressure to extract pyrene from soil.
Seeing the beauty of nanoparticles

I am really enjoying learning about all the research that’s going on at NEWT! Can’t believe it’s almost over 🙁 I will miss working with these amazing people. I will enjoy telling my students about the innovative work that I got to be apart of. Now…time to finish the poster!


Finally made good gold nanoshells and gold nanoparticles that actually dried! Even more exciting, I got to see those particles under a scanning electron microscope!! I can tell you, if you’ve never seen how these machines work, you’re missing out. I am excited to show these to my students and explain how I got these images 🙂 Thank you Oara and Andres for taking the time to teach me so much!

So what’s the difference between nanoparticles and nanoshells? The short answer is size and preparation. The gold nanoparticles we prepared were made by adding 300 mL KCarb solution (which is made of 100 kg of potassium carbonate in 400 ml of water and 6 mL of gold) and 800 microliters of formaldehyde. When mixed thoroughly on a hot plate, the reaction changes from a clear to a blue solution first and then to red or red/orange depending on the concentration. For gold nanoshells, we used 180 nm Aminated Silica spheres to the gold colloids which is used to seed the shells and then added the KCarb and formaldehyde. Just like you can see the size difference between nanoparticles and nanoshells here, when we made the samples, I could only see a dot at the bottom of the test tube which were millions of nanoparticles. Nanoshells produced a little more in the test tube that you could actually see.

I even got to see the infrared spectrometer and see how the spectrum compares to the Raman spectra. Thank you to all that made it possible for me to have this experience. Truly AMAZING! So much more work to be done!! And only 2 weeks left 🙁

Research is trial and error

Excited to make gold nanoshells!

Success! Beautiful Gold nanoshells….really?

No…not really

Failed attempt

They didn’t dry!!

Moral of the story…research is not an exact science. It takes failure and the capacity to reflect on errors made and move forward. I really appreciate scientists that have the courage to make mistakes and go back to the scientific method and start again. They are the true innovators! It’s time consuming, can be frustrating at times, but worth the effort. After going back through my procedures, I found out that I should have used 0.1% poly-l-lysine instead of the 0.01% poly-l-lysine. That helps the nanoshells stick to the quartz slides. Time to go start again!

Happy 4th of July to all! Have a safe and wonderful weekend 🙂

How is week 2 done already?!

How is week 2 done already?!

Cutting quartz slides

My mentor Oara is so patient and kind. She taught me the correct way to score a quartz microscope slide with a diamond tip pen. It certainly takes proper technique to evenly cut the quartz substrates without breaking them unevenly. I love that she recycles the quartz slides when we’re done with an experiment; reduce, reuse, recycle!

Selfie with my other mentor Mary

Preparing the samples and acquiring data

Raman shift showing pyrene

Got to visit Dr. Alvarez main lab on remediation of PAH contaminated soil.

Already started my poster! Can’t wait to share the awesome results and future impact of the research done in Dr. Halas lab.

detecting PAH’s in Drinking water

Week 1:

Before this past week, when someone said “Raman” my mind would immediately go to ramen noodles that my son loves to eat. I am working with Dr. Oara Neumann and Mary Bajomo in Naomi Halas lab. The Raman we are working with is an awesome instrument with two lasers source: 785 nm (a near-infrared excitation source that can eliminate sample fluorescence) and 633 nm. We use the Raman instrument to probe the chemical structure in molecules. The probed molecules have a unique set of energy levels that depends on their unique atomic and molecular structure like the mass of atom, the strength of the bond, the conformation, as well as the specific molecular arrangements. The atoms in the molecular arrangement can compress or stretch along the axes of a bond, or can bend symmetrically or asymmetrically; yields vibrations, which occur at a unique frequency. The vibrational modes of a molecule give rise to a spectrum that provides unique information about any molecules. To enhance the Raman signal we are using Au nanoparticles. The technique is called Surface-enhanced Raman scattering and we are using it to identify/determine the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) contaminants in water. PAHs are widespread pollutants that are known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic (meaning they can cause malformations of a fetus during development). There are a few techniques that are used to detect PAHs in drinking water, but they are costly and time consuming. The research being done in Naomi Halas lab will contribute to finding a portable, accurately, and cost-efficient way of detecting PAH’s.

Awesome Raman Spectrometer with microscope

Acquire SERS substrate baseline. The substrate contains: quartz functionalized with PVP (poly vinylin pyridine) and Au nanoparticles.

Add PAHs on the SERS substrate and perform the SERS measurements

Looking forward to week 2! I will get to make and run the samples!! So much to learn!

Fun fact: Did you know they can use Surface-enhanced Raman Scattering to differentiate between Influenza and Covid (both RNA viruses) even at low concentrations.

exciting research at rice

Hello All! My name is Julia Dolive. I teach 6th and 8th grade science in Sugar Land, TX. I will be working in Naomi Halas lab with Dr. Oara Neumann on “Prospects of Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy for Biomarker Monitoring toward Precision Medicine.”

What are you most excited about this summer?

I am excited to work with lasers this year and learn more about raman spectroscopy. It’s awesome to collaborate with fellow educators in the program. This is my 2nd year in RET, so please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or need help. I am hopeful I can incorporate this ground-breaking technology into a lesson for my students to get them excited about the possibilities.

I am definitely a coffee drinker and have recently given up sugar, so no sugar in my coffee. I am a proud new “GG” and love spending time with my new grandson Grayson.