End of the Year Report: Forensic Drug Analysis of Amphetamine Using SPE with Different MIP sorbents

Solid Phase Extraction of Amphetamine Using Different Commercially Available Molecularly Imprinted Polymer (MIP) Sorbents


            Analysis of illicit drugs such as amphetamines are typically done by chromatographic methods like gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography (LC). However, even with the introduction of LC-MS and GC-MS, sampling pretreatment still plays a very important role in drug analysis. Solid phase extraction (SPE) materials were developed to capture illicit drugs and their metabolites in complex samples such as blood and urine. They have become commercially available to improve drug analysis. Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are are a class of polymer-based recognition elements tailored to target a specific chemical or class of structurally related compounds. In this study, analysis using a sample pretreatment method (SPE) with MIP was compared with analysis without treatment. In addition, the performance of two commercially available MIPs are compared by extracting amphetamine from water and synthetic urine.

Using amphetamine standard, the MS spectra obtained using both negative and positive mode is shown in Figure 1. In negative mode, several peaks were observed but none corresponds to amphetamine. The peaks observed in negative mode scan especially m/z = 141 is also observed in blank samples (water). However, the spectra using the positive mode, a peak at m/z = 91 corresponds to amphetamine transition 136 to 91. In this regards, positive mode was utilized in the analysis of amphetamine water and synthetic urine samples.

The role of sample pretreatment was assessed by analyzing the spiked water and synthetic urine samples without pretreatment method. Figure 2 shows the mass spectra of amphetamine mixed with water and synthetic urine samples where the signal obtained from synthetic urine samples is very low compared to the water samples. This is also lower compared to the one obtained in with sample pretreatment method or MIP (Figures 3 and 4). The recovery of amphetamine is similar to one another regardless of whichever MIP cartridge or sample utilized (Figure 3 and 4).

Upon using commercially MIPs, the percent recovery in either water samples or synthetic urine samples are similar. This means doing a sample pretreatment method is more effective to achieve a higher recovery. The AFFINIMIP is more superior to Supelco in terms of time preparation. This is due to shorter drying time (30 sec) in AFFINIMI-SPE Amphetamines in comparison to Supelco-MIP (5-10 mins).

I would like to thank Maximillian Baria and Eric Nguyen in the preliminary trials of this study and my mentor, Dr. Elmer-Rico E. Mojica for his support in the project. I would like to thank Prof. Nigel Yarlett for the amphetamine standard, Prof. Zhaohua Dai for the amphetamine standards and the use of GC-MS, Prof. Rita K. Upmacis for assistance in MS analysis.  I also like to thank Pace University Undergraduate Research Initiative for the research grant.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, I have been working with Dr. Mojica on different experimental methods for performing drug analysis. I have presented my research at number of conferences.  The most novel experience in my research were the poster presentations that I have done in different scientific meetings. I presented my research as poster at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Conference in Dallas, the Eastern Colleges Scientific Conference (ECSC), William Patterson University Undergraduate Research Symposium, and Dyson Society of Fellows Annual Meeting. I will be presenting it orally next week at the ACS URS in St. Johns University. I have learned a lot of things in doing these presentations and attending these conference. I was able to gain professional experience on how to interact with other people or some sort of real world experience. In addition to this, I was lucky to meet people that I never expect to, like Prof. Donna Nelson which is the science supervisor for the AMC series “Breaking Bad” which I met in Dallas and Sir Harold Kroto, a Nobel laureate in Chemistry whom I met in WPU URS. I was also inducted as an associate in the Dyson Society of Fellows because of my participation in the annual meeting.

I may be graduating but I intend on continuing my research with Dr. Mojica, because I will be attending Pace for the Master’s program in Forensic Science.  I will use other MIP sorbents as well as possibly using real urine samples along with other illicit drugs like methamphetamine to further our results. I am very fortunate to work personally with a mentor on performing experimental research since not all undergraduate students have this opportunity.  When in the labs I have learned professional techniques in utilizing laboratory instruments as well as how to troubleshoot problems that arise during the analysis.  I am grateful to be a part of such an extraordinary research team under the mentorship of Dr. Mojica.  I have learned various skills and techniques that will be beneficial when entering the professional world; hopefully working with a government agency as a forensic chemist.


Figure 1. Mass spectra of amphetamine standard obtained using negative mode (above) and positive mode (below).





Figure 2. Mass spectra of amphetamine mixed with water and synthetic urine samples analyzed without sample pretreatment.



Figure 3. Mass spectra of amphetamine standard in water samples recovered by Supel-MIP (above) and AFFINIMIP-SPE (below).






Figure 4. Mass spectra of amphetamine standard in synthetic urine samples recovered by Supel-MIP (above) and AFFINIMIP-SPE (below).

The Effects of Various Multimedia on College Students’ Academic Performance

The Undergraduate Research Program has presented many opportunities for me and my research, but never did I ever think that it would give me the opportunity to present my research at a professional and nationally recognized conference!

This past weekend Dr. Shostya and I returned from presenting our research at the Eastern Economic Association in Boston Massachusetts.  This is one of the largest and most popular Economic Conferences in the Country.  There are professionals from all over the country with hundreds of presentations going on from morning to night.  I still can’t believe that we were given the opportunity to present with all of these other professionals.  There were several different sessions categorized by topic and researchers who were researching in the similar fields were placed into these sessions usually of no more than 5.  Each one of the presentations was assigned another researcher who wold be known as the discussant for their research and had to prepare a few questions or comments about the research.  This was mainly used as a form of constructive professional criticism to point out any possible loopholes in the research that only a fellow researcher would be able to point out.  It also allowed for researchers to strengthen other areas where their research might need a backup of evidence.  I was so interested by this part of the conference because it gave each piece of research a fresh set of eyes from a professional so that researchers could receive the best possible feedback to make their research better. In one of the sessions I was actually required to be a discussant on the research that was being presented and I had to make formal comments to the audience on what I thought could be improved within the research.  Although I am far from a professional economist, I was able to hold my own and present some serious points on the research, of which the author was impressed and did take my comments into consideration.  It made me feel involved in the research and that I could possibly help the fellow researcher improve the paper.  The greatest part about this conference, aside from the interaction you got to have with whatever research topic you were interested in and posing any and all comments or questions about the research, was the exposure to a vast number of professional researchers and the various research interests being investigated.  Being allowed to attend any presentation session and pose whatever comments and questions I had about the research gave me the opportunity to network with professionals from all over the country.  This is a phenomenal opportunity to interact with these professionals and see how they are forming their ideas about their research and being able to learn from their experiences with research.

When the moment came for me to present our research that we have worked so hard on for the past 10 months, I have to admit I was extremely nervous.  Then when the session chair asked me to begin the presentation, the nerves started to go away surprisingly.  As I began to move through the slides I became calmer and more confident in my presentation (which lasted for over 18 minutes).  As I looked into the audience, which was the second highest attended session (second only to the President of the Conferences opening reception session), I saw many interested faces that were actually following my research and what I was saying.  This was even more evident by the amount of questions Dr. Shostya and I received at the end of the presentation.  It was such a proud moment for me to see that I was able to engage so many people in the research with the presentation.

Presenting my research at the Eastern Economic Conference was an absolutely amazing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life and I know it would not have been possible without the support of the Undergraduate Research Program here at Pace University.  This program and all of its coordinators have provided me and my faculty research pair with the tools and support that we needed in order to make it to this nationally recognized conference.

The Effects of Multimedia on Academic Performance

Dr. Shostya and I are very proud to announce that our research entitled “The effect of video games and other media usage on college students’ studying habits and academic performance” was accept to the Eastern Economic Association Conference for March 2014! When we received the news, we were thrilled.  It is a difficult application process that we were working on since the beginning of the year.  We received an email which stated that our abstract for our research was reviewed among a council who agreed that our research would fit well into one of the categories for presentation at the conference.  This was great news that I got to share with Dr. Shostya, just as excited as I was.  We felt like our research was really coming together quite well and now the Eastern Economic Association (EEA) supported our work giving us the confidence in our research.  Although we still have much more work to do for our research we will be working on it painstakingly until the conference comes up in March.  We will work as hard as we can so that we can present a solid case.  Although I am a little apprehensive to present our research to a room full of professional economists with several years of experience with research, I know that Dr. Shostya will help me to prepare to the best of my abilities so that I can impress the audience.  I think traveling to Boston to present the research will be a great opportunity and a wonderful experience for me to learn first hand about the world of research that goes on.  It will be very interesting to sit and listen to others present their research as well in order to learn what other topics are being research in the field of economics today.

Before the winter break, Dr. Shostya and I were beginning to run correlations on all of the data we had collected for our research.  It was proving to be a very rewarding experience because I could finally begin to see how the data was coming together and how we were forming results with the research we had collected to support our data.  Although not all of the correlations that we were running were conclusive, we were still able to get a handle of the results.  However, Dr. Shostya suggested that after our results were all tabulated using correlations, we should use a regression analysis to further support our results.  Regression analysis would give us a better and more sophisticated way to present our results, providing us with more details about why and how the variables relate to each other.  Over the winter break I was able to carve out some time to review the program Stata, which is used for regression analysis among many researchers.  I was able to practice with the program in order to get a handle on how it worked.  Then when the Spring semester started I was able to work with Dr. Shostya and her colleague Professor Colman, who is an expert with the statistical program Stata,  on the regressions for our research and come up with solid results.  These regressions will provide more information on the causal relationship between the dependent and independent variables in the model and will allow us to test our hypotheses and statistically.

I look forward to finishing all the results and preparing for the Eastern Economic Association Conference in Boston come this March. It will be a lot of work to fit into an already busy schedule, but I can appreciate the challenge.

The Effect of Multimedia on Students’ Performance

When I was accepted into the Undergraduate Research Program I was unaware how vital research was to the academic community.  I realize now that there is such an important message that working on research sends.  There is a whole other world out there, within an academic universe, which can be explored and discovered.   This program has been very exciting thus far and I continue to look forward to the rest of the year and to the final outcome of the project that Dr. Shostya and I are working on.

Since I have started to work on the topic, I have learned a few new techniques in research (thanks to the aid of my faculty member, Dr. Anna Shostya).  I am so glad I have had the opportunity to work with such a smart and influential faculty member.  Dr. Shostya has introduced many new researching methods to me and has encouraged me to explore different paths that the research can take us.  She has encouraged me to keep going with the research and to expand on the many different possibilities that we have discovered.  Dr. Shostya has helped me develop the topic into a more specific area that allows the research to come together much better.

Our research explores the effect of multimedia usage on college students’ performance.  We will focus specifically on Video Games and Social Media.  These types of multimedia are most widely used by college students and take up much of the average college students’ time.  It is important to study these types of multimedia because of the huge impact they have on students’ lives.  These activities have so much of an influence on college students lives that their academic performance is sometimes severely impacted by them.  On the other hand, we would like to see if there is any positive correlation between the time spent on multimedia and students’ academic performance.

In order to conduct our study, we are going to use a Mixed Method.  We plan to combine qualitative and quantitative research techniques to investigate the relationships between the variables and to test the results.  We feel that this will allow us to have a more comprehensive approach to our research.  We have already distributed a survey to about 200 undergraduate students at Pace University.  The Survey Instrument has about eighteen questions broken down into two parts.  One is the general questions’ and the second is related to those who feel as though the multimedia has had an effect on their social and academic performance.  We have asked questions about how many hours they spend on various types of multimedia, as well as what types of multimedia are most vital to their daily lives.  We plan on entering this raw data into an Excel Spreadsheet, and then use charts and graphs to summarize the results.

The next step would be to see if there is any correlation between various multimedia use and the time spent on “useful” activities (such as studying and reading), as well as students’ GPAs.  I look forward to analyzing the data and discussing the results with Dr. Shostya.