Faculty Project Proposal Summary

Calendar Year 2014 Program



Faculty Name & Department/School:  Skip Rochefort, School of CBEE


Research Project Title:

Molecular and Rheological Characterization of Equine Synovial Fluid


Project Overview: 

NOTE: The preferred qualification for the student on this research project is that they are a current CBEE first-year student eligible to apply for a summer Johnson Internship with the desire to remain on the OSU campus in summer 2014 to continue research in the Polymer laboratory. Women in engineering  and minorities strongly encouraged to apply.


The Relationship between the Molecular Properties and Lubrication Capabilities of Equine Synovial Fluid


The project is in the CBEE Polymer Characterization Laboratory under Dr. Skip Rochefort. It is a continuation of the biomaterials research related to equine synovial fluid conducted by several past URISC and  HHMI participants. It is a collaborative effort with Dr. Jill Parker, Associate Professor in the OSU  College of Veterinary Medicine.


Prior to beginning the research project, training on a variety of characterization tools in the CBEE Polymer Characterization Laboratory will be done in order to learn the technical skills necessary to complete this research. The equipment training will include: differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA) for the thermal characterization of polymers; multiple-angle laser light scattering (MALLS), gel permeation chromatography (GPC), and dilute solution viscosity (intrinsic viscosity) for the molecular characterization of polymers; and steady shear and dynamic oscillatory shear rheomtery for the characterization of the flow and material properties of polymer fluids and gels.


This project aims to understand the relationship between the molecular properties and lubrication capabilities of equine synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is of particular interest because it serves as a lubricator and shock absorber in articular joints. The primary high molecular weight component of the synovial fluid (SF) is the polymer Sodium hyaluronate (HA). The research will focus on the characterization of pure HA and the HA components of the synovial fluid.


Several previous URISC and HHMI funded research projects in the CBEE Polymer and Characterization Laboratory have focused on the molecular and rheological characterization of equine synovial fluid. The current research project will focus on analyzing the effects of HA molecule size (molecular weight) and concentration in SF samples with the SF flow properties using a new rheometer system. The flow properties of the fluid are directly related to its lubrication capabilities. New samples from euthanized or live horses will be supplied by Dr. Jill Parker as they become available (but not specifically as a part of this study). Additionally, the research will include a more in-depth investigation of protein degradation using protease enzyme to correlate the molecular characterization and resulting flow properties of the enzymatically degraded SF samples to the lubrication properties. This will facilitate an analysis of the change in molecular properties of HA over time after it is removed from the joints of both live and euthanized horses. Ultimately, this research aims to create a better understanding of the relationship between the molecular and flow properties of equine synovial fluid and to understand  the variation of properties between horses and various joints on the same and different horses (establish baseline normal levels). This will serve as an invaluable resource for future joint therapy research involving treatments of diseased joints with sodium hyaluronate.


What skills will students obtain in this project?

  1. Research skills in the field of polymer science and engineering and technical skills with state-of-the-art polymer characterization equipment.
  2. Mentoring of K-12 students through numerous outreach activities.
  3. Interactions with the OSU School of Veterinary Medicine and with graduate and undergraduate students in CBEE.


Student research tasks: Laboratory work in the general polymer area, molecular characterization using a Wyatt Multi-Angle Laser Light Scattering System, and fluid flow characterization using a TA Instruments AR2000ex rheometer.


Number of hours per week expected of student:

5 hrs per week (500 hrs per term) and possibility to work during breaks if desired.

Budget: ($500/term student salary) x 2 + $250 supplies = $1250


Text Box: Preferred Faculty Contact Information (email):  skip.rochefort@oregonstate.edu




Download student application HERE

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