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Bucknell Senior Presents E-cigarette Research to State Legislators

Bucknell University chemical engineering major Jordan Berger ’17 recently shared the results of his research with an influential audience — elected officials at the Pennsylvania state capital.

Berger met in April in Harrisburg with Sen. Gene Yaw and Rep. Fred Keller, who represent the Lewisburg area that includes Bucknell, and Sen. Vincent Hughes, who represents Berger’s home district outside Philadelphia, as well as with representatives of the policy research wings of the state Democratic and Republican parties.

Pennsylvania instituted a blanket 40 percent tax on e-cigarettes in November, and Berger said the elected officials were interested in how his research might inform regulation of the industry.

“It was really interdisciplinary project, not only in that we needed biomedical engineers and chemical engineers, but we also needed to understand the political and public health relevance, and to be able to communicate our results to those with influence over regulations,” Berger said.

Berger has been researching e-cigarettes with Professors Jim Baish ’79, biomedical engineeringTim Raymond ’97, chemical engineering,  and Dabrina Dutcher, chemical engineering, since 2015.

“We were interested in the variables that affect particle creation,” Berger explained. “It turns out that voltage has the highest effect on particle size and distribution — not temperature but voltage, the actual amount of energy delivered to the e-liquid. It also turns out that nicotine content does not have a significant impact on the particle size distribution.”

While Berger’s study did not focus on the implications of inhaling those particles on the health of those who use e-cigarettes, he noted that “smaller particles deposit themselves further down in the lungs, and larger particles deposit themselves in the back of the throat.

“If you have more smaller particles, you’re going to get more deposition in the pulmonary region,” he said.

Berger wrote a honor’s thesis based on his vaping research, and is seeking to publish his results in an academic journal.

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