Submission Date


Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access



Faculty Mentor

Eric Williamsen


Presented during the 25th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 21, 2023 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

Polymers are macromolecules composed of hydrogen, carbon, and other elements. Plastics, like polyethylene (PE) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), are synthetic polymers that persist in the environment due to a lack of efficient and effective means for degrading them. Studies have reported that microorganisms with cutinase domains show promise in degrading plastics, and thermophilic microbes may contain these domains. Cutin serves as model system for PET in this study, and by burying it in compost, an environment containing thermophiles, it is possible to observe its degradation process. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) can separate, identify, and quantify the fatty acid degradation products. This study focuses on optimizing the identification and separation of underivatized fatty acids from compost via HPLC. Being able to detect these by-products advances the current knowledge of the cutin degradation process and its potential applications to PET degradation.


Available to Ursinus community only.