Janet Sorrells wins 2022 McGinnis Medical Innovation Graduate Student Fellowship

10/3/2022

Bethan Owen

Fifth-year bioengineering graduate student Janet Sorrells was recently awarded the 2022 McGinnis Medical Innovation Graduate Student Fellowship. 

McGinnis Fellowship winner Janet Sorrells
McGinnis Fellowship winner Janet Sorrells

“There's so many deserving students in the bioengineering department,” Janet said. “So it’s really an honor that they chose me. It has validated all of my hard work that I've put in so far, and it’s great motivation to continue working hard.”

The McGinnis Fellowship provides two years of research funding, and is given to bioengineering graduate students who are making a difference in the field of medical innovation. It’s available thanks to a generous gift from Illinois alumnus Jerry McGinnis (BS Mechanical Engineering 1958).

As a graduate student with a passion for problem-solving and improving medical technology and speed of care, Janet was a natural choice for this distinction. 

“I'm focused on medical devices,” Janet said. “And one of the key parts of my work here so far has been developing technology for faster and more accurate acquisition of fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy.”

The development of that technology has led to a patent application and multiple publications, including an article about single-photon peak event detection and another about computational photon counting. These exciting results, paired with Janet’s impressive work ethic and dedication to her craft, have made her an outstanding member of the bioengineering department. 

One of Janet's research articles was features in ACS Photonics
One of Janet's research articles was features in ACS Photonics

“Janet’s ability to span the entire range of investigations from technical hardware-based bench-level lab work to microbiological, cellular, tissue, and animal imaging studies has been remarkable,” said professor Stephen Boppart, Janet’s advisor. “She has not only constructed and modified an imaging system toward these goals but developed entirely new detection schemes that will allow for the fast detection and imaging of the metabolic activity of bacteria, all without labels and in real-time.” 

In light of her recent achievement, Janet credited several people who have inspired her throughout her academic career.

“My advisor, professor Stephen Boppart, has been a huge inspiration for me,” Janet said. “He has been really supportive of letting me pursue my interests and my ideas. And I also have found a lot of great inspiration in professor Marina Marjanovic. She has shown me how to look at research problems from a multi-dimensional view.”

“I also want to acknowledge the support of my lab mates,” Janet continued, “Especially Lilian Yangand Rishee Iyer. My lab mates have really helped and supported me. We can be sad with each other when our experiments don't work, or be happy with each other when our papers are accepted. It's been a really integral part of my success as a grad student, having moral support from my peers.”

Janet is planning to continue innovating and solving problems throughout her career and far into the future.

“I am thinking about continuing in academia,” she said. “It would provide an opportunity for me to teach and mentor and train the next generation of scientists and engineers, which would be quite an honor. But I think really, I'll be happy if I can continue any type of research,” she continued, “whether it's academic or industrial, as long as I can continue to solve cool problems.”