Three bioengineering undergraduates students share their summer experiences
Bioengineering students have the opportunity to apply what they've learned in the classroom to various summer work and research opportunities. Undergraduates Marissa Cowan (MC), Jamie Jones (JJ) and Amy Lee (AL) share their unique experiences and perspectives from summer, 2021.
Can you please share a brief overview of what you did over the summer?
MC: This summer I was a Mechanical Design Intern at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics in Rochester, NY.
JJ: I worked in bioengineering professor Shuming Nie's lab this summer where I was involved in designing and optimizing biomimetic plasmonic gold nanoparticles with enhanced dispersion stability features and evaluating their tumor-targetability towards metastatic breast cancer cells.
AL: This past summer, I was part of the PARAdiGM program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). As I knew I wanted to do biomedical research, I spent my time searching for REUs and summer opportunities that involved research and professional development.
How did you find your summer opportunity?
JJ: For my summer research opportunity, I sought out directly to professor Nie to see if there were any openings for an undergraduate researcher position within his research group. I had taken one of his courses (Cancer Nanotechnology) and became very interested at the idea of how nanotechnology could be used to address critical biomedical issues and challenges.
AL: I found a website about the various summer research programs UAB offered and applied for up to three programs that I was interested in. Thankfully, I got my first choice! Under the PARAdiGM program, I was paired with my mentor, Dr. Steven Rowe, at the Cystic Fibrosis Research Center, and got to explore the ways of being a physician-scientist.
What are some biggest learnings and takeaways from your summer experience?
MC: During my internship, I was tasked with improving the design of an essential part as well as determining the root cause of a part failure. My biggest takeaway from the summer was that speaking up about an idea you have is always worth it. After speaking up about one of my ideas I was recognized for my efforts and was given the opportunity to make my idea become a reality!
JJ: The most important things I’ve learned over the summer working in an academic lab has been about working hard and effectively with perseverance. This instilled a greater sense of professionalism in me and provided me the ability to communicate in a mature manner. The other significant aspect was growing from constructive criticism. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to be a co-author on a manuscript from this summer research which showed me the importance to assimilate research hypothesis and results in a concrete and suffice manner.
AL: In the lab, I focused on discovering the effects of the loss of a mucin gene on mucus flow using Micro-optical coherence tomography (µOCT). Then, I would analyze and model mucus flow using ImageJ and MATLAB. On the professional development side, I had the opportunity to present my research at the UAB Summer Expo, participate in presenting a Three Minute Thesis, shadow physicians, and even have MCAT prep classes. The biggest takeaways I had were that there is always time to get to where you want to be, collaboration and documentation is crucial for research, and that networking is the gateway to more opportunities.
Has the summer experience helped to inform your future career path?
MC: This experience was amazing and I learned so much from it. Getting to work on medical devices to improve the lives of others is truly a passion of mine and I am grateful that at Ortho, this passion was shared by many.
JJ: I always had a strong interest in continuing my education by pursuing a graduate degree in biomedical engineering. Prior to this summer experience, I was hesitant to apply for graduate programs as I was unaware of how I would fit in. However, this experience proved a perfect stepping-stone as I learned new experimental skillsets and got to know the nuances associated with graduate school programs through many extensive discussions with my research mentor, Dr. Indrajit Srivastava. All this makes me better prepared for graduate school and it no longer looks unattainable as I previously thought.
AL: Thanks to the Rowe Lab and the people I worked with there, I realized how much I enjoyed the research process and the clinical applications behind them, solidifying my interests in pursuing a career involving both medicine and research.