As a child, I wanted to ensure the longevity of my family members and safety from old age and diseases. I wished to have superpowers like those of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch to guarantee my family would grow old with me. It is safe to say that I was ruled by my naiveté. As I grew older, I realized that I would not be bestowed with magical powers. It was when I discovered the concept of biomedical engineering that I realized superpower does exist; combining engineering and science to help improve the quality of life is the greatest superpower.Research Experiences:
My journey toward gaining this power began in Dr. Sumanta Goswami's lab at Yeshiva University, where I have spent five years and became aware of my desire to pursue research in the cancer field. While most of my peers joined the lab for college credits, I was there for another reason: to fulfill my childhood ambitions of saving the world with my collaboration in experiments. In this lab, I became proficient in basic molecular biology applications, such as protein expression analysis, to more enhanced applications, such as amplification and labeling from a single cell. I became adept in cell culture, sterile techniques and the use of fluorescent imaging on cell/tissue samples. I have used my knowledge of my courses and experiences to observe the behavior of breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs) and its correlation with poor prognosis. With this in mind, I designed a way to measure mRNA expression of specific BCSC marker in 50 breast cancer cell samples of invasive ductal carcinoma obtained from patients' cancer excisions by fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy by synthesizing probes for in-situ hybridization that reduced cost but yielded specificity. I became intensely attracted to cancer and had a desire to apply engineering techniques to improve cancer treatment.
During my Stony Brook University (SBU) senior design course, my group and I used knowledge of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering to develop a device, called the "Pressure Gauge Glove", which measured force/pressure exerted by the fingers in a time- and cost-efficient manner. My background in device design was utilized in successfully creating the device using FSR resistors and NI LabVIEW; thus, gave us the opportunity to present our creation to two undergraduate design competitions in 2014: Northeastern Bioengineering Conference and Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities at Northeastern University and SBU, respectively.
After my acceptance to Cornell University (CU), I continued with my passion for cancer engineering; I joined Dr. Michael King's lab, where I started to fuse a leukocyte adhesion molecule, E-selectin, to a cancer-killing protein, TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) to improve the circulation half-life of this protein-based cancer therapeutic agent. In my exploration of a side project in King's lab, I discovered a new gene that is up-regulated in prostate cancer. I clinically proved that there is a higher expression of this gene in later stages of adenocarcinoma prostate tissue from clinical prostate tissue microarray using a computational analysis technique I have optimized for the project to eliminate the objective analysis that is usually performed on immunohistochemistry. These experiences hone my ability to integrate engineering techniques into the cancer field.
Currently I work as a Research Support Associate II at the David Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and a huge biopharmaceutical company where I am engineering a multilayered nanoparticle that delivers siRNA to knock down a biochemical drug-resistant pathway in lymphoma tumor cells. The design of the nanoparticle incorporates an antibody targeting agent and a Layer-by-Layer technique that directs the particle to the tumor site while escaping from the body's immune response. This holds a great promise as a targeted therapeutic for treating lymphoma. Presently, the project has initiated its in-vivo stageChanging the Norm while Educating the Next Generation
: As a woman in an engineering field, I lacked confidence in most of my male dominated classes. It was a challenge for me to find my footing in engineering at first. I did not want to leave the engineering world because of gender dominance; instead, I wanted to change the perspective. This is why I joined the SBU chapter of Society of Women Engineers (SWE) where I was a Secretary, President, and then an Outside Consultant. As the SWE President and Outside Consultant, I hosted and facilitated events that are varied in nature, those being professional, "Luncheons with BAE Systems", educational, "Exploring Internships" and community-based, "Discovering Engineering Day" and "Engineering Carnival." "Discovering Engineering Day" is a SWE-hosted mammoth-sized annual event, in which 50-70 Girl Scouts of Long Island came to the SBU campus to learn about engineering by participating in activities such as Newton's Rocket Cars, Electronic Matching Games, Microfluidics and etc. All these activities show the versatility of engineering and at the same time encouraged the girls to pursue their dreams, even if they were out of engineering field. I been involved with the planning of this event for five years and proud to see it continue.
My involvement in SWE has helped me strive to continue to pursue my career in the biomedical engineering world as a woman. I have joined the Cornell section of SWE where I was able to connect with SWE members who share the same passion as I do and to give back to the younger generations. I was given the opportunity to help out during the "Invent It, Built It" Workshop of the SWE 2014 National Conferences in Los Angeles, California, where 2,000 young girls from southern California came to broaden their horizon about engineering. I taught young girls about the principle of magnetic forces and how it can be used to generate energy. In the future, I will continue to share my zeal for science and engineering to K12 students, as well as design programs that allow young girls to have excess to engineering which was something I was not expose to.Motivation for Graduate Studies and Future Goals:
Integrating the knowledge obtained from biology, chemistry, mathematics, and computational analysis is a superpower that can change the perspective of cancer treatment and direct it to a more targeted drug delivery. At this stage of my life, I am ready for the challenge of conducting my own independent research specially on developing nanoparticles for cancer treatment to overcome the biological barriers to drug delivery. During my graduate studies, I hope to get a deeper understanding of the principles of nanoparticle design, polymer chemistry and clinical role of the very few approved nanoparticle out there with their limitations. This will enable me to my ultimate research goal, which is to help cancer patients by developing clinically useful formulations. After completing my PhD studies in biomedical engineering, I will pursue a career in a biopharmaceutical industry that allows me to translate academic findings and research to clinical work. This will eliminate the gap between academia research and patient compliance. Obtaining the Hertz Foundation Fellowship will provide me freedom to explore my desired field as well as time to construct outreach programs for young minds to explore the engineering field, a field that is underrepresented in our K-12 studies.