I was a third year in college and had landed a dream summer internship at the California Institute of Technology to conduct research on how to build a heart with just a few cells to start.
The need for transplant organs and soft tissue exceeds the supply, and current research shows that this gap continues to widen. Someone very special to me in my life was in serious need of a skin graft and was able to use skin from another part of their body to create the graft. Unfortunately, not all patients are as lucky.
This is why at 19 years old, I was ecstatic to land a summer job working with Dr. Morteza Gharib, the founder of the Medical Engineering Division at CalTech, to grow tissue from just a few cells.
With my wonderful mentor Hesham, a postdoc in lab at the time, I tested how different mechanical stimuli changed the growth of connective tissue, or fibroblasts, using a technique called time-lapse imaging. To watch the cells grow, I built a "bioreactor" that provided the right environmental conditions to stabilize the cells will I examined them under the microscope.
I was shocked when I could actually see a difference in how the cells grew after I manipulated them in the right away. And even more amazed that the CalTech Undergraduate Research Journal published my work and featured me as the Cover Story! And I was invited to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudia Arabia to present my work!! It all felt a little too good to be true and only left me wanting more. I wanted to continue to make new discoveries and travel the world to share my work.
This experience ignited my passion for research and, specifically, inspired my passion for microscopy.
Thankfully, my CV has grown since 2014!
This experience was such a great way to dip my toes into the world of research. I am so excited to share more scientific experiences and adventures with you all moving forward.
Lots of love!