From community college to the UC vantage point

As a community college student spending my summer here at UCSB I have been afforded the opportunity to have a broadened view of the possibilities that exist beyond undergraduate studies, and the questions that lie on the precipice of scientific research.

My focus thus far has been assisting Sarah Grundeen, a PHD student in the electrical and computer engineering department, her research involves tracking electrical signals in neural tissue in a unique way. Our aim is to map electrical signaling among neurons in a three-dimensional fashion which utilizes a multi-electrode array capable of reading those signals from left to right as well as top to bottom. This is especially important because these signals are the language by which neurons communicate, and it largely remains a mystery. Many past research projects have revolved around the use of two-dimensional surfaces for tracking signals. However, neurons like everything else in our bodies are not limited to this kind of 2D restriction, so this process allows us to gain an insight that resembles their unadulterated environment.

Participating in a research program here at UCSB really allows you to determine whether going into a graduate program is something you would enjoy, as it’s not for everyone. It has personally allowed me a better view of the trade offs that lie between industry and graduate studies. I would highly recommend anyone who has an inkling of curiosity of what happens in a research lab or what scientific improvements or progression is being made at your local campus to go ahead and get involved as quickly as you can.

Sam Rios

Sam is an intern with the INSET-V program, and works in Dr. Theogarajan’s lab. His research involves using microfluidic platforms to encapsulate neurons in spheres in order to track their electrical signaling.