Unlike the rest of my friends living in Santa Barbara, I was unable to enjoy the ocean breeze while tanning on the beach because I was engaged in my research for the last eight weeks. However, I am not disappointed by this because the long lasting memories and friendships I made in the Mitragotri lab have made up for the lack of time I had to soak in the summer sun. Before I discuss my experience in the lab, I would like to talk about me and the research I conducted in the summer.
Like most undergraduates, I entered UCSB unsure about my career path. I always knew that my ultimate goal is to pursue my interest in bioengineering and use the knowledge I gain to help treat diseases. However, the path to achieving my end goal had been unclear until I joined the Mitragotri lab. So what does the Mitragotri lab research? We focus on using nanoparticles as tools for drug delivery, and this summer, I was assigned to see how different shaped nanoparticles can be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. For my project, I had two objectives: engineering and categorizing nanoparticles of various shapes (spheres, rods, disks), and identifying the mechanisms these various shaped nanoparticles undergo as they are internalized by the blood brain barrier surrounding the brain. So why is achieving these goals worth bragging about? It’s because by knowing the mechanism of how the nanoparticles are internalized, in the future, we can attach drugs to the nanoparticles along with targeting molecules to treat disease-specific sites in the brain. Through this, we will be able to treat the neurodegenerative diseases more efficiently and effectively. This research has been important for me as it allows me to explore various aspects of bioengineering. The knowledge I am gaining while working in lab is allowing me to be a master in my field of interest so that, eventually, I will make an everlasting contribution to our community.
Although one might argue that I thoroughly enjoy working in my lab because I am conducting research in the area I have always been passionate about, I know that my experience in the lab has been delightful due to the people in the lab. I consider myself to be fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to join this particular lab as it provides me with a nurturing environment, which makes the prospect of continuing research even more exciting. I believe that my research experience in the Mitragotri lab is invaluable due to my mentor, Tyler Brown. For most undergraduates, the lack of a good mentorship drives the undergraduates away from continuing their research.
However, characteristics like compassion, enthusiasm, and experience that are present in my mentor allows me to appreciate my current research. Through my experiences with my mentor, I have realized that learning the various techniques in lab is not as important as it is to have someone who will support you through your failures and successes. It is necessary to have someone who recognizes your potential and provides you with opportunities that will help pave the path towards the future, which is exactly what Tyler does. Also, the encouragement I receive from the rest of the members of the lab is priceless as well. Working alongside the graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and undergraduates has been fun since we all are a group of friends who tease each other but also look out for one another. The friendly atmosphere of the lab makes research entertaining and mentally satisfying. Overall, due to my mentor and the rest of the lab members, who all care about me and my future, I can call the Mitragotri lab my second family.