Bioengineering to fuel my work. As both a

Bioengineering is not a field for the cold and calculated—with improving human health
as the goal, I rely on my artistic inclinations to fuel my work. As both a musician and 3Ddesigner,
I embrace the synthesis of logic and emotion, which fuels me to lead, design, and
create. My current research interests revolve around applying 3D-printing principles towards
advancing tissue engineering. 3D-printing will transform medicine by opening the door to rapid
prototyping and customized patient designs in a potentially cost-effective manner. I aim to be on
the forefront of this evolving field, as I believe a PhD in Bioengineering will give me the tools
necessary to bring this technology towards clinical translation.
I learned about the incredible potential of 3D-printing through numerous research
experiences. As a freshman, I joined the lab of Professor Rohit Bhargava to initially work on
cancer related projects, which derived inspiration from my time volunteering in an oncology
ward. I self-led a project dealing with the lab’s main theme: statistical classification models for
predicting cancer malignancy using Raman spectroscopy. I developed a model for a future
project in investigating the epithelial to mesenchymal transition, a process necessary for tumor
invasion, without the need for chemical stains which could alter the cells. Here, I also had my
first taste for bioprinting, as the lab developed a printer using sacrificial materials. I spent over a
year assisting my graduate student on fabricating hollow tubule structures to model the geometry
and environment of breast ducts. With helping develop culture platforms and fabrication
protocols, I was eager to further apply 3D-printing to tissue engineering.
The following Fall I joined a student design team, under Professor Wawrzyniec
Dobrucki, to fabricate a dynamic artificial heart phantom for use as a CT, MRI, or ultrasound
protocol calibration tool. I was able to further apply my 3D-printing background to design
reusable injection molds and find materials that could mimic a natural heart’s imaging and
physical properties. As the leader of the fabrication and design subgroup, I directed my team’s
efforts towards creating multi-chamber phantoms and modeling heart pathologies; for example, I
had been working with a photocurable liquid monomer to locally simulate myocardial infarction.
While I am not fully interested in becoming an imaging researcher, I learned the incredible
potential that these technologies have for tissue engineering. It was insightful to take patient CT
data to inform my decisions for my phantom molds. The project has evolved into a startup, with
me as one of the vice presidents. It has been a unique opportunity to experience the business side
of biotechnology, leaving me excited for the future potential of entrepreneurship and
commercialization of my research.
As a junior with some design experience under my belt, I opted to take a tissue
engineering course, under Dr. Pablo Perez-Pinera, focused on fabricating small-scale, 3D-printed
bioactuators, or biobots. Although a rewarding course, I was left disappointed because none of
the biobots functioned. Thus, I reached out to Professor Rashid Bashir and his graduate student,
now Dr. Ritu Raman, who developed the biobots and was invited to join their group. I
investigated the potential for long-term cryogenic storage of muscle used to construct the
biobots. I helped find the optimal conditions for storing them for months and we discovered that
their force production increased after freezing. Because they are size-limited due to a lack of  vascularization, this finding allows for new design flexibility by generating greater force at
smaller scales. It was fantastic to see my work having potential impact on the entire subgroup.
After training with the Bashir lab, I wanted to give back to the course that initially
inspired me. Professor Pinera hired me to optimize existing labs and find alternative methods for
fabrication protocols, ideally with 3D-printing. I spent the summer before senior year
deconstructing all parts of the protocol and testing different cell and material batches. I found
new methods to optimize the biobots and have been able to reproducibly fabricate functioning
units. Furthermore, I helped create reusable molds for the biobot muscle tissue. The molds for
forming the tissue are single-time use and require specialized 3D-printers. My method utilizes a
molding process using more common 3D-printers and widely available elastomers. The parts can
be reusable, limiting the time and cost of developing the biobots. Reapplying my lab skills
towards solving the course’s prior deficiencies was rewarding not only in the sense that I could
give back to the professors that I respected so highly, but also because it felt like I was a true
tissue engineer.
My research journey has imparted a desire to use 3D-printing as a tool for tissue
engineering. Furthermore, my experiences have allowed me to find where the field may be
currently lacking with regards to clinical translation and where other bioengineering principles
can be applied. In engineered tissues, genetic techniques garnered from synthetic biology will be
necessary, especially for understanding host-tissue interactions and creating feedback loops for
controlling cell populations. This could address the issue of controlling the spatial organization
of cells and directing their growth. For biobot technologies, synthetic biology may provide a
means to yield enhanced functionality, creating therapeutic production and delivery platforms in
vivo that can degrade after pathological signals are no longer present. 3D-printing is not the full
solution to tissue engineering problems, but in conjunction with synthetic biology it could
provide a powerful avenue for clinical adoption.
Yale’s extensive expertise in tissue engineering and synthetic biology provides a strong
base for my graduate interests. My ability to adapt has allowed me to reapply techniques learned
across multiple labs, such as my initial 3D-printing experience with Professor Bhargava up to the
biobot experience with Professors Bashir and Perez. Yale has numerous leaders in the
aforementioned fields, which would be an excellent opportunity to further explore these areas. I
am driven to see these technologies through to their full clinical potential, and I hope to be one of
the researchers that leads the field in the future.