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Meet the Undergraduate Research Leaders (URLs)

College of Arts & Sciences

Sunya Akhter, Biological Sciences, '19

sia29@drexel.edu

During my STAR summer I had the opportunity to begin my work in Dr.Elefant's Lab. Our research primarily studies histone acetyltransferases (HATs), which function as epigenetic modifiers; we extensively study one such HAT: Tip60. This has been associated with a number of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's Disorder. Tip60 has been shown to play a crucial role in regulating expression of essential cognition-associated genes, which are misregulated in AD brain. I have continued my studies in Dr. Elefant's lab and currently am studying the effect of overexpressing Tip60 on synaptic plasticity gene expression in drosophila neuronal system.

Niteesha Betini, Biological Sciences, '20

nb636@drexel.edu

During the winter term of my freshman year, I began working in the Elefant lab, where I learned about and aided the lab’s research into the effects of the histone acetyltransferase, Tip60 HAT, on the development of several neurodegenerative disorders. Through STAR, I continued working in the Elefant lab. However, through this program, I had the opportunity to conduct an independent research project into the effects of Tip60 HAT on the learning and memory retention of Parkinson’s disease model Drosophila flies. Over the course of the program, I discovered that increasing Tip60 HAT expression slightly improves the cognitive defects caused by Parkinson’s disease, implying that there may be potential treatments for Parkinson’s disease involving Tip60 HAT after much future research. Since STAR, I have continued to work in the Elefant lab, as the lab proceeds with its ongoing research into Tip60 HAT and more.

Ishaan Jay Bhatt, Biological Sciences, ‘20

ijb24@drexel.edu

During the summer after my freshman year, I was very fortunate to work in the Bethea Lab as a STAR Scholar. In my STAR project I helped examine the supra-spinal effects of a TNFR2 agonist in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), which is an animal model for multiple sclerosis (MS). Both MS and EAE are autoimmune and inflammatory diseases involving demyelination in the central nervous system, and MS affects many individuals around the world. The main purpose of my project was to understand the mechanism of an agonist of Tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 in the hippocampus. This receptor is known to have remyelinating and neuroprotective properties when activated by a membrane bound inflammatory cytokine called tumor necrosis factor alpha. I mainly performed Western Blotting to quantify protein markers in the control, EAE-Saline, and EAE-TNFR2 groups. Overall, I had an outstanding STAR research experience and my lab members, the Office of Undergraduate Research, and the URLs were especially helpful. I continue to volunteer in the lab during the school year, and I highly recommend students to get involved in research as soon as possible. I am extremely excited by the opportunity to assist student-researchers in the future as a URL.

Omesh Dhar Dwivedi, Physics, ‘22

odd23@drexel.edu

I am a physics sophomore and am also a part of the honors program. In my free time, I play competitive chess, do competitive parliamentary debating and love skimming through the Economist. I participated in the 2018 STAR Scholars program and did research regarding creating GEANT4 Simulations of the Drexel Bubble Chamber for Dark Matter detection.

Eric Gebski, Biological Sciences, '21

ebg42@drexel.edu

I first became involved in research at the end of my freshman year through participating in the STAR Scholars program in Dr. Michael Akins’s lab. My STAR project focused on studying Fragile X Syndrome (FXS). FXS is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability or autism and is caused by the loss of a single gene, Fmr1, which encodes for Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP). FXS is characterized by cognitive disabilities, hyperactivity, and hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli. For my STAR project I used the Fmr1 null mouse and behavior assays to understand the behavioral differences in sensitivity to olfactory stimuli due to the loss of FMRP. Through the use of a dilution curve of both attractive and aversive odorants, we found that Fmr1 null mice spent longer investigating the attractive odorant than wild type mice. This Fall, I have continued work on my STAR project and started new projects. I am currently working on quantifying times that Fmr1 null and wild type mice studied attractive and aversive odorants during the behavioral assay I conducted during STAR. I am also working on using expansion microscopy to study FXS. Through participating in STAR Scholars and continuing my research I have come to see the integral part that conducting research plays in my education at Drexel. I have come to more deeply understand the topics covered in lectures through my research. I believe that everyone should participate in experience at some point in their undergraduate career. If you have any questions about how to get started in a lab or want to discuss the research I have done so far in my career, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Marissa Henry, Environmental Science, ‘22

mjh453@drexel.edu

My first opportunity to conduct research was during my freshman year in the STAR Program. I worked in Dr. Jason Weckstein’s lab at the Academy of Natural Sciences in the ornithology department. For my project, I analyzed the effect of parasites that cause malaria-like infections in birds. I ran a PCR protocol for over 1,000 samples to determine if seasonality had any influence on the amount of infections contracted for local and migratory birds in Pennsylvania. I have continued to work in the ornithology department for about 6 hours a week to analyze my results from the summer. Taking part in research so early on in my education affirmed my interests in environmental science, and the STAR Program allowed me to gain invaluable lab practice.

Hannah Johnson, Biological Sciences, ‘21

hsj27@drexel.edu

Undergraduate research has been a significant part of my college experience since I completed the SEA-PHAGES biology research program during my freshman year. SEA-PHAGES helped me to sharpen my lab techniques and established my passion for biological research. In the spring of my freshman year, I began researching the impact of dopamine on HIV at the Gaskill Lab in the Drexel University College of Medicine. Through STAR, I continued my work with the Gaskill Lab full time. Currently, I continue my work part time at the Gaskill Lab and have presented this work at Drexel's Discovery Day. I look forward to expanding my own love of research, as well as encouraging others to pursue research and discover the unknown!

Annette Kang, Biological Sciences, '19

akk49@drexel.edu

As an honors biology student, I was given the opportunity to participate in the SEA PHAGES program during my freshman year. Each quarter focused on specific aspects of research including hands-on lab work, bioinformatics research and independent design research in the last term. My research focused on isolating different phage populations through the identification of cluster-specific genes and primers. Although my time as a SEA PHAGES student ended in freshman year, I continued to work on the bioinformatics aspect during the summer and am still annotating genomes for incomplete sequences with my supervising professor from the program. Ultimately, I believe that research has furthered my education and experience, allowing me to grow as a scientist. SEA PHAGES was a great introduction into research that successfully combined independent work with collaborative thinking along with my peers and I believe that has immensely contributed to my undergraduate research experience here at Drexel. I hope to continue to pursue more research opportunities in other labs and hope that as a URL, I will be able to share and expose more undergraduates to the amazing benefits that research can offer!

Jawhara Karam, Biological Sciences, '21

jmk524@drexel.edu

Throughout my freshman year at Drexel, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to participate in the SEA-Phages program, which provides undergraduate students the chance to engage in hands-on discovery research early on in their college careers. The SEA-Phages program focused on research with bacteriophages and the phages' interactions with Mycobacterium smegmatis. Overall, the program was a great introduction to undergraduate research. During the summer after my freshman year, I participated in STAR and joined Dr. Haifeng Ji's lab as an undergraduate student. Throughout the summer, my research primarily focused on constructing polymer-coated field effect transistors to be used as glucose biosensors. I was particularly excited to take on this project because it allowed me to explore disciplines outside my major. Currently, I am on co-op and am working with a small pharmaceutical whose research centers on discovering new compounds to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. After my co-op, I hope to continue working as an undergraduate student in Dr. Ji's lab and to assist with his research in biofilms.

Lauren Kirk, Biological Sciences, '20

lak326@drexel.edu

My STAR research consisted of studying Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) in a neurobiology lab at Drexel. FXS is the #1 autism-associated disorder, and occurs through a transcriptional silencing of the FMR1 gene, which leads to translational mutation of the Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FRMP). Patients with Fragile X often experience sensory hypersensitivity, where they perceive sensations stronger than the average human. In my research, we worked to understand the molecular and biological causation behind olfactory hypersensitivity within a Fragile X mouse model. We found some amazing results that have helped us pave the way for further exploration into hypersensitivity and what it reveals to us about the disorder as a whole. I absolutely loved my time in my research lab, and am eager to continue to help my lab learn more about FXS. My time in STAR really showed me my passion in research, and I want to help other students experience and discover a love for research as well. Undergraduate research is one of the best opportunities given to Drexel students, in my opinion, and I believe every student should understand their options and possibilities when it comes to research. With all the amazing work being done at Drexel, I find it paramount that students take advantage of these opportunities, and I want to help them along the way!

Dmytro Klitchyk, Biological Sciences, ‘20

dk648@drexel.edu

I am currently pursuing a BS/MS in Biology with an intense focus on academic research. I have been working in the Bethea lab for over a year, working closely with Dr. Jerome Ricard. Currently, my projects include elucidating the functions of receptor tyrosine kinase Eph receptors, specifically how these receptors play a role in signaling cell death in stressful conditions. I am also an active member of TriBeta and the SuperNova program.

Elizabeth McCluskey, Biological Sciences, '20

esm49@drexel.edu

My freshman year at Drexel, I had the opportunity to participate in the SEA PHAGES program while I was taking introductory Biology courses. This program was my first real experience with undergraduate research at Drexel. It lasts for all 3 quarters of freshman year, each quarter building on the last, working up to one independent research project on finding, isolating, and genetically sequencing local phages. My experience with research in class inspired me to look for research co-ops. My first co-op was a research assistant position at LIMR, where I researched the role of epithelial barrier function in cancer and infectious and inflammatory diseases. We also looked at the effect of nutrition on reducing the epithelial barrier "leak" that we found.

I look forward to continuing research myself and hearing about the experiences that my peers have had!

Shivani Patel, Biological Sciences, '20

sp3298@drexel.edu

I have been involved in research at Drexel through various programs, such as SEA-PHAGES and STAR. Throughout my freshman year, I participated in the SEA-PHAGES program, where I was able to purify and isolate a bacteriophage that infected Mycobacterium smegmatis. In the following quarter, I was exposed to the upcoming field of bioinformatics, where I contributed to annotating several phage genomes. The last quarter consisted of designing an independent research project. My main focus was trying to create a stable lysogen, in which other bacteriophages could subsequently infect. SEA-PHAGES was my first experience in research and led me to participating in the STAR program.

During my STAR summer in the Petrie lab, my research focused on regulating the formation of cellular protrusions, specifically lamellipodia, through osmotic pressure in fibroblasts. Lamellipodia are one of the many distinct types of protrusions that cells can form to migrate across 2D and 3D surfaces. Such protrusions play a critical role in the migration of metastasized cancer cells. The formation of these protrusions are controlled by the activation of Rho GTPases. I am currently determining if lamellipodia formation is governed by pressure or biochemical signaling pathways, or a combination of both.

The research opportunities at Drexel has allowed me to explore my research interests and has been a valuable experience for me. Whether or not becoming a researcher is your ultimate goal, undergraduates should take advantage of the research opportunities because it is a great learning experience.

Kevin Sievers, Geoscience, '21

kns67@drexel.edu

For my STAR research, I worked with the Vertebrate Paleontology Department at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University to digitally map the lower jaw of Tiktaalik roseae, a stem tetrapod from Devonian-age rocks of the Canadian Arctic. Working on this project allowed me to attend or present at several subject-specific research conferences (both domestic and international) and network with a number of esteemed professionals in the field - all during the summer of my freshman year. Since then I have continued to work closely with the Academy and its affiliated organizations, continuing my work in the research collections and sharpening my science communication skills while conducting outreach events in the museum's public exhibits. Participating in these projects has provided me with invaluable experience, especially considering my position as an early career researcher within a relatively small field of study. With the incredible skills I during the STAR program and the support of both OUR and the Academy, I hope to take it even further within the next few years.

Carly Smith, Biological Sciences, '20

cjs423@drexel.edu

My first opportunity to do undergraduate research presented itself during my freshman year when, as an honors biology student, I was able to participate in the SEA PHAGES program. In that program I gained knowledge on important lab techniques while also isolating a novel bacteriophage from the environment, annotating a phage genome, and conducting self-directed experiments on my own phage to learn more about it. The lab experience that I gained in that course allowed me to secure further research opportunities in Alzheimer’s research, virology research, and cancer research.

As a STAR student I worked with a Drosophila melanogaster model to explore a potential novel drug treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in Dr. Daniel Marenda’s lab. I continue my work there, and plan to construct my master’s thesis around my work so far with Alzheimer’s disease. I have also had two research-based co-op positions. The first was at a small pharmaceutical company where I worked with viruses such as BK, Chikungunya, and Zika virus to run high-throughput drug screens on each pathogen in order to isolate potentially novel drug treatments for those diseases. The second was a research position at Fox Chase Cancer Center where I worked with a team of scientists conducting ovarian cancer research. I maintained up to 10 different cell lines at a time, each a different expression of ovarian cancer, and used them to determine the role of a protein called CDON and its effects on cancer and tumorigenesis.

Without early experiences in research labs at Drexel, I would never have been able to get such interesting and engaging co-ops. I am extremely grateful for the research opportunities that I was given early in my undergraduate time at Drexel, and I hope to be able to continue to use these past experiences to extend my research into a future career.

Gayathri Vijayakumar, Biological Sciences, '19


gv93@drexel.edu

My name is Gayathri Vijayakumar and I am a second-year Biological Sciences major. As a STAR scholar, I was granted the opportunity to conduct my research in Dr. Elefant’s lab regarding the effects of HAT Tip60 on the learning and memory in Drosophila Huntington’s disease model larvae. Following my STAR research, I have been continuing to work in Dr. Elefant’s lab as we are studying neurodegeneration experienced from Alzheimer’s disease in an epigenetic standpoint. Through working at this lab from both STAR and throughout the school year, I have gained confidence with laboratory techniques and better understand the role of epigenetics in neurodegenerative disorders. Working in a research laboratory opens many doors for students, but I am most thankful to the Elefant lab for pushing me to read primary research articles which has transcended into critical analysis skills I utilize in several of my classes. Although I am nowhere near done with research in my undergraduate career, I am already so grateful for all of the experiences and lessons from it and I highly encourage other undergraduates to get involved in research that interests them.

Jakub Zegar, Environmental Science, '20


jjz49@drexel.edu

During my summer participating in the STAR program, I worked on a multitude of projects with the Laboratory of Pinelands Research in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. These projects included stream surveying, Northern Pine Snake radio-telemetric tracking, and successional arthropod sampling and identification. I gained an incredible amount of knowledge and skills participating in these projects. Nonetheless, my particular research focused on the influence of environmental variables on anuran community structure.

Anurans, which include frogs and toads, are incredibly important organisms. Because of their especially permeable skin, anurans serve as great bio-indicators of environmental quality. Currently facing worldwide decline, understanding the relationship between anuran species composition and abiotic parameters associated with land-use change is imperative for the long-term conservation of these species. For my research, I compared the difference in local species richness along a wetland disturbance gradient at the Warren Grove Gunnery Range to elucidate the effects of landscape change on community structure. Specifically, I compared the impacts of water quality and fire frequency on anuran distribution. Using correlative analysis, I found that anurans were more greatly impacted by water quality, specifically water depth, than fire frequency. This is because these anuran populations adapted to survive frequent wildfires, however have only in recent decades faced the threats of diminishing water quality caused by hotter and drier seasons as a result of global warming.

Currently, I am continuing my work with the Laboratory of Pinelands Research on their ongoing arthropod project as well as expanding my own anuran research. The STAR program evoked my interest in research and I am now taking it upon myself to further my career as a research scientist. 

College of Computing & Informatics

Nick DeFilippis, Computer Science & Mathematics, ‘22


nad98@drexel.edu

My first experience with research was with the STAR program during my freshman summer. Even though I am a Computer Science major, I did my research with the Computational Astrophysics group inside of the Physics department. I was looking at the effects of close stellar encounters in star clusters on the orbits of planetary bodies. Specifically, I simulated thousands of encounters of a star flying close to the TRAPPIST-1 system and calculating the probability of significant perturbations.

The great thing about research is that it can be done in an area that isn't directly related to your major, but an area that you still have vested interest in. My experience in the STAR program exposed me to the many facets of academic research, from abstract writing to presentations. Even if I don't end up doing research for a career, the skills I learned as an undergraduate researcher transfer very well to other industries.

Adit Gupta, Software Engineering, '19


ag338@drexel.edu

My first interaction with academic research was during the second term of my freshman year. Unlike an academic curriculum, research does not have boundaries or limitations. One's research is the product or their intellectual curiosity and interest. Ever since I can remember, I have been enthusiastic about computers and technology in general. My research, thus far, has involved software development and pattern recognition. During the summer of my freshman year I was fortunate enough to participate in the STAR Scholars summer program. During the entirety of that summer I developed an application called the ELEXIR EXPLANATION GUI (EEG). The EEG displays the critical information about each individual explanation from a verbose text file, in a modular and easily accessible manner. The Engine for LEXicalized Intent Recognition(ELEXIR) is a piece of software that performs this task. The output of each ELEXIR execution contains multiple explanations. Each explanation contains complex data structures that capture hypothesized possible plans, initial states before the plan was executed, final states after its execution, and statistics about the plans relative likelihood. Much of this information is the same across all explanations, but some of it differs. All of this information makes each explanation verbose and the redundancy makes it burdensome to distinguish the differences between explanations. The software that I have developed is used by pattern recognition researchers and aids the users in differential diagnosis and critical analysis of data. Where do I begin! Not only has research allowed me to learn about a subject I am very interested in on a more in-depth level, it has also taught me many crucial skills that I will be able to utilize throughout my life. Research has helped me become a better scholar and even broadened my knowledge to enable me to act as a mentor.

Naimisha Rachakonda, Computer Science '21

 
nr483@drexel.edu

My first exposure to research was through the STAR Scholars program where I worked at Drexel's Empathetic Research and Design Lab under Dr. Gabriela Marcu. My research was focused on creating a prototype that followed a user-centered design approach to explore the appropriate balance between data security and usability. One of the most rewarding parts of this experience was seeing my major through a brand new perspective. As a computer science major, the great deal of my coursework was very programming intensive. While my research was still technical based in that I used HTML, CSS, and AJAX to develop my project, I learned about the creative world of UX design and just how important factors like the usability and feasibility of a product are to a user. Furthermore, I learned to enrich my writing and analytic skills by rewriting and drafting abstracts and enhance my public speaking skills by presenting my research at the annual STAR showcase. The skills that I have gained through my undergraduate research experience have proved to be very handy on my first co-op as a software developer as one of my job responsibilities includes designing UIs for the various applications we produce. I truly see research as being an integral component to my education here at Drexel as I plan to pursue the BS/MS program in computer science and continue to stay involved with my STAR mentor's research. I would highly encourage undergrads here at Drexel to incorporate research into their curriculum because it puts you out of your comfort zone as everyone around you, including your mentor is learning right alongside you as opposed to your professors lecturing to you in the classroom. Even if you plan on working in industry, research forces you to dig deeper and think more critically and these are two of the most fundamental skills you can take out of your college experience and it all starts with undergraduate research.

College of Engineering

Jacob Baron, Computer Engineering, '21

jab644@drexel.edu

My first experience with undergraduate research was through my STAR project during the summer of 2017 in which I research general purpose programming using a graphical processing unit (GPU). The purpose of this project was to port basic mathematical algorithms onto a GPU and determine the speed-ups using Amdahl’s Law. Through this project, I was able to utilize my skills in GPU programming to contribute to research projects such as a Department of Defense sponsored Video Source and Authenticity Project and a scientific imaging library. In addition to research in high performance computer architecture, I have also been engaged in research in Very Large Scale Integrated Circuitry (VLSI) and am a member of the Drexel University VLSI and Architecture Lab. I plan to continue my engagement in active research on campus and use my experiences as an undergraduate to pursue higher education.

Neil Eelman, Computer Engineering, ‘20

neil.r.eelman@drexel.edu

Unlike many undergraduate researchers I did not participate in STAR, so I hope to provide a unique perspective on how to get involved with research at Drexel. My first interaction with research was at my second co-op at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, where I collaborated on the Airborne Collision Avoidance System for the FAA. Experiencing the research atmosphere there piqued my interest in doing research at Drexel. I now work on adiabatic logic workflows in the VLSI and Architecture Lab in the ECE department. My primary focus has been on developing scheduling algorithms to transform combinational CMOS circuitry into stages of adiabatic gates. I plan to continue my research throughout my time at Drexel and to engage other undergraduates to encourage them to pursue research.

Angela Le, Materials Science & Engineering, '20

anl82@drexel.edu

Hi! My name is Angela Le and I am majoring in Materials Science and Engineering with a concentration in Environmental Engineering. Ever since I was little, I was interested in science; from participating in various "Science in the Summer" Programs at my local library to attending talks and demonstrations showcasing various research programs such as "Philly Materials Day" and "The Philadelphia Science Festival", my love of science grew with my understanding of how I could make a difference in my community.

I began conducting independent research since senior year of high school. I was interested in getting a more hands-on experience in science and research and so I applied for a student research program at Fox Chase Cancer Center. The Immersion Science Program gave high school students like myself the ability to get that engaging research experience I craved with my very own project! To put it short, it involved making glass-pipette needles and wounding Drosophila melanogaster 3rd instar larvae. Aka, I stabbed fruit fly larvae; as odd as it sounds, I loved the entire experience and it propelled my interest in the area further. Once the 11-week program concluded, I was invited back by the lab head, Dr. Alana O'Reilly, and was able to continue my research with the wound healing process.

Once I came to Drexel, I knew I was capable to doing research but wanted to learn more about my major. In December of my freshman year, I joined the Natural Polymers and Photonics Lab working with biopolymers and electrospinning under Dr. Caroline Schauer. Imagine making water and air filters using hair and orange peels! For STAR, I stayed with that group, continuing my research with the biopolymers and was able to present my findings at the STAR Summer Showcase 2016. It was an amazing experience which even landed me a job offer working with a Drexel-based start-up!

Research has allowed me to delve deeper in specific areas of science whether it be from clinically to academic. With every question answered, there are five new ones that develop. This ever-growing area requires you to grow with it; in this respect, you are always learning and growing and that is something to appreciate in itself. I hope to one day use my passions in science, the environment and problem-solving and leave a lasting impact on the world, whether it be through biodegradable plastics or seed-infused compostable coffee cups.

Cassandra Lees, Chemical Engineering, '20


cml398@drexel.edu

Unlike a lot of my ambitious classmates, I did not know I wanted to do research when I first started at Drexel. I was interested in doing hands-on applications of what I'd learned in class, but was intimidated by my lack of completed coursework. My first research experience was my first co-op, where I did full-time electrochemistry research with Dr. Maureen Tang. My project is ozone generation for water purification, focusing on synthesis and characterization of electrocatalytic anode materials. I developed a new way to synthesize an existing material, and characterized the differences in surface morphology and crystal structure using SEM and XRD in Drexel's Core Research Facilities. Getting involved with undergraduate research is by far the best decision I've made at Drexel! I'm now involved with my department, have a more applicable understanding of what I've learned in classes, and am considering graduate school so that I can continue to do research as a career. My favorite thing I've done as a researcher is travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota to present my co-op findings as a poster at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' 2017 national conference. I'm excited to be a URL so I can get more practice presenting my work!

J’Anna-Mare Lue, Chemical Engineering, ‘22

jl399@drexel.edu

I am an international student hailing from the beautiful island of Jamaica. My first formal experience with research was through the STAR Scholars program. I participated in iSTAR - conducting water, sanitation, and hygiene in Sekameng, Lesotho. My research focused on the social, economic, and health impacts of drought on the residents of the community of Sekameng.

Adrian Mendonsa, Chemical Engineering, '20

aam385@drexel.edu

My first interaction with research was in Dr. Baxter’s lab in the Chemical and Biological department through the STAR program. My project required me to collaborate closely with a graduate student/mentor in the lab, as I studied carrier lifetimes and recombination dynamics in perovskite oxides. The data was obtained by using a single wavelength pump pulse to excite the carriers and after a time delay, a probe pulse was fired to track the relaxation of carriers. The data was then modeled with partial differential equations to help characterize the recombination types of these carriers. The project I am currently helping on is an advancement on my STAR project. The goal is to find suitable PV materials to help make better solar cells. 

Nicholas Trainor, Chemical Engineering, '19

njt35@drexel.edu

Research into 2-dimensional materials has and continues to be an essential component of my Drexel education. I first started research as a STAR Scholar working with the Drexel Nanomaterials Institute. My project focused on the assembly of MXene/Graphene composite films for use as electrodes in supercapacitors. MXenes are a family of two-dimensional transition metal carbides first developed at Drexel and have great promise in electrochemical applications. We used a novel technique of spraying alternating coats of MXene and graphene on a substrate to form free standing films and were able to create a letter sized film using this method. We then characterized their performance as supercapacitor electrodes. For my first co-op, I continued to work with the Drexel Nanomaterials Institute and was involved with several different projects, including MXene synthesis, modification of surface chemistry and electronic and medical applications. For my second co-op, I worked with Dr. Karapetrov in the Physics Department on thin film growths of titanium diselenide, a transition metal dichalogenide that possesses a charge density wave phase, and was trained in atomic force microscopy and photolithography. Additionally, I am pursuing my Master’s in Materials Science and Engineering and will be work on my thesis with the Drexel Nanomaterials Institute. I plan on attending graduate school and obtaining a doctorate in either chemical engineering or materials science and engineering. As a URL, I look forward to promoting undergraduate research as it will surely benefit others as it has benefited me.

Kevin Wu, Materials Science & Engineering, '20

kw589@drexel.edu

Research has been an integral part of my experience here at Drexel. It's allowed me to connect with professors in my field, and other motivated students who share my academic interests. It has also given me the confidence to pursue other opportunities involving research both at Drexel and outside of Drexel. I intend to utilize the experiences gained through undergraduate research to improve the quality and efficiency of my work in future co-ops as well.

This past summer, I worked with Dr. Hao Cheng in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering to examine the immune cell interactions of two different scaffolds. The information gained from my work is critical in determining future biomedical applications of these macro porous scaffolds. I now continue to work with Dr. Hao Cheng during the school year researching various methods of scaffold synthesis to increase pore size.

Philip Weigel, Electrical Engineering, '20

plw38@drexel.edu

Like most, my introduction to research at Drexel was the STAR Scholars program in the Summer of 2016. My research was on the development of an apparatus to grow and monitor solid xenon crystals. The purpose of the experiment is to characterize solid xenon, which could be used in experiments for detecting rare nuclear decays. My main focus was working on a control system for the apparatus and a web interface to monitor parameters such as the temperature and pressure at different parts of the system. The reason for having the system was to be able to monitor all of the data coming from the apparatus without being physically there since it has be kept in a clean environment. Since the Summer, I’ve been continuing my research during classes and my first co-op will be focused on research in a similar field, but shifting more towards the design of larger scale devices and experiments.

LeBow College of Business

Sarah Malik, Business and Engineering, '20

sm3658@drexel.edu

Through the STAR program, in the summer of 2016, I worked on developing a new construct for knowledge sharing in non-profit organizations. A lot of research has been conducted on how information travels from one person to another in a corporate environment. However, none of the studies have considered what happens after the knowledge sharing has occurred. My research was focused on how knowledge can be leveraged for strategic gains within the organization. The experience not only taught me about constructing a dissertation proposal, but also about how I can be a part of academia one day. Research has allowed me to continue my passion for learning while making a difference. I enjoy making new connections across disciplines and challenging myself to think outside of the box. The program further motivated me to reach my dream of becoming a professor at Drexel University and, eventually, making an impact in education across the globe. I look forward to finding more meaningful connections with research as my educational career continues. 

Taylor Van, Finance, Operations and Supply Chain Management, ‘22

Ttv33@drexel.edu

While I was a STAR Scholar, I researched and presented a method to bring an effective and innovative microfinance institution to America. The institution would be able to build impoverished Americans to become self-sufficient entrepreneurs. I noticed during my research that microfinance institutions focused in developing countries, targeted women, and were only open to individuals near the institution. I developed a method that would be open to all minorities, operate under one infrastructure, and provide useful resources and education. The experience taught me about microfinance, Drexel University as a non-profit, non-profits in the area, building scholarly work, and even graphic design. Research has the ability to grow and touch lives and is relevant no matter what your major or interests are. I am excited to continue my work as a researcher and possibly put my business plan to the test.

Emma Zdgiebloski, Management Information Systems, ‘19

Pennoni Honors College

Aditi Bawa, Custom-Design: Biomedical Science Policy, ‘22

ab3872@drexel.edu

I first got involved with undergraduate research during my freshman year when I learned about Dr. Marcolongo's Biomaterials Lab in the Materials Science and Engineering department. I immediately knew that I was interested in working in her lab during STAR and began getting acquainted with the graduate students and completing my trainings during the rest of my freshman year. This way when I began the STAR summer term, I was able to jump right into the research. I got to work specifically on culturing cells that were then attached onto nano fiber shish kebab (NFSK) polymers. These polymers have shown evidence to regenerate bone and I got to be at the forefront of this amazing research. The skills I learned taught me to hone in on my critical thinking and analytical cognition! More than anything I learned about my passion for research and wanted to see how to contribute in other disciplines. As a custom-designed major studying the intersection between biomedical sciences, public policy, and public health, I am so glad to have had a pure science research experience to teach me the technical skills I need for research in a more science, technology, and society (STS) setting. Doing research at the undergraduate level is so vital to helping you understand where you see yourself going in the next few years. For me, my STAR research helped me realize that I wanted to change my whole major yet continue on doing research becaues it's just something I'm so passionate about. Coming to a consensus like this is much easier when you are exposed to practical settings, and that's exactly what doing research here at Drexel has taught me. I am so grateful for not only having the opportunity, but also being encouraged to pursue practical learning right from my first year. I've learned so much more about myself and my career goals through this, and hope to continue on in the research field to make impacts in the field of science policy.

School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

Roze Alzabey, Biomedical Engineering, '21


ra643@drexel.edu

Participating in undergraduate research at Drexel University significantly enriched my academic career as a Drexel student and transformed my future as a Biomedical engineer. The STAR scholar program was my first experience into the realm of research. During STAR, I spent my time at a neural circuit engineering laboratory with Dr. Catherine von Reyn. During which I worked on fruit flies; dissecting their brains and rewiring their neural connections, with the ultimate goal of restoring the function of damaged neural circuits. During that summer, I acquired the competence to think innovatively within my field and carry the ultimate goal of finding a cure for neurodegenerative diseases. I plan to utilize research as an integrated part of my learning experience and future career, and to constantly use the skills that Drexel University provides for me and which the STAR program has established in me. Research has been an eye-opening experience in which I have discovered an entirely new spectrum of achievements and unlimited opportunities, it allowed me to further deepen my dedication for my career and my passion to changing the world.

Pratishtha Guckhool, Biomedical Engineering, ‘22

Pg458@drexel.edu

My first research project was based on investigating the role of two cell adhesion molecules, Neurexins and Neuroligins, on neurite structure and synaptic connectivity within the central brain of the Drosophila melanogaster fly. Taking on such a complex project as a freshman at Drexel was intimidating and hard but I am grateful for the opportunity I had to work in the Drexel Neural Circuit Laboratory through the STAR Scholars Program under the mentorship of Dr Catherine von Reyn. I was able to learn more than just the importance of these proteins that could be used as a tool for rewiring neural circuits and restoring their function. I learnt how to read journal articles to better understand this aspect of the neuroscience field in which I was doing research and how to present my work to field specific and more general audiences. Dissecting brains, imaging using confocal microscopy and data analysis using Matlab are few of the skills I acquired over the time I was doing research. The STAR Scholars program has been a stepping stone for me to discover more research opportunities and attend and present at other conferences. My exposure to research in neuroengineering has facilitated both my academic and professional development and has confirmed the reason why I chose biomedical engineering as my major – combining my knowledge of the medical world with engineering techniques to provide better health care services to patients, mainly those suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders.

Raj S. Patel, Biomedical Engineering, '21

rsp65@drexel.edu

Over my STAR term, I worked in Dr. Wheatley’s Microencapsulation lab. The lab focuses on targeted drug delivery through the use of ultrasound contrast agents, aka gas filled microbubbles. I worked on creating these microbubbles in a non-traditional way, specifically, through the science of microfluidics, which deals with liquids constrained on a micron scale.

Working over those 10 weeks in STAR taught me a lot about research and solidified my desire to pursue a career in pharmaceutical related research. My research experience also gave me the opportunity to apply all the knowledge and theory I learned in class directly into the real world. I benefited from this greatly as it enforced the importance of all the theories and concepts I learned and will learn here at Drexel.

I think research is a wonderful way for students to get involved and expand their understanding of various concepts that intrigue them. STAR students get first hand experience and knowledge in their chosen field of study, and allow them to have an understanding and appreciation of research that not many freshmen can get.

John Quinlan, Biomedical Engineering, '19

jaq36@drexel.edu

I have been involved with research at Monell Chemical Senses Center where I analyzed receptor expression on immune cells, Drexel University College of Medicine where I helped describe the properties of a new drug for metastatic breast cancer, and at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson where I helped identify new biomarkers for prostate cancer.

I first got involved with research during my freshman year, when I began working at Monell. I spent the summer after my freshman year in the STAR program at DUCOM. I continued working at Monell my sophomore and pre-junior year at Monell, and spent my first co-op at Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Through switching labs so much, I have come to understand different lab cultures, and figured out how to contact investigators about new research opportunities.
Research has allowed me to better tailor my plan of study to my interests, and has helped me understand the real-world applications of what I am studying. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the work I have been involved in, about getting started in a lab, or about research in different sectors! I am always happy to help out. 

Shubhra Rastogi, Biomedical Engineering, '20


sr946@drexel.edu

Over the summer of my freshman year I worked in Dr. Kara Spiller's Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine lab. It was quite easily one of the best summers of my life. I worked to characterize phagocytosis of nanoparticles by various macrophages in real time through live-cell imaging and inflammatory cytokine release assays. The big-picture goal was to understand how nanoparticle uptake occurs so future studies can work with drug-loaded nanoparticles using macrophages as a vehicle to the intended target.

The connections I made and the relationships I cultivated during those short 10 weeks helped me in ways I could not have imagined. I am sitting in my first co-op at Johnson and Johnson R&D, hired due to my experience. My classes are relevant, and inspire me in the design of future experiments. I have graduate student mentors who understand academic rigor in the exact field I want to explore. If you are interested in going above and beyond what is expected of you in your freshmen year, STAR is for you! If you are interested in gaining experience in a learning environment, undergraduate research is for you! 

Jennifer Sanville, Biomedical Engineering, '19


jas825@drexel.edu

As a STAR Scholar, I performed research in a Biomechanics lab on campus. My project is titled, "Thoracic Deformity in Early Onset Scoliosis," and I worked (and continue working) on taking measurements in 3D to quantify the amount of deformity seen in these patients aged 0 to 3. Additionally, I perform many comprehensive literature studies for my lab in order to find new research that is still needed in order to have a full understanding of the implications that scoliosis and other deformities have on the body. While on campus research has taught me leadership skills as well as resourcefulness through Drexel's available databases, off campus research has also been crucial to my love of research. For my first co-op, I am working for the Center for Injury for Research Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. There, I take part in executing studies that examine driving behaviors in various populations and actively work to improve bad behaviors. Working in labs and performing research helps you to connect more with that topic than you could in a classroom setting, something that I think has been vital to my undergraduate career. I think everyone should take part in research during their undergraduate years because, no matter the major, there is always something useful and relevant to be learned both on and off campus.

Jilian Saunders, Biomedical Engineering, ‘22

Jcs452@drexel.edu

Through high school, I had always been quite interested in research, though my first research experience did not truly begin until the spring term of my freshman year. In May 2018, I began training for my STAR project. During STAR, I worked in a neuroscience lab under Dr. Akins in which we study Fragile X Syndrome, which is the most common form of genetically inherited autism. FXS is caused by a mutation in the FMR1 gene, that silences the production of the Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP). For my STAR project, I focused on examining where Fragile X Granules (biological granules composed of FMRP, FXR2P, mRNA, and associated ribosomes) localize in the spinal cord of a mouse model. I quantified the FXG localization in both Wild type mice and Fragile X mice in order to compare if FXG localization will change in the absence of FMRP and see where in general FXG's are located in axons. I am now continuing my project from STAR and more closely examining what function FXG's may have in the spinal cord.

Through STAR, I realized I had fallen in love with research and am looking to pursue it through co-ops and as a potential career. Also, by participating in research outside of major, I have found that I have a passion for neuroscience. By participating in research at Drexel, I have had so many new opportunities cross my path that i never before would have imagined. Being able to learn in class, but also gain hands on experience and a more authentic understanding of biology is truly incredible. I am excited to continue my undergraduate research work at Drexel, and cannot wait to see what opportunities cross my path in the future!