Congratulations to Anna for winning a President’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA) for Summer 2018! PURA fund student salaries to conduct undergraduate research with Georgia Tech faculty and offset travel expenses for undergraduates to present their research at professional conferences. Between two hundred and three hundred competitive awards are offered on campus each year. Read more about PURA here.
Gabe Kwong Honored by Georgia Tech’s Center for Teaching and Learning
Gabe Kwong, assistant professor, will receive the Center for Teaching and Learning/BP America Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.
Kwong investigates cancer nanotechnology, engineering immunity, biomedical nanosystems, and high-throughput biotechnologies. Here is some of the feedback received from students regarding Kwong’s teaching:
- “One of the best professors I have had since I have been at Tech.”
- “Dr. Kwong is a fantastic lecturer. He obviously cares about what he’s teaching, and he gives very helpful examples and explanations . . .”
- “He genuinely cared about the students and their well-being…I think he was a phenomenal professor.”
- “Everything Dr. Kwong explains, he explains exceptionally well.”
LSI has been awarded a grant from The Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation for “Enhancing T Cell Therapies for Cancer using Pulses of Heat”. The Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation supports science based research in the areas of neuroscience/brain science, regenerative medicine, cell biology, cancer, and nanotechnology/nanoscience, and strives for the advancement of a healthy and sustainable future for humans.
Justin has been selected as a Petit Undergraduate Scholar for 2018 with Quoc serving as his Petit Mentor. Congratulations!
From the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, “The Petit Undergraduate Research Scholars program is a competitive scholarship program that serves to develop the next generation of leading bioengineering and bioscience researchers by providing a comprehensive research experience for a full year. Open to all Atlanta area university students, the program allows undergraduates to conduct independent research in the state-of-the-art laboratories of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.”
Read more about the 2018 Scholars here.
This fellowship is sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and seeks to increase the number of outstanding engineering Ph.D. graduates from under-represented populations. She was nominated by the director and faculty of Georgia Tech’s University Center for Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM). Congrats!
James joins us from Emory University where he completed his PhD in Immunology. Learn more about James here!
NSF Fellowship, Brown Connections Lead Marielena Gamboa Castro ’15 to Cancer Research
The story of Marielena Gamboa Castro ’15 cannot be told without weaving in connections she made during her time on the Brown University campus. Recently awarded a highly prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, she has every intention of enlarging that circle of contacts.
The biomedical engineering concentrator, honored with the 2015 George H. Main prize (awarded for her diligence and devotion to studies, and holding promise of success in her field), worked in Assistant Professor Ian Wong’s lab as an undergrad. As one of the first undergraduates to join the Wong Lab, she had previously done some work with image analysis, making her a positive addition to Wong’s cancer cell research team.
Wong, who had just arrived on campus in 2013, was exploring how cancer cells transition to malignant behaviors such as invasion and drug resistance. Gamboa Castro spent two years examining how mixtures of benign and malignant cells coordinate their migratory behaviors. Early on, she, Wong, and others close to the project realized there was something here worth sharing. It was not going to be complete by graduation, however, so when the opportunity came to stay around for another year as a researcher, she took it. This allowed her time to finish the project, ultimately leading to the publication of her research.
Her first authored paper, “Clustering and Jamming in Epithelial-Mesenchymal Co-Cultures,” was published last September in the journal Soft Matter. The paper revealed that cancer cell migration is influenced by the density and type of neighboring cells, analogous to how cars get stuck in traffic. To quantify these behaviors, Gamboa-Castro, Ph.D. candidate Susan Leggett and Wong tracked thousands of cells and developed methods to analyze intercellular interactions. They found that epithelial cell types, which typically form sheet-like tissues in the body, can aggregate together to arrest their motion, known as a “jamming” transition. Instead, mesenchymal cells, which are typically individually dispersed in connective tissues, tend to remain mobile and unattached. Unexpectedly, mixtures of these two cell types with even a small fraction of mesenchymal cells remained “unjammed” with highly fluid cellular motions. This work suggests that tumors that include mesenchymal cells can rapidly transition to malignant invasion. These mesenchymal cells thus represent a promising therapeutic target.
“I believe this work has important implications to cancer research, and I strongly felt that it deserved to be completed,” Gamboa Castro said. “And working as a research assistant gave me time to focus on applying to graduate school, and figure out where I wanted to go.” Where she ended up is the joint Georgia Tech/Emory University biomedical engineering program, working with advisor Gabe Kwong, who had recently started his new lab as an assistant professor. Kwong previously completed postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Professor Sangeeta Bhatia ’90, a member of the Brown Corporation. Bhatia is a cancer researcher, MIT professor, and biotech entrepreneur who works to adapt technologies developed in the computer industry for medical innovation. Bhatia’s laboratory leverages “tiny technologies” of miniaturization tools used in semiconductor manufacturing to yield inventions with new applications in tissue regeneration, stem cell differentiation, medical diagnostics, and drug delivery. In addition to her ground-breaking research, Bhatia is a passionate advocate for diversity in science and engineering.
This connection is not lost on Gamboa Castro.
Her current work, under the tutelage of Kwong, will be similar in spirit to the Wong Lab at Brown, harnessing the power of the intersection of engineering and biology to fight cancer. And she is making sure the circle of mentorship, and Brown connections, doesn’t stop with her. “Professor Wong is an amazing mentor,” Gamboa Castro said. “When I started there, I remember he sat me down, and said simply, ‘What do you want to do? What resources do you need, and how I can help you get there?’ I had never thought about it in those terms before, and didn’t even know I needed that mentorship.”
Her own route to Brown wasn’t typical. She applied through the Questbridge program, a national organization that connects the nation’s brightest students from low-income backgrounds with leading institutions of higher education. “As a first-generation immigrant, Brown University just wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t know much about it.
“Once I got here, I quickly realized it was one of the best decisions I ever made, and then I wanted to give back. I now help high school students through the college application process, helping them understand that financial aid packages may make a top university more affordable than they realize.”
She is also involved in other outreach programs, serving as an essay coach for high school students, helping them tell their own story in a clear, concise and compelling way. “I found that mentoring these students while I was applying to graduate school helped me as well,” she said. “And I’m currently teaching middle school students about biomedical engineering through a Georgia Tech summer camp.
“(Wong) has been a very supportive advisor who has been instrumental in helping me get where I am today. He allowed me to network, talk to professors at Brown and other schools, and was key in helping me figure out my path. He also entrusted a lot to a few of us as undergrads. By acting almost as graduate students, we were able to transition early on from students to scientists and independent researchers.”
“Lena has everything it takes to be an exceptional scientist,” Wong said. “She can tackle problems using highly innovative engineering tools as well as beautiful biological experiments. She’s also a natural leader and a great team member. Her story, to me, is very Brown. ”
Gamboa Castro’s trajectory took another upward turn at Campus Dance 2016, when boyfriend, former Brown football tight end, and electrical engineer Alex Viox ’15 asked her to marry him. The two are currently living in Atlanta, planning their wedding for the summer of 2018.
– Beth James
Gabe Kwong, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, is one of only 82 people selected to participate at the 2017 US Frontiers of Engineering symposium.
The symposium, organized by the National Academy of Engineering, gathers what the academy calls “exceptional” engineers from 30 to 45 years old to facilitate “cross-disciplinary exchange and promote the transfer of new techniques and approaches across fields in order to sustain and build U.S. innovative capacity.”
“The Frontiers of Engineering program brings together a particularly talented group of young engineers whose early-careers span different technical areas, perspectives and experiences,” said NAE President C. D. Mote, Jr. “But when they come together in this program, their mutual excitement is palpable, and a process of creating long-term benefits to society is often initiated.”
It’s a highly competitive and prestigious invitation, according to the National Academy of Engineering news release about the event.
“It is a privilege to be selected to join the Frontiers of Engineering Symposium,” said Gabe Kwong. “I am excited about the opportunity to interact with the brightest young minds within the engineering community, and exchange ideas across seemingly disparate disciplines.”
For 2017, the symposium will focus on the latest advances in four areas: mega-tall buildings and other future places of work, unraveling the complexity of the brain, energy strategies to power our future, and machines that teach themselves.
Gabe Kwong’s own research program is conducted at the interface of engineering and immunology. He and his multidisciplinary team develop nanotechnologies that interact with immune cells, enabling new applications in biomedical diagnostics and cell-based therapies. He has ten issued or pending patents and has launched one startup company.
“I often remind my lab that as bioengineers, we need to develop fluency in multiple academic languages before we can begin to innovate solutions to the most important problems in society” said Gabe Kwong. “I aim to bring my unique background in the physical and life sciences, and entrepreneurship to the fold.”
Invited participants for 2017 include three Georgia Tech assistant professors, as well as rising stars from organizations like Google, DARPA, 3M, IBM research labs, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and others.
The 2017 US Frontiers of Engineering program will be hosted by United Technologies Research Center in East Hartford, Conn., September 25-27. Read more about the NAE’s 2017 Frontiers of Engineering Symposium here.
Congratulations to undergraduates Justin Kahla and Jason Weis for winning President’s Undergraduate Research Awards (PURA)! PURA fund student salaries to conduct undergraduate research with Georgia Tech faculty and offset travel expenses for undergraduates to present their research at professional conferences. Between two hundred and three hundred competitive awards are offered on campus each year. Read more about PURA here.
Congratulations to Lena for winning the NSF GRFP! The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. Read more here.