“After initially enrolling in the BS/MS program, I decided to transfer to the PhD program to continue this research as a PhD student, which allowed me to dig deeper into the details of my graduate research.”
Hometown: Middletown, NJ
Degree Program: Chemical and Biochemical Engineering (Ph.D.)
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Govind Rao
Thesis/research topic: Producing a Cell Free Protein Expression System Derived from Human Blood
2017, B.S. Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Why did you decide to attend UMBC? And why did you choose your program in particular?
I started research with my adviser as a third year undergraduate student and really enjoyed the research and applications. After initially enrolling in the BS/MS program, I decided to transfer to the PhD program to continue this research as a PhD student, which allowed me to dig deeper into the details of my graduate research.
Briefly describe your graduate research and its purpose/applications.
Normally protein expression occurs in living cells. However, it is possible to produce proteins outside the confines and limitations of a cell. My graduate research involves taking human blood cells and making cell extract that is able to produce proteins. Many therapeutics and vaccines are proteins, and recent advances in cell free protein expression (CFPE) technology have made CFPE a viable alternative to traditional manufacturing techniques. The advantages of CFPE include fast batch times and the ability to freeze dry the extract, among many others. Using human blood holds many particular advantages as a patient could potentially be a source of raw materials to produce vaccines or therapeutics using autologous extract. Additionally, there are multiple basic science and diagnostic applications that the technology we are developing could enable.
Have you worked on any specific research projects that you would like to highlight?
As and undergraduate and graduate student I worked on the DARPA Biologically Derived Medicines On Demand (Bio-MOD) program developing a potable suitcase sized device to produce vaccines and therapeutics at the point of care. This project introduced me to the world of pharmaceutical process development, and how chemical engineers can apply themselves to the pharmaceutical industry. Between this project and my current graduate research, I have been able to travel and meet many influential people in government, academia, and industry at various conferences and events.
What are your plans after you complete your degree at UMBC?
I plan to work in the pharmaceutical industry, but have not decided which specific sector yet.