“I do not think I would have maintained my passion for scientific research had it not been for the extremely rewarding process of applying for and receiving a Goldwater Scholarship”

I won a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2016 at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, a college within the University of North Texas. I worked in a physics lab under Dr. Arup Neogi, where I helped develop phononic crystals for use in biomedical imaging and SONAR applications. Following my time at UNT, I continued my studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Receiving the Goldwater Scholarship has guided my journey at UNT, Georgia Tech, and beyond and has further solidified my passion for scientific research.

At Georgia Tech, I pursued a B.S. in biomedical engineering and was actively involved in immunology and tissue engineering research. My work involved developing a three-dimensional microfluidic device to model the development of lymphatic vasculature by studying the interactions between fibroblasts and lymphatic endothelial cells. I had the opportunity to present this research at the 2018 BMES Conference in Atlanta, and I am hoping to publish a first-author paper soon. In addition to research, I also served as a teaching assistant for the introductory BME class at Tech; I loved interacting with first-year students through recitations and office hours.

Two summers ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Hanoi, Vietnam, as part of the Global Health Field Scholars Program. In Vietnam, I helped develop and test a phone application to diagnose medication adherence among HIV patients in the area using only passively-collected phone data. I loved working with an interdisciplinary team made up of anthropologists, sociologists, epidemiologists, physicians, and engineers, but I loved traveling around Vietnam even more! I had never previously visited Southeast Asia, and I enjoyed experiencing the culture and interacting with people.

I have also discovered a passion for encouraging women in computer science and STEM, and I’m pleased to say that TheGirlCodeProject, an organization I founded to empower young women through computer science has made great strides for this cause. At the start of 2018, we hosted a four-month-long programming camp for young girls in the Greater Atlanta area, and we continued our work at the end of the year through weekend mother-daughter programming camps. Our organization was recognized by several groups: Google IgniteCS, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, and the Clinton Global Initiative. Representation in science and technology is extremely important to me; I hope to continue working on similar efforts throughout my career!

Following graduation, I began an internship at Glympse Bio, a Boston-based company whose Atlanta division was developing urine sensors to noninvasively assess whether an immunotherapy was working for a particular cancer patient. As an intern, I had the opportunity to run several sensor studies on mice injected with colon cancer cells and treated with an immunotherapy. I enjoyed my time at Glympse a lot, as it was my first experience doing research in an industry setting. It was also my first time doing animal work, and I certainly got bit and urinated on quite frequently! I learned a lot, though, so I’d still call it a success.

I then packed my bags and made a huge move to Sri Lanka, where I am working on an eight-month Fulbright grant. I am developing and teaching a research methods class at Uva Wellassa University in Badulla, a town in the central, mountainous part of the country; I am also researching methods to increase student confidence in the classroom. The work is very different from the bench research I am used to, but I have been able to apply a lot of my skills in scientific analysis to this new project! It has also been a great learning experience teaching students whose first language is not English; scientific communication is so important, and the extra challenge of a language barrier will hopefully make me an even better lecturer and science advocate when I return to the United States!

In my free time, I love to travel! Some of my most meaningful experiences have been interacting with underprivileged tea plantation workers and hearing people’s personal accounts of their experiences during the very recent Civil War. Even though I have always been a scientifically-minded person, being able to engage with social issues firsthand has given me a deep appreciation for the complexity of history, sociology, and culture.

Upon my return to the United States, I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in immunoncology at the University of Cambridge via the NIH-Oxford Cambridge Scholarship Program. My work seeks to develop computational models to study how tumor clones cooperate to evade immune response. I plan to combine my passion for oncology and my research interests in immunology to pursue an MD/PhD and conduct research in an academic setting.

I am so grateful for everything the Goldwater application process at the University of North Texas did for me, from teaching me how to communicate my research effectively, to learning how to approach professors for letters of recommendation, to receiving the kind of support that has had a tremendous impact on the person I am today. I do not think I would have maintained my passion for scientific research had it not been for the extremely rewarding process of applying for and receiving a Goldwater Scholarship; the opportunity and everything I have learned in the process have opened so many doors for me. We are built up by our past influences, so I’d like to thank the Goldwater Foundation for having been a catalyst for my growth.