The BioTECH Quarterly
Undergrad Research Poster Session, First at MIT for Biological Engineering
By Ye Ding '05, Operations Editor
The BMES-Merck Research Poster Session Competition took place on November 17, 2005 as MIT’s first ever undergraduate poster session for biological engineering related research. It was hosted by the MIT Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), sponsored by Merck & Co., Inc., and spotlighted on the MIT Homepage.
Fifteen presenters participated in the competition, which was held from 5:30 to 9 PM in the Bush Room. Their posters were printed in color on 42” by 30” glossy paper, complimentary of the Biological Engineering (BE) Department. Three presenters were selected as winners to receive certificates as well as monetary prizes: $500 for first place, $300 for second, and $100 for third.
The idea for the poster session came from BMES executive board members who wanted to create more opportunities to highlight and recognize undergraduate students’ contribution to the research scene at MIT, particularly in the field of biological engineering.
“MIT students are proud of their contributions in the lab, but they don’t have many opportunities to practice presenting their work and communicating their expertise in novel areas,” noted BMES Co-President and Poster Session Organizer Julie Tse.
“By inviting undergraduates to participate in the poster session, our chapter hopes to encourage students to share their interests and accomplishments in biological engineering with the rest of the MIT community,” said Tse.
During the poster session, each presenter or team of presenters gave a 5-minute overview of their research, followed by a 5-minute Q&A with the judges.
The judging panel consisted of BE faculty members, BE Graduate Students Board members, and BMES Executive Board Members, who made rounds in two teams of four, giving each presenter the opportunity to present twice.
In between the two rounds of judging, the presenters often engaged visitors. Professors Douglas Lauffenburger, James Sherley, and Matthew Lang, postdoctoral fellows Jeffrey Karp and Ali Khademhosseini, Dr. Sandra Gaston of Harvard Medical School, as well as friends and other students, were among the many that attended the event.
Two presenters, Sophia Kamran ’08 and Albert Kwon ’08, had their work featured in previous issues of The BioTECH under the “Student Research Spotlight” section and the “MIT Research Highlight” section, respectively.
Kamran did her summer research at the Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering McKinney Lab on Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). She examined and identified counter-immune genes that regulate phosphate uptake in Mtb. These genes may help the bacterium survive despite host immune response, which often involves the limitation of phosphate.
Kwon worked with Hannah Seong ’08 in Professor Robert Langer’s lab at MIT. They experimented with the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) into osteogenic cells. By omitting the embryoid body step in the traditional approach, they produced more bone nodules from hESC.
More than a few MIT students had done their research elsewhere.
At Dr. Gaston’s Lab in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Ting Ting Fu ’07 and Tendai Chizana ’06 carried out a gene expression profiling method. It involved tissue printing, in which RNA was collected by pressing nitrocellulose gently on top of a tissue specimen and acquiring a layer of cells.
Using Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) and gel digitization software, Fu and Chizana evaluated the expression of angiogenic markers and co-regulated genes. They looked for correspondence between gene over-expression and the location of the tumor detected in dynamic contrast enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Chizana related why she decided to enter the poster session, “Ting Ting mentioned that we should practice presentation skills; she asked me to join, and that was how I got involved.”
In the Lavik Lab of Yale’s Biomedical Engineering Department, Sergio Navarro ’08 worked on a project optimizing the encapsulation and release of human recombinant vascular endothelial growth factor (hVEGF) from polymer microspheres. Using the method of double emulsion solvent evaporation, biodegradable microspheres containing VEGF and human neurotrophic growth factor (hNT-3) were fabricated.
Release of VEGF and NT-3 were quantified using ELISA. Navarro found that increasing the concentration of bovine serum albumin (BSA) in the VEGF mixture stabilized the VEGF and promoted its release. On the other hand, the release of NT-3 appeared too low to benefit cell differentiation. Controlled release of encapsulated VEGF may help deliver the growth factor to injured tissues without increasing the chance for tumor growth.
By 8:15 PM, the judges had finished their rounds. After half an hour, they made their decisions: Joshua Katz ’06 placed first, Heather Pressler ’07 second, and Amreeta Gill ’09 third.
As a part of his UROP project under the guidance of Junsang Doh and Professor Darrell Irvine, Katz further developed the chemistry and characterization of the oNBMA-co-MMA-co-PEGMA photoresists, including the use of the 35:0:65 resist as an inverse-tone resist for two component patterning.
Pressler’s research was on PHMPA-Mce6-Cortisol and the efficacy of delivering the drug to ovarian cancer cells. Working at the University of Utah’s Kopecek Lab this past summer, she devised purification processes that raised the yield of synthesizing PHMPA-Mce6-Cortisol from 5% to 25%.
Before coming to MIT, Gill worked under Dr. Katherine Kantardjieff at the California State University, Fullerton. They constructed homology models for dnaQ, an enzyme that repairs DNA in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. These models may be used to identify candidates for the inhibition of dnaQ, and similar approaches may facilitate drug development against other targets.
“The poster session was a major success. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about exciting research from a wide range of programs in biological engineering. Each poster had substantial results, and the presenters did an amazing job at explaining their research to an interdisciplinary audience.”
Prof. Scott Manalis, Biological Engineering and Mechanical Eng.
“I always felt that undergraduate research should be more actively promoted, since this is one of the unique experiences you can get from an MIT education. The enthusiasm of the participants and the quality of the posters were excellent. With the financial support from Merck, I believe this event could turn into a major competition for all undergraduate student researchers in the future. Desirably, more students should be participating in this event, even if it means longer poster judging hours!”
Prof. Jongyoon Han, EECS and Biological Engineering
“The quality and creativity of the research projects presented were tremendously impressive, from freshmen and sophomores to juniors and seniors, and it is very exciting to see the innovative new directions of research arising from our focus on integrating molecular and cellular biosciences with engineering. It is also gratifying to have Merck invest in our BMES student organization efforts encouraging this new biological engineering research. I congratulate our BMES student leaders for their wonderful initiative, and I’ll look forward to seeing this terrific event on an annual basis.”
Prof. Doug Lauffenburger, Director, Biological Engineering
MIT BMES would like to thank the presenters and the judges for their participation:
Julie Tse *
Our thanks also go to:
Merck Recruiting Coordinator Dr. Brian Phenix for his support;
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