So since sophomore year, I’ve been working in the Griffith Lab which is part of the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center. You always hear MIT students talk about their UROPs, and one of the things that people are also often interested in is how they got their UROP.
Basically, in a nutshell, I spent 2 hours sending emails to every professor at MIT who I thought was doing something that could be possibly interesting to me. Not having much exposure to a lot of research prior to MIT, I had no clue what aspect of mechanical engineering or engineering for that much. I got some immediate responses saying that the professors were looking for more experienced undergrads or that their lab was full, but after about a week, I got a response from Professor Griffith, and the next day, I had a UROP.
One of Professor Griffith’s research interests concerns tissue engineering. One of the big projects in my lab is the design of a bioreactor. Basically, the goal of the bioreactor is to culture really small pieces of liver tissue in a scaffold that can be perfused with different media. Eventually, the goal is to be able to more rapidly test drugs under development with a more realistic model of the liver tissue than in static 2D tissue culture plates.
What I spent a lot of my time in lab last semester and sophomore year was trying to characterize a lot of the mechanical features of the device, but now I’m onto a new project that also concerns the bioreactor as well.
Right now, I’m working on a project that somehow has managed to capture everything that I’ve learned in all my classes so far at MIT and throw it into one (maybe not the HASS classes..)
Basically, the goal is to design a bioactive scaffold because it’s best to try to seed the cells into something closer to nature than a plastic, so we’re taking collagen:
from the knee of your average milk provider:
blend it with some glycosaminoglycans making it a Rapper’s Delight with some ice and then going to town with a hoover vacuum. P. Diddy would be proud.
Well, not quite, but basically what we’re doing is taking a slurry of blended collagen and glycosaminoglycans, then freeze-drying the slurry and letting it solidify. Depending on how quickly we freeze the suspension and to what temperature we freeze it, we can control the nucleation of ice crystals in the solid. After it freezes, we then sublimate off the water content leaving us with an extracellular matrix analog in which we’ll try to seed the cells so it ends up looking like a spongy white cheeto.
Every Tuesday afternoon, our group meets to discuss overall progress to accomplishing our research goals, and brainstorm about current roadblocks some of us are facing and eat free BERTUCCI’s. Today, I presented my initial ideas about how I’m going to try and tackle my project, and it seems like the rest of the group was onboard, so that’s exciting.
As I make more headway with this project, I’ll try and post some pictures etc, but if you have any questions, post a comment and I’ll respond.