As a bioengineering major, Carissa plans to use the knowledge she gained to help create a better living environment in her community.
Carissa, as an undergraduate bioengineering student at the College of Engineering, you pursued a research-intensive academic experience––from your senior capstone project to internships, to faculty-guided projects. Please tell us about your experiences.
“I worked as a research intern at Theromics, Inc. as well as the Massachusetts General Hospital, Cardiovascular Research Center. Theromics sponsored my senior capstone project. The goal of my research was to use HeatSYNC Thermal Accelerant in tandem with microwave ablation to increase the effectiveness of anti-tumor treatment for cancer patients while reducing drug-associated adverse effects. Under Dr. Park, my capstone team demonstrated proof-of-concept with drug-impregnated HeatSYNC gel as an improved thermal accelerant while maintaining drug level over an extended period during this surgical procedure.
At the Massachusetts General Hospital, Cardiovascular Research Center, my research project involved gaining an understanding of the role of smooth muscle cell abnormalities in stroke injury. I learned different research techniques such as DNA extraction, PCR, and gel electrophoresis for genotyping. I also learned how to take care of and breed mouse colonies, give injections, and observed surgeries on mice in a highly regarded academic laboratory.
And, I am currently working at Elpis Pharmaceuticals as a protein production research intern, developing therapeutics that target and activate the immune response to eradicate tumors and deliver improved outcomes for patients with difficult-to-treat and resistant cancers.”
Did you conduct any research on campus?
“Yes, I worked at different bioengineering labs while studying on the UMass Dartmouth campus, including Dr. Chen-Lu Yang’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Bioengineering Lab. The goal of my research was to fabricate single-use containers from cellulose nanofiber, an alternative to plastic to minimize environmental impact.
I also worked in Dr. Li’s Bioengineering Lab where the goal of my research was to prepare hydrogels using two polysaccharides, chitosan (CH) and sodium alginate (SA). Our research has been to determine the optimal weight ratio of CH-SA that results in the highest tensile strength.”
What about any leadership experience?
“As the president of Habitat for Humanity, I led other students to complete volunteering projects including preparing the custom books and clothing packages for local children who are homeless or living in poverty through GiftsToGive and with the common goal of giving back to the community.
I also started a Women’s Group with other volunteers to improve early literacy in kindergarten students at Alfred J. Gomes Elementary School. I taught reading and writing to kindergarten students in this school and it gave me a better understanding of different educational opportunities in different communities. This leadership experience has helped me to find better ways to serve different groups within my community.”
What are your plans after graduation?
“After graduation, I plan to explore new scientific frontier through research and continue learning. I will put my bioengineering knowledge to help others suffering from diseases, and to create a better living environment in my community. I have accepted a full-time position at Massachusetts General Hospital as a clinical research coordinator. At the same time, I will be completing my MS degree in Biomedical Engineering & Biotechnology program in the fall.”
What advice would you give to incoming UMassD students?
“I would say study hard but also get out into the community. Try new activities, clubs, and sports and find out what you are passionate about. Learn as much as you can because life moves fast. Knowledge is power and can help you grow in all aspects of life.”
Any final thoughts about your educational experience?
"I would like to thank all the faculty in the bioengineering department for all their support and encouragement throughout my four years at UMass Dartmouth."