"I am very interested in biomedical and chemical engineering research and plan to pursue that path in graduate school. This upcoming year, I will be applying to PhD programs across the nation and prestigious graduate fellowships, and I hope that the University Scholars Program will provide me with some of the tools that I need to choose the right program for me as well as with pointers on application essays. Moreover, I enjoy being part of a group of undergraduate students, like myself, that are highly motivated in their research project and I believe that being in this environment is very beneficial and encouraging."
Biotechnology, therapy optimization, cancer, engineering tools for developing countries.
Academic and Other Awards
- University Scholars Program Scholarship (2011-2012)
- Florida Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (FGLSAMP) (2010-2012)
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science for Life Extramural Award (2011-2012)
- MIT-DOW Access Visitation Program (2011)
- Particle Engineering Research Center (PERC) Engineering Scholarship (2009)
- South East Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (SEAGEP) Scholarship (2009)
- Florida Bright Futures
- Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers
- Chabad of Gainesville
- American Institute of Chemical Engineers
I am a volunteer at the Alachua Humane Society as a dog walker.
Hobbies and Interests
- Drawing, painting, animals, and yoga.
Cancer Therapy: Active Targeting of Novel Drug Carriers using RGD (Arg-Gly-Asp) Peptides, and Subsequent Controlled-Release via Photothermal Triggering
My project aims to design a noninvasive technique to improve the specificity of drug delivery to tumors while simultaneously improving the therapeutic efficacy. Chemotherapy is a standard treatment for metastatic cancer; however, drug toxicity limits the dosage that can safely be used. Drug carriers, such as liposomal nanoparticles (LNs), can help reduce toxicity by shielding normal tissue from drug. Current liposome designs release drug passively by slow leakage, but this uncontrolled drug release limits treatment efficacy as it can be difficult to achieve therapeutic concentrations of drug at tumors. I aim is to enhance the peak concentration of drug in the tumor region and suppress drug release in healthy tissue by (1) devising a targeting strategy and (2) designing a method of drug release by controlled disruption of the LN lipid bilayer to selectively deposit cytotoxic drug in tumor regions. I have succeeded in applying a method of active targeting of LN drug carriers to tumor microvasculature and tissues. RGD (Arg-Gly-Asp) peptides, which recognize and bind to αvβ3 proteins present within tumor microvasculature, were incorporated onto the LN surface. In vivo results demonstrate that targeting vasculature provides a gateway to the interior of the tumor tissue. Currently, I am studying the ability of accumulated LNs to lyse via photothermal triggering to release drug. I will devise a method of encapsulating and quantifying effective concentrations of indocyanine green (ICG), a selected chromophore, inside the targeted RGD-LNs that we have synthesized. ICG absorbs light from an applied laser and heat is generated in selective regions. The focus is on (1) the effect that heat emission from NIR light absorption by ICG has on the amphipathic lipid bilayer of LNs, and (2) the possibility of localized lysis for controlled drug release in tumor regions.