What sort of research are you doing? The research I am doing is interdisciplinary, involving subjects such as chemistry, biology, and electrical engineering. The research group is interested in fabricating a microelectrode array based on self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) for the attachment of neurons. Basically, we are trying to interface neurons with a chip and process signals from it. I will be working mostly on the electrical side of things, such as the stimulation and recording of signals from the neurons. Also, I will assist in fabricating the “neural chip” at the microfabrication cleanroom.
How long have you been doing this research? What inspired you to become involved/ how did you become involved? I have been part of the lab since last spring semester. However, the project only started to pick up steam this summer. I am generally interested in pursuing a research career involving healthcare and/or medicine with my computer engineering background. I discovered that Dr. Slaughter and I shared the same research interests and I asked to join her research lab.
Is this your first research project? This is the first research project that I am involved in on campus. I have participated in a few research internships each summer since I have been at college.
How much time do you spend doing research? It is required that I spend at least 10 hours of my time each week focusing on research.
Are you collaborating with any other students or faculty members? Yes, three other undergraduate students are currently involved in this project, including a chemical engineer and a neural engineer.
Do you plan to become involved in URCAD? Or, are you being supported by any scholarships or fellowships? If there is enough progress on my portion of the project before URCAD come around, it would be nice to present the results. I am supported by a Meyerhoff NSA Scholarship.
What is the best part of your research so far? I would have to say that the best part of my research so far is being able to use equipment that we would not normally be able to use in a classroom environment.
What is the biggest obstacle you have faced while doing research so far? Our project is interdisciplinary and I don’t have a background in chemistry or biology so there will be times where I just don’t understand some of the articles I read. But that’s why we have other undergraduates with expertise in those subjects!
What do you hope to achieve with this research? Ideally, I hope that this research will eventually lead to a valuable contribution to the world of science. I also hope that this research gives me a better perspective of what research topics I would like to focus on in graduate school. It would be nice to make enough progress this school year so that I could write a paper and get published!
Do you feel like this research is preparing you for post-college plans? I definitely feel that this research is helping me prepare for graduate school. The experience gives me a better perspective of what it is like to conduct oneself in a laboratory environment. I feel that I gain a huge advantage by performing research as an undergraduate student. I believe the professors in graduate school would have more confidence in me since I already will have had prior research experience.
What are your plans after graduation? I plan to attend graduate school to obtain a Ph.D in either Electrical or Computer Engineering with a focus on biological or biomedical applications.
*Patrick was interviewed in September 2011.