A year ago, Dr. Gymama Slaughter, assistant professor, came to UMBC and built her Bioelectronics Laboratory (BEL@UMBC) from the ground up. Her lab combines different projects in the areas of electronics, biology, medicine and chemistry. Dr. Slaughter and her lab members interrogate biological systems and extract electronic signals. Then, signal processing techniques are applied to the electronic signals in order to identify different features in the signals, such as whether or not something is undergoing neurotoxicity.
At the moment, Dr. Slaughter is working on several threads of research, including a collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Medicine on interpreting vital signs data to anticipate shock. “We want to be able to predict this at least thirty minutes before the person goes into shock to give doctors enough time to intervene and save a person’s life,” explains Dr. Slaughter. Another of her projects, in collaboration with CASPR (Center for Advanced Studies in Photonics Research), involves using an optical gas sensor to sense gasses, such as ammonia, in the atmosphere.
Dr. Slaughter is also currently working with undergraduate students on a neurochip project that aims to understand and reduce the effect of the neurotoxins that cause Parkinson’s disease. Jonathan D'Angelo, a Neural Engineering student, explains that he is working on culturing neurons on a chip and exposing them to different voltages to see if that will sustain the life of the cell in the presence of different neurotoxins. Joshua Sunday, a Computer Engineering student working on the same project, is using an FPGA board to collect data which will determine the presence of neurotoxins. Rachel Davies, a Chemical Engineering student, is working on finding the best substrate to make cells adhere to the chip.
However, Dr. Slaughter’s true passion deals with developing a system to treat diabetes. “The research that I’m most passionate about is my glucose biosensors,” explains Dr. Slaughter, who in 2008 won an NSF BRIGE (Broadening Participation Research Initiation Grants in Engineering) Award and an NSF MRI Award for work related to this project. The goal of the project is to design a closed-loop system that monitors blood glucose levels and administers insulin to diabetic patients. Dr. Slaughter says that what she desires most is to reduce complications in the lives of diabetic patients and their families. “If I can do that,” she says, “I will count what I do as successful.”