Biosensors and Grad Life

Back in early November, I had the privilege of sitting down and speaking to a couple of PhD graduate students, Christopher Uhl and Yu Song, who are both in the Bioengineering  Program here at Lehigh University. For me, it was very exciting to talk to Yu as he is a 5th year PhD student and close to graduating this upcoming May. The following is a brief summary of what I learned from Yu from his experiences, his decision to come to Lehigh, and the projects he is currently working on. Hope you readers enjoy this as much as I did!….

Having obtained his undergrad degree in Materials Science from the University of Science and Technology Beijing, Yu decided to come to Lehigh because of its strong connections with his university in Beijing and also because of the positive professional environment he felt Lehigh provided. And just as Christopher had also mentioned, what Yu was intrigued by was the diversity within the Lehigh Bioengineering faculty members; a lot of the professors had different engineering backgrounds which led to different perspectives on things. As Yu put it, “No matter what background you come from, you can always find something in Bioengineering.”

One of Yu’s biggest interests is in Biosensors. By designing and engineering Bio-sensor cells, tasks such as protein and glucose concentrations within the human body can be recorded and controlled. Integrating these small sensors would not only allow for the monitoring of a person’s health but also provide an advantage due to its size (no blocking within the human body would occur as these sensor cells are in the nano-scale). Upon coming to Lehigh, he met Professor Berdichevsky and the two talked about biosensors and Yu eventually ended up getting a position to work in Professor Berdichevsky’s lab.

Yu is currently working on three projects: IGF and Epilepsy, siRNA and abnormal formations, and OCM (Optical Coherence Microscopy). IGF is an Insulin-like Growth Factor that is very important for neurons to survive. Yu’s work with IGF revolves around answering questions such as: How is IGF related to epilepsy? What is the importance of IGF in assisting neuron-survival? His second project deals with abnormal formations in the brain and how this leads to epilepsy. How do these formations grow after brain and spine injuries? By using siRNA, a silencing protein, the attempt is to silence protein expressions to ultimately prevent dendrites from forming abnormal circuits.

 1The last project we talked about was on using Optical Coherence Microscopy (OCM) to study epilepsy. This apparatus (as pictured above) is of advanced optical technology that allows for monitoring of brain cells while they are alive. The deal with OCM is to use this to integrate a recording system that collect brain signals, their activity, and also figure out why and how pathways occur. This last project combines bio- with electrical engineering to further try to understand epilepsy. The picture below is the system instruction for the OCM.2

After five years of being a PhD student here at Lehigh, Yu was very excited to be graduating in May. His hard work and projects will continue to get recognized and appreciated and I cannot wait to meet with him next semester to find out how everything (from his projects to his thesis) is coming along. Best of luck Yu!

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