Where are you originally from?
I’m from Reno, Nevada, and completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Nevada.
When did you first become interested in engineering?
From the time I was a kid. When I was little, I was always interested in nature and wanted to be a marine biologist. I always found myself enjoying biology classes. In college, I started to see how biotechnology has transformed the world we live in, and wanted to be involved in engineering biological systems to make medicines.
How do you explain what you study to non-scientists?
Biological medicines like insulin, antibodies, and vaccines have touched many peoples’ lives, but they are typically very expensive. My research involves developing next-generation biomanufacturing platforms that are cheaper, easier to use, and more agile than the current state of the art. My research could ultimately drive down the costs of (and increase access to) biological medicines.
Can you tell me about some potential applications for your work?
My work has implications for on-demand biomanufacturing complex biomedicines like antibodies and conjugate vaccines. A highlight of my time at Northwestern has been seeing the Center for Synthetic Biology open and grow.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your work?
Experimental research is all about iteration, which involves learning from ‘failure’ (most of the time). Learning how to move on from projects that may not be fruitful, despite having spent time, energy, and brain power on them, is a huge challenge, but is necessary to keep moving forward.
Can you tell me about your mentoring experiences?
I’ve directly mentored a master’s student, an undergraduate, and a PhD student within my group. Each time, I got a little bit better at being an effective leader, and have constantly learned from these experiences. My philosophy for mentoring is to give a person the tools and guidance they need to succeed, then to let them independently experiment (which includes making mistakes and learning from them) and drive a piece of the project that they can really own.
What are your hobbies outside of the lab?
I do yoga/ work out, keep up with new music, and love to try new coffee places. On a less-regular basis, I like to go to the ballet, ski, hike, and travel.