Major/Minor: BME, Minor in Health, Medicine, and Society
Year: 4th Year
Lab Name and Department: Garcia Lab (GT Mechanical Engineering/GT Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience)
Project Title: Codelivery of Bacteriophage and Mucolytic DNase using Poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) Microparticles to Mitigate Bacterial Lung Infection
Is your lab work remote, in-person, or hybrid? Started in-person, now remote.
How did you join your lab?
I emailed my PI, expressing interest in bacteriophage therapy, and one of his recent publications that studied a potential application of phage! I was invited to join the lab and begin a project of my own surrounding the subject. After working for credit for two semesters, I was selected to be a part of the Petit Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.
Please describe your project:
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder which leads to altered consistency of mucus secretions, causing the lungs of CF patients to become coated with thick, viscous mucus, which bacteria quickly mutates in. This makes clinical treatment of infection difficult, creating a need to engineer a therapy that will not only mitigate bacterial infection, but also alleviate mucus to allow for more effective treatment of pulmonary disease in CF patients. Mucolytic DNase has been shown to effectively reduce the viscosity of pulmonary mucus and improve lung function in CF patients, and the use of lytic bacteriophage to mitigate lung infection is a promising antibacterial therapy due to their ability to kill bacteria and replicate themselves through this process. The objective of my research is to engineer microparticles which co-deliver bacteriophage and mucolytic DNase to mitigate acute bacterial infection in CF affected lungs.
Anything else you would like to say?
“I have loved working in Dr. Andres Garcia’s lab underneath both his guidance and the guidance of my mentor, Dr. Pranav Kalelkar. I started out doing research for credit (3 credit hours = 10-12 hours of work in the lab per week) and am now one of the 2020 Petit Undergraduate Research Scholars where I am being paid to do my work. I was already passionate about my research topic before working in the lab but being able to get first-hand experience in the field has been incredible!
My biggest suggestion is to be open and honest with your PI and mentor about when you have a tough week with classes and exams. I have been very fortunate that when these times arise, I can have some time off from the lab to focus on my classes. As my own PI has told me, doing well in the lab should not be to the detriment of your grades! You are a student first. Try and find a good research/schoolwork balance and discuss this with your lab mentor(s). Research has its challenges, of course, and don’t be afraid to ask too many questions or to make a few mistakes along the way. It comes with the territory as you learn to work the ins and outs of a lab setting! The immense amount of knowledge you’ll gain is so very worth it in the long run.”