I the same stimuli. The different responses at the

I once had the misconception that a drug would have equal effectiveness on different patients.
Now I realize that I ignored the complexity of individual human physiology. As I started my
undergraduate research, I was fascinated to see that cells from different donors often differed in
their responses to the same stimuli. The different responses at the cellular level led me to realize
that drug effectiveness varies among individuals, and a personalized medicine approach will
improve overall medical care. As I continue onto my graduate study, I hope to make an impact
on the emerging field of personalized medicine. Several biomedical engineering labs at Yale
University have successful projects that could support me to achieve this goal in areas that
interest me, including cell and tissue engineering. After graduation, I wish to become a research
project director in a startup biotechnology company and catalyze technological advances in
individualized medical treatment.
In my second year as a Biomedical Engineering undergraduate at the University of California,
Davis (UCD), I began working in the Heinrich Lab. I started my research by gaining a
fundamental knowledge of microscopy, which is vital to the cell-based research that will power
advances in medicine. I have primarily worked with RICM, developing theory and building an
autofocus algorithm, both of which could enable future use of RICM for high-resolution
biomolecular measurements. I also became adept at performing experiments to measure the
growing cell-substrate contact area for human neutrophils spreading on antibody (IgG)-coated
glass. The results show that the overall speed of the contact-area growth is largely independent of
IgG density, confirming that this type of cell spreading is governed by inner protrusion rather
than cell-substrate adhesion. I worked with a fellow undergraduate to combine RICM with
fluorescence microscopy in order to assess the timing of prominent calcium-signaling surges
during cell spreading. Our results confirm that the timing of calcium bursts is governed by a
threshold of the number of engaged Fc?-receptors of the spreading neutrophil. This project
continues to remind me of the benefits to collaborative work in research.
As the focus of my undergraduate work transitioned from instrumentation to cell mechanics, my
research continued to receive a streak of acknowledgement. I proposed designing a pinhole slider
that can be used with the existing microscope as a key component of the autofocus system. My
proposal, “High-Resolution Imaging of Cell and Molecular Interactions by Reflection
Interference Contrast Microscopy”, was awarded the Provost’s Undergraduate Research
Fellowship (PUF). This fellowship allowed me to 3D-print my designs and continue to optimize
the autofocus system. More recently, I have been accepted to present my ongoing work on
dynamics in cell adhesion, titled “Frustrated Phagocytic Spreading of Human Neutrophils on
Different Densities of Surface-Immobilized IgG”, at the 2018 Biophysical Society (BPS) Annual
Meeting in San Francisco. I secured a travel award from the BPS as well as one from the UC
Davis URC towards attending this meeting.
At the heart of my undergraduate research lies a more general interest in advancing medical
treatment. Working with the outstanding faculty at Yale University will allow me to achieve this
goal. I am particularly interested in Dr. Laura Niklason’s research on vascular tissue
regeneration; in her lab, I hope to help address the current challenge of producing a uniformly
recellularized scaffold within vasculature. Alternatively, I could work with Dr. Kathryn MillerJensen
to investigate the reactivation of latent HIV in T cells, or with Dr. Thierry Emonet to
examine the role of cell-to-cell variability in odor coding. These projects would allow me to apply my interest in cellular physiology in the context of regenerative medicine, infectious
diseases, or neuroscience. I am excited by the wealth of research at Yale University which
interfaces between cell and tissue engineering and systemic physiology, and would be honored to
join in any such project.
I have started acting on my interest in interdisciplinary research through collaboration. For
instance, I attended other lab meetings on campus, seeing them as venues to broaden my research
interests. I looked for help and advice from researchers in the TEAM prototyping Lab when I
was developing the autofocus system. I also regularly communicate with fellow students about
my research and encouraged lab members to share knowledge through writing research logs on
OneNote, a note-sharing tool. Additionally, I corresponded with a collaborating professor to
propose holding joint lab meetings to broaden the vision of the members in both labs.
Before fully starting my Ph.D. research, I have much to learn in the areas of experimental
methods and programming, analysis, and modeling. I look forward to gaining knowledge in these
areas as I begin my graduate studies. For instance, studying advanced mathematics in graduate
courses should support my interest in developing mathematical models to mechanistically
explain the phenomena I encounter in experiments. Also, I have struggled with technical writing
under time constraints in the past, and I hope to learn to excel at this throughout my graduate
study.
I had a skull bone tumor excision surgery at the age of ten. My quick recovery made me deeply
fascinated in the medical field from my early age, impacting my decision to major in Biomedical
Engineering. College education has broadened my perspective on the field, introducing me to
cell and tissue engineering. I now hope to work in the area to contribute to the emerging field of
personalized medicine. I am eager to accelerate the process of translating research results into
real-life applications to grant patients high-quality healthcare. Whatever opportunities may arise,
I know that obtaining my Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. at Yale University will provide a strong
foundation for a lifetime committed to making an impact on the future of medicine.