Undergraduate Research Program

Gabrielle (Gabby) Benuska

Benuska, Gabby 150x200
Major: Bioengineering
Mentor: Cole DeForest, Chemical Engineering

Contact: gbenuska@uw.edu

Current research project: Controlling 4D Stem Cell Differentiation in Hydrogels Using Site-Specifically Modified Growth Factors

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My current research involves controlling the differentiation of human Mesenchymal Stem Cells (hMSCs) using modified growth proteins TGF-beta and BMP-2 which promote differentiation of hMSCs into cartilage and bone. The proteins Jared Shadish, my graduate student mentor, and I have synthesized are modified with a peptide so that we can use light chemistries to pattern the proteins into a hydrogel. The bound proteins can then control the growth and differentiation of the cells encapsulated in the hydrogel. However, before we pattern the proteins into hydrogels, we first need to verify bioactivity of the proteins we synthesized by differentiating hMSCs.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience? What did you learn from it?
Research doesn’t work a large majority of the time. It involves a massive amount of trial and error, and a lot of patience and determination. But in the long run, the pay off is very rewarding for me. One of the greatest feelings from being involved in research is when I have been trying the same experiment for months, and then one day all of that hard work pays off and it works out.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
There is an overwhelming amount of research, especially at UW, so it can be really challenging to figure out what you want to commit to. The sooner you start looking for research, the more opportunities you can take advantage of.