When I enrolled for my undergraduate studies at the University of Florida (UF), I was uncertain of my eventual career path. After earning my bachelor of science in mechanical engineering, I began to pursue my master of science and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at UF. I chose to become a biomedical engineer instead of practicing medicine because research advancement in one field can help transform other engineering disciplines and synergistically improve the quality of lives.
After my freshman year of college, I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, now acknowledged as a high-functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Retroactively, the diagnosis made sense as I was awkward in social environments and had bouts of depression and anxiety. In learning how to live with ASD and in overcoming all of the continual changes occurring in my mental health, I’ve cultivated a desire to better understand the subtleties of the brain through research. In doing so as a biomedical engineer, I can improve the quality of life for millions of others. After recognizing the complex nature of the brain and its effects on my daily life, I wanted to do research that would help people better understand the brain. I am very happy to be completing my research in the Gator Biomimetic Actuator and Integrated Technologies (GatorBAIT) Lab with Dr. Chelsey Simmons, who has been supportive of my research and welcoming of me. She has been a great mentor in working with me to make sure I am successful in my research despite have a disability.
My research looks to characterize the mechanical properties of various human brain tumors and normal brain tissue. From better understanding the mechanics of various tumors, in vitro platforms I will be designing and testing will allow me to understand the basic science behind these diseases. This approach to mechanics in biology can be applied to many biological systems. Methods developed through my research can inform sophisticated tissue analogs for use in experiments where our knowledge is still lacking. This research could also translate into the study of traumatic brain injury. These types of brain injuries have been shown to induce a variety of psychological disorders, including some of the psychological issues I have personal experience with, and I hope that my research will be able to translate to new aids for those with physical and psychological disabilities. This area of research is vital to understanding the intricate nature of disabilities, and as engineers we can utilize our talents to devise new ways to help others who struggle with their disability. It is important for us to be able to discover the importance of incorporating universal design into all of our projects and make our world accessible to everyone.
For more information about my research and the GatorBAIT Lab, visit https://faculty.eng.ufl.edu/simmons-mechanobiology-lab/ and http://bme.ufl.edu.