Undergraduate Research Program

Skyler Hallinan

Skyler SmilingMajor: Computer Science, Bioengineering, ACMS
Mentor: Dr. Paul Yager, Professor in Department of Bioengineering

Contact: hallisky@uw.edu

Current research project: The Removal of Excess Tryptophan in the Small Intestine via Orally Ingested Hydrogel Microspheres


Skyler is a senior pursuing a triple major in computer science, bioengineering, and applied and computational mathematical sciences. He started research in the Yager Lab his sophomore year, where he has worked on developing a solution for people with kidney failure. Along the way, he has also participated in research in the bioinformatics department. Now, Skyler continues his kidney research while also working on a natural language processing project to identify misinformation in text. Outside of research, Skyler loves to practice piano, and watch and play basketball.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
The kidneys are an important organ that filter out different toxins that naturally occur in our blood. People who have kidney failure suffer adverse effects from toxin accumulation in their blood, so they have to either get a kidney transplant, which is rare, or go onto dialysis, a laborious process that is not fully effective. My work seeks to create an alternative to dialysis: a simple, easy-to-use solution that would help patients with kidney failure remove toxins from their blood. We are currently engineering different orally ingestible hydrogels that could do just this: remove toxins from the patient’s body, as a substitute for a functional kidney.


When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in research at the beginning of my sophomore year, when I emailed a bioengineering professor who’s work I had read about and was interested in. Research was appealing to me because I wanted to get hands-on experience using my creativity and problem-solving skills to have a real impact. My undergraduate research has been just as rewarding as I anticipated!


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Reach out to lots of people and don’t be discouraged by rejections! It is totally fine to “cold email” professors and write them a quick note on why you’re interested in working with them. Applying to lots of places increases the chance that you will be accepted somewhere, while also providing flexibility for you to choose which lab to join. Finally, if a professor doesn’t have a project right away, try reaching out to graduate students in the same lab! A lot of them are more than happy to mentor undergraduates, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them.