Long ago the conditions were ideal; allof the pieces were in motion. I was surrounded by the rigors of a creative,aggressive Singaporean education, and a nurturing environment that helped medevelop a preference for mathematics and biology above other subjects inprimary school. The only thing missing was a spark. Encountering Dr.
ManuPrakash’s work harnessing “frugal science” without comprising the potency ofhis discoveries, acted as a catalytic explosion setting off a chain reaction ofevents that deepened my fascination with using mathematics and nature’s ownsolutions to address the world’s problems. It was this spark of curiosity thattransformed my “primordial soup of interests” into the impetus that aided in mydecision to major in Biomedical Engineering when I began my studies at theUniversity of Utah. As a second year biomedicalengineering student, I pursue an emphasis in Biomaterials Engineering while beingactively engaged in research since my freshman year at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.Research has been an integral part of my education since stepping into my firstAP/IB Biology afterschool lab at the University of Utah, then later developinga novel water filtration system in Dr. Goel’s civil engineering lab, andfinally investigating the role of extrusion and misregulation of FAK, MMP-9 indegrading gut epithelial cell matrix in the Rosenblatt lab. As my exposure toresearch and engineering increased during my time at U.
of Utah, I became moredrawn to the cancer biology and better understanding the various oncogenicsignal transduction pathways, culminating in my application to Watson School ofBiological Sciences URP Program. From my seventh grade science fair projectstudying the benefits of acupuncture mats in reducing back-pain in myplasticine models, to later getting a taste of environmental and materialsscience while creating an electrostatic percipator to combat Utah’s poor airquality and later a water filtration device, I always knew that I wanted tobetter understand phenomena in biological and physical contexts in order toinvent solutions to difficult problems in global health. During the summerpreceding my last year in high school, I presented my water filtration device thatcan remove both arsenate and microorganisms using flocculating agents andcolloidal silver at the U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize Competition held inVirginia. Apart from presenting my research, I also learned how to formulateresearch ideas, communicate my ideas to others, and facilitate a working teamdynamic while collaborating with 49 other students on using multi-walled carbonnanotubes as an effective renewable filter to remove heavy metal contaminantsfrom water supplies. The overall experience was life-changing: participating inresearch with other students in an international setting demonstrated to me thepossibilities that lay ahead of me and the work that it would take to achievemy goals.
I learned that knowledge in a variety of disciplines is vital tosucceeding with research, and that being able to teach myself new concepts inunfamiliar areas is perhaps even more important.