Cells that give rise to connective tissue, known as fibroblasts, promote wound healing and repair following injury or disease. Mustapha Jamal, a PhD student in the NanoBio IGERT with the Institute for NanoBioTechnology at Johns Hopkins University, is using nano- and micro-fabricated structures to direct the growth of fibroblasts. Funded by the National Science Foundation, IGERT stands for Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship.
Jamal works in the lab of David Gracias, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering. One aim of the Gracias Lab is to build very small devices and integrated structures (click here for an example), and to study these systems using microscopy and spectroscopy. Expanding the biological research focus of the Gracias Lab has been one of Jamal’s biggest challenges since coming to work at Johns Hopkins.
“When I was an undergraduate, I always had graduate students that I could go to for help if I had a question, but now I am the graduate student managing undergraduates who are looking to me for guidance,“ Jamal says. “I have a whole new appreciation for what those other graduate students did for me!“ In 2007, Jamal earned a BS/MS degree in chemical and biochemical engineering from UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County), where he was a Meyerhoff Scholar.
“My advisors in the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program really encouraged me to do undergraduate research,“ Jamal says. “I worked in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UMBC where I modeled cell deformation.“
This experience has helped Jamal with his work on fibroblasts conducted under the direction of his co-adviser Roselle Abraham, assistant professor of medicine and a cardiologist in the School of Medicine. Both Gracias and Abraham are Hopkins faculty members affiliated with INBT.
Raised in Indiana, Jamal moved to Maryland during high school. He enjoys basketball, soccer, and listening to all types of music. In the future, he says, “I really enjoy research, but I also would like to be a philanthropist so that I could give back to those organizations that have really helped me, such as the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program or the National Society of Black Engineers.“
For more information on the Gracias Lab, click here .
Story by Mary Spiro