Picture of Mustapha JamalMustapha Jamal. Graduate student in the Nanobio Igert program. Credit: Mary Spiro / JHU

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

Graduate Students, Faculty Network at INBT Inaugural Retreat

Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology held its first annual pre-doctoral (graduate) student retreat at the Mount Washington Conference Center on Sunday, October 28, 2007.

Assistant professor David Gracias (ChemBE) describes self-assembled nanoliter containers.

Assistant professor David Gracias (ChemBE) describes self-assembled nanoliter containers.Credit: INBT / JHU

The retreat was arranged to engage students involved in both the National Science Foundation sponsored Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship—or NanoBio IGERT—and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) sponsored Interdisciplinary Graduate Training in Nanotechnology for Biology and Medicine—or NBMed Program. Four faculty members affiliated with INBT presented their research during the morning speaker session. Speakers from the School of Medicine included Douglas Robinson, assistant professor of cell biology, and Jonathan Schneck, professor of pathology. Presenters from the Whiting School of Engineering included Hai-Quan Mao, assistant professor of materials science, and David Gracias, assistant professor of chemical & biomolecular engineering. Terrence Dobrowsky, a student in the HHMI program, also presented.

From left, Craig Schneider (HHMI), Mustapha Jamal (IGERT), and assistant professor Kalina Hristova (Mat. Sci. Eng.) networking during the retreat luncheon.

From left, Craig Schneider (HHMI), Mustapha Jamal (IGERT), and assistant professor Kalina Hristova (Mat. Sci. Eng.) networking during the retreat luncheon. Credit: INBT / JHU

Denis Wirtz, associate director of INBT and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, began the retreat by welcoming eight new students into the INBT’s graduate training programs. There are 15 students altogether in both programs, and they come from the departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical an Biomolecular Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, and Biology.

About 45 students and faculty participated in a lively question and answer session in the morning, a chance to network during lunch, and further discussion during the afternoon poster session. INBT wishes to thank education program coordinator Ashanti Edwards for making the institute’s inaugural retreat such a huge success.

Janice Lin (IGERT), center, takes questions from Patrick Stahl (HHMI) left, and Tania Chan (IGERT), right.

Janice Lin (IGERT), center, takes questions from Patrick Stahl (HHMI) left, and Tania Chan (IGERT), right. Credit: INBT / JHU