REU Profile: making connections in metastasis

Kelcee Everette was part of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology’s summer research experience for undergraduates. She blogged about her experience below:

My name is Kelcee Everette and I am a rising sophomore at Harvard University. During the summer, I worked in the Denis Wirtz Lab in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, where I characterized invasive breast cancer cell movement and compared those characterizations to the cell’s ability to metastasize in both 3D gels and on 2D substrates.

Kelcee Everette

Kelcee Everette

This project for me was especially exciting because I had never conducted research before. I learned a lot of skills that will be extremely valuable to me as I pursue my PhD.

The entire research experience was completely new to me, but my mentor, PI, and labmates were super helpful in teaching me the techniques I’d need to conduct my experiments.  Some of the skills I acquired included advanced microscopy, how to culture cells, and how create 3D collagen matrices, along with learning new programs like ImageJ and Metamorph.

I also learned a lot about the biological nature of cancer cells. The most interesting thing I learned, and the cornerstone of my project, was that cancer cells that are genetically identical can have vastly different motility profiles. The old saying “you learn something new every day” was a very applicable statement to my time in the lab.

Outside of the lab, my fellow interns and I had fun exploring the Inner Harbor, going to a food truck festival and a few other local and cultural festivals, and exploring local eateries and shopping centers. My experience this summer has been truly enjoyable both in and out of the lab, and I feel as if I have made great connections within the scientific community in just ten short weeks.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at

REU Profile: Microfluidics internship teaches patience, perseverance

Alex Chavez is a rising sophomore at University of Central Florida where he is studying Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Bio-Engineering and Mathematics. He spent the summer in the Materials Science and Engineering laboratories of Kalina Hristova and Peter C. Searson as part of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology Research Experience for Undergraduates program (INBT REU). His mentor was Alex Komin, a PhD candidate in the Searson group.

Alex wanted to write about his experience at Johns Hopkins in the INBT REU program in a blog post as follows:

This summer at the INBT REU has been a challenging and rewarding experience that has allowed me to investigate interesting topics at the interface of microfluidics, biological cells, and drug delivery. My research is focused on fabricating microfluidic devices, which allow to easily introduce the fluorescent molecules of interest to the cells and wash them out while doing live-cell fluorescence imaging.

Alex Chavez

Alex Chavez

While the main purpose of the device is to measure the rates at which fluorescent molecules can enter and exit cells, the applications of this microfluidic device may extend to the measurements of inhibition and cell viability without taking the cells out of the microscope. One of my research goals was to optimize the microfluidic device, such as the tube connection and battling with the bubbles that could ultimately stop the flow of the fluid in the microfluidic vessel. I have enjoyed learning how to fabricate microfluidic devices, work in the cleanroom, culture cells, seed cells, and to work with a confocal microscope.

This experience has given me the chance to learn from an expert in cell culture and learn more about the JHU community. Being mentored by an expert that can guide me and give me hints on what to do next, as well as to let me explore my own potential, has given me an incredible insight into the life of a graduate student. It has taught me the patience, diligence, and passion, to name a few skills, which a researcher should possess to perform their best in the laboratory. It has also showed me that sometimes experiments planned for a specific day may be delayed due to troubleshooting the device. It has also made me realize that if you keep on working and putting 100 percent of yourself, one day when you least expect it, you might be able to attain publishable results. This experience has ultimately taught me to keep on working and fighting for the love and advancement of science and drug delivery.

My experience at INBT has guided me and confirmed my thirst to pursue an advanced degree in biomedical engineering. My peers in the INBT REU program have inspired me to push myself to the limits and continue to work hard in order to know as much as them. I have visited Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and have had dinners with my peers. I’m blessed and truly privileged to have had this experience, including talking with my Puerto Rican roommate, Jean Rodriguez, about future goals and aspirations.

My mentor, Alexander Komin, has taught me invaluable skills that I will cherish and continue to further develop in the future. Thank you very much INBT for allowing me to further my research experience.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at


The Rosetta REU: software lets students collaborate at a distance

Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) has launched a summer research undergraduate internship to train students to build new lifesaving drug molecules and create new biofuels, while testing the concept of a virtual research community. With the help of a $200,000, two-year grant to INBT from the National Science Foundation, Jeffrey Gray, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, spearheaded a first-of-its-kind training program where students collaborate with others from distant host university labs and use computer software to build vaccines, biofuels, and protein circuits in living cells.

Typical summer internships bring students together to one host university, but students in the Computational Biomolecular training program use an open-source software called Rosetta to work together on problems no matter where they are. Participants are mentored by members of a global collaborative team known as the Rossetta Commons, and users analyze massive amounts of data to predict the structure of real and imagined proteins, enzymes, and other molecules.

ChemBE professor Jeff Gray (standing) confers with Rosetta Commons undergradutate intern, Morgan Nance (seated left), and her mentor, Rebecca Alford (seated right), undergraduate research assistant, as they video conference with Mingzhao Liu, an undergraduate interning at Vanderbilt University.

ChemBE professor Jeff Gray (standing) confers with Rosetta Commons undergraduate intern, Morgan Nance (seated left), and her mentor, Rebecca Alford (seated right), undergraduate research assistant, as they video conference with Mingzhao Liu, an undergraduate interning at Vanderbilt University. Photo by Will Kirk/Homewood Photography

“Computational biologists study known macromolecules or design new ones and use computers to predict how these molecules will fold in 3D and interact with cells or other molecules,” said Gray. “For example, researchers create computational algorithms to design a new drug molecule or use the Rosetta software to predict how molecules might behave in a living organism. And because the work is done using a computer, researchers can easily collaborate at a distance.”

The students in the pilot program began with a week-long boot camp at the University of North Carolina at the end of May. Then, they traveled to host universities, which included Johns Hopkins; University of California, Davis; Scripps Research Institute; Stanford University; New York University; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and Vanderbilt.

Morgan Nance, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from the University of California, Davis, worked in the Gray Lab. “I hope to become more familiar with Rosetta to the point that I am able to utilize it in my home lab,” Nance said. “I want to gain the technical skills of how to use this new software and the knowledge of how to develop it further. “

With the pilot program, students quickly expand their skill set. “Each lab has different expertise,” Gray said. “One lab might specialize in protein docking, another in RNA structure and design, another in vaccine design or protein function. When students cross train in these laboratories, they learn to recognize the common themes. “

Each week, Nance and her colleagues “met” via video chat to discuss current published papers and to present updates from host labs. At the end of 10 weeks, the Rosetta cohort convened at the annual RosettaCON in Leavenworth, Washington. Though Nance was on her own at Hopkins, INBT staff included her in activities organized for their other summer research interns.

“If this distributed model works just as well as the traditional one, we would then be able to accept this kind of model and access the best labs in the country for doing research,” said Sally O’Connor, the NSF program director.

Story by Mary Spiro

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at

Summer research symposium to feature INBT-hosted interns

The School of Medicine will host the second annual Hopkins Career Academic and Research Experiences for Students (C.A.R.E.S.) Summer Symposium on Thursday, July 30, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 the Anne and Mike Armstrong Medical Education Building.

SOM150502 CARES Summer 2015 Program Poster 24x36-3 (1)_Page_2Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology has 15 Research Experience for Undergraduates participating in the symposium.  In addition to more than one dozen poster presenters, REU Ashley Williams will give an individual talk on her research project at 1:20 p.m. in the East Auditorium. High school students from the INBT supported SARE program (Summer Academic Research Experience) will also have posters, and two-time SARE scholar Assefa Akinwole will give a talk on his work at 12:50 p.m. in the West Auditorium. The symposium is free and open to the entire Hopkins Community.

In total, more than 150 high school students from Baltimore City and undergraduates from around the country will present posters and oral presentations. Peter Agre, M.D. (Med ’74), director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, will deliver the keynote address.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our Baltimore City scholars to showcase their talents, intellect, and passion for science and medicine and reaffirm that they can compete at the highest level with undergraduates from across the country,” said Danny Teraguchi, Ph.D., assistant dean for student affairs and director of the office for student diversity.

C.A.R.E.S. is grateful to the Office of the Vice Dean for Education, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Summer Internship Program, Johns Hopkins Internship Program in Brain Sciences, and its corporate sponsor, PNC, for supporting the symposium, and for their commitment to advancing education opportunities and academic programming for Baltimore City youth.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at


Assefa Akinwole

Assefa Akinwole

Ashley Williams

Ashley Williams

REU Profile: Hydrogels and stem cells


Franklyn Hall

Franklyn Hall is a rising junior at Mississippi State University where he is studying Chemical Engineering with a Biomolecular Concentration. He is spending the summer in the chemical and biomolecular engineering laboratory of Sharon Gerecht as part of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology Research Experience for Undergraduates program (INBT REU).

Franklyn wanted to write about his experience thus far at Johns Hopkins in the INBT REU program in a blog post as follows:

This summer at the INBT REU has been an amazing experience that has allowed me to investigate interesting research topics such as hydrogels and stem cell growth. This experience has also given me the opportunity to learn more about the JHU community and the life of a graduate student.

My research is mainly focused on the characterization of the optimal conditions for vascular regeneration and growth within hydrogels. Hydrogels are unique 3-D environments that mimic in-vivo cell growth and allow researchers to study and adjust growth conditions, patterns, and cell interactions. These 3-D growth environments not only improve our understanding of stem cells, but they have applications in wound healing and tissue regeneration. I am specifically investigating hypoxia in hydrogels or the state of having low oxygen availability within the hydrogel. One of my research goals is to find the optimal hypoxic conditions and the effect of oxygen gradients within the hydrogel on cell growth and development. I have enjoyed learning how to make the hydrogel polymers, culture and stain cells, and look forward to producing results soon.

Outside of the laboratory I have had the opportunity to play on the departmental softball team with my graduate student mentor. It is common for graduate students to play different sports in the evening to socialize and have fun outside of the laboratory. During our semiweekly games, I have been able to talk to Masters, MD, and MD/PhD. students to learn about their graduate study experiences and future goals.  We have also had the opportunity to go out to eat and go to different events around Baltimore.

Graduate studies and research may be challenging. However, with people like the ones I have met, the support is there for you to persevere and make your mark on the scientific community.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at


High school students join ranks of summer researchers at INBT

Twelve high school students have joined the ranks of researchers working in labs affiliated with Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology this summer.

Nine of the students come to Hopkins via the Summer Academic Research Experience program (SARE), which pairs selected academically inclined students who attend Baltimore area schools, such as the SEED School of Maryland, with laboratory mentors at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. INBT has administered this program since 2009. Its funding comes from a variety of sources including, INBT, the Family League of Baltimore and private grants and donations.


SARE 2015 Cohort: Back row: Natalie Suarez-Perez, Adam Elsaidy, Princess Massaquoi, Ayende Watson, Stacey Alston. Front row: Assefa Akinwole, Siri Keyaka, Tashanna Sands, Grace Ayole,

Three of the students have joined INBT labs through a supplement to the National Science Foundation’s REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program and these students have been placed in INBT affiliated laboratories on the Homewood campus of the University.  This program is new to the Institute and students selected had applied directly to NSF via school recommendations. Students in this program come from outside the Baltimore area and live on campus in student housing.

INBT is dedicated to providing educational outreach opportunities to a variety of populations, especially students living in and around the Johns Hopkins University campuses. To find out about all of our educational program, visit the website Questions about our academic programs may be directed to INBT’s Academic Program Administrator Camille Bryant at

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at

NSF High School Cohort 2015: Nico Deshler, Nahom Yimam and Prathak Naidu

NSF High School Cohort 2015: Nico Deshler, Nahom Yimam and Prathak Naidu

Summer scholars celebrate with poster session

The Johns Hopkins Summer Academic Research Experience (SARE) program will hold a closing celebration and poster session for participants on August 15 at 3:30 in the pre-function area of the Woods Basic Science Auditorium on the ground floor at the medical campus.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 12.17.09 PMThe SARE is an outreach initiative and internship program that provides a biomedical research experience and academic support for selected high school students from the greater Baltimore community. It is partially funded by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT).

“SARE Scholars typically come from disadvantaged backgrounds and participants are chosen from Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore, the SEED School of Maryland, the Crossroads School and KIPP Academy,” said Doug Robinson, professor of cell biology, INBT affiliate and founder of the program. “SARE Scholars spend the summer working in research labs with doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, while taking a structured academic program and working on professionalism skills. At the celebration, Scholars will present the fruits of their hard work through a professional scientific poster session.”

Robinson noted that since 2009, 16 Scholars have participated in SARE. Of those who have reached college age, 100 percent have enrolled into 4-year universities, and 40 percent of those students chose science, engineering, or health-related degree programs.

“Although we often hear of sad stories of Baltimore youth, this event will show just how exceptional Baltimore students are,” Robinson said. “I promise you will be amazed and inspired by the SARE Celebration.”

For all press inquiries regarding INBT, its faculty and programs, contact Mary Spiro, or 410-516-4802.



2014 BioNano summer institute to be held at University of Illinois

It’s like summer camp for nanobiotechnology.

nanobioinstituteuofiThe 2014 BioNano summer institute will be held at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, July 28 to August 8. Click on this link for a pdf flyer.

Come for two weeks of lectures and hands-on training in engineering, biological, and physical science laboratory techniques covering topics such as cancer nanotechnology, cell mechanics, cell biology, molecular biology, lab-on-a-chip, and NanoBio devices. The institute is accepting applications from advanced undergraduates, graduate students, post-docs, and faculty from engineering, physical sciences, and biological sciences who are interested in state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research at the intersection of engineering and biology.

Applications must be received by midnight on Friday, March 28, 2014. Find details and apply online at this link:

Lectures come from California Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, University of California Merced, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Kentucky, and industry. The cost is $1,500/selected participant and breakfast and lunch each weekday and dormitory housing is included from July 27-August 8. NOTE: Limited financial assistance may be available toward the registration fee. If you wish to attend and require financial help, please indicate your request on the application form.


Lindau 2013: Mingling with Nobel Laureates

During the first week of July 2013, 34 science Nobel Prize winners congregated on the island of Lindau, Germany to meet and mentor the next generation of leading researchers. 625 undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students from 78 countries were invited to attend this exclusive meeting. I was very lucky to be among them!

The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting has been held annually since 1951 and rotates among the Nobel Prize categories of chemistry, physics, physiology and medicine, and economics. This year’s meeting was devoted to chemistry. The Lindau Mediatheque is a great resource for meeting lectures, abstracts, and programs. The database lists all of this year’s attending Laureates, along with the years and disciplines in which they won the Nobel Prize.

U.S. researchers explore the island city of Lindau, Germany.

U.S. researchers explore the island city of Lindau, Germany.

Conference mornings were spent in widely-attended and inspiring lectures by the Laureates, while the afternoons involved break-out sessions where we could asks the Laureates our questions in a more intimate setting. I learned the processes through which many of the Nobel-prize winning discoveries were made and where some of the Laureates were when they received the infamous phone call informing them that they had been awarded the Prize. The conference’s U.S. delegation consisted of approximately 70 graduate students, and our organizing partner, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, was able to score us some great additional interaction opportunities with a few of the Laureates. We had our own dinner parties arranged with Brian Kobilka (Chemistry, 2012) and Steven Chu (Physics, 1997, and former U.S. Secretary of Energy). I had the pleasure of sitting next to Akira Suzuki (Chemistry, 2010) during an extravagant international get-together dinner sponsored by the Republic of Korea.

A panel of Nobel Laureates and scientists discusses the importance of communication in science. Speaking in this photo is Ada Yonath (far left), who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009 for her studies on the structure and function of the ribosome.

A panel of Nobel Laureates and scientists discusses the importance of communication in science. Speaking in this photo is Ada Yonath (far left), who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009 for her studies on the structure and function of the ribosome.

The Laureates were treated like celebrities on the island of Lindau. They were each gifted their own luxury car for the week, and personal drivers shuttled them between conference events. Students vied for their pictures and autographs like they were rock stars! My favorite day of the conference incorporated a boat trip to Mainau, another German island in Lake Constance. The scenic two hour sail on a giant cruise ship included food, drink, and even dancing with the Laureates and their spouses. Once on the island of Mainau, we toured spectacular gardens and enjoyed an authentic Bavarian lunch.

From meeting science “superstars” to networking with students from around the globe and exploring a beautiful island city, I can’t speak highly enough of the remarkable experience. For information about how to apply to be a part of the U.S. delegation for the 2014 Lindau Meeting, which will focus on physiology and medicine, visit

Story by Allison Chambliss, who is entering her fifth year as a PhD student in the laboratory of Denis Wirtz in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.


Lab coats are summer gear for high school researchers

You don’t think of a lab coat as summer wear for teens, but we don’t quite feel like it’s summer around here until our research interns have arrived. Early in June, INBT’s undergraduate nano-bio researchers arrived. This week our high schoolers in the Summer Academic Research Experience (SARE) scholars got started.

SARE pairs specially selected teens with university mentors who guide them through a mini research project. At the end of their time here, they hold a small poster session. The students gain valuable work skills, learn about scientific careers, get tutoring help, practice their writing, gather data for their projects and earn some cash for the future. Students in the program are recruited from the Boys Hope Girls Home of Baltimore program, The SEED School of Maryland and The Crossroads School, all of which assist in differing ways with in the education, housing, tutoring  and counseling of promising young people from disadvantaged circumstances.

The SARE program was launched in 2009 by Doug Robinson, professor in the cell biology department at the School of Medicine, and is funded jointly by the medical school and Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology.

This year’s SARE scholars include: Diana Bobb is being mentored by Makoto Tanigawa in the Takanari Inoue Lab in the Department of Cell Biology; Kaleel Byrd is being mentored by Ryan Vierling in the Caren Meyers Lab in the Department of Pharmacology; Milan Dower is being mentored by Tom Lampert in the Peter Devreotes Lab in the Department of Cell Biology; Jewel Herndon is being mentored by Herschel Wade in his lab in the Department of Biophysics; De’Sean Markley is being mentored by Hoku West-Foyle in the Douglas Robinson Lab in the Department of Cell Biology