REU student profile: Alexa Wnorowski

Alexa Wnorowski

Alexa Wnorowski

Alexa Wnorowski is a rising senior in Biological Engineering studying at Cornell University. Her summer REU at Johns Hopkins University involved studying the blood brain barrier in the materials science and engineering laboratory of Peter Searson. Searson directs the Institute for NanoBioTechnology that hosts the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).

“The goal is to figure out how to move drugs across this tight junction of cells that protects the brain,” Alexa explained. Alexa used a four-channel microfluidic device fabricated in the Searson lab.

“Each channel has a slightly different shear stress because it has a slightly different height,” she explained. “We seed a culture of cells at the bottom of the channel and let them grow so that they are confluent. Then we run media through the device and we see how the different shear stresses affects proliferation of the cells.”

Although she conducted research before, Alexa said she had never worked with microfluidic devices before. She said to gain a broader perspective on research, it’s important to work in several different laboratories. “Every lab is run in different ways and have very different atmospheres, “ she said. “This experience has shown me how research in conducted in different labs.”

Alexa’s goal is to earn a PhD in biomedical engineering.

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