Four INBT Undergraduates Receive Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award

Undertaking independent research is a hope for all students. Now, several students at INBT will be able to do this with the help of the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA). The award allows students to work on an independent project over the academic year, with the assistance of a JHU mentor, to conceive, design, and execute the project. This encourages students to be creative and put their knowledge and skill into practice.

The students will present their work at DREAMS, an annual event at Hopkins that celebrates undergraduate research, which is attended by Hopkin’s president, provost, deans, university officials, and many more.


Dante Navarro (pictured far left), Junior, Biomedical Engineering

Project: Using Wearable Technology to Measure Change in Functional Capacity Following Interventional Pain Procedure.

Dante is helping to develop wearable devices and software to assist in streamlining the information it collects for advanced data analysis. Specifically, the technology he is working with collects and measures data about patient pain level. Doctors and patients alike can then use the data to make informed treatment decisions for pain alleviation.

“I am grateful to have received this opportunity. This project provides quantitative physiological data where only qualitative survey input was the previous standard of care. I believe this project can truly have a large, positive impact in the medical field,” said Navarro.


Anna Chen (pictured second from left), Junior, Molecular and Cell Biology,

Project: Manipulating the mTOR Pathway to Improve T-cell Function in Cancer Immunotherapy.

Chen’s project investigates T cell phenotype, persistence, and tumor rejection in mice with a mutation in protein tuberin (TSC2), which amplifies or reduces downstream mTORC1 stimulation. She hopes to determine whether T cell function can be optimized using mTOR regulation to improve tumor elimination in adoptive T cell therapy.

“I am very thankful to my research mentors Ami Bessell, Dr. Jonathan Schneck, Dr. Mark Ranek, and Dr. David Kass for guiding me and showing me support in my PURA application. I am honored to receive the PURA as I know there must have been many outstanding candidates. I am grateful to the Hodson Trust and Johns Hopkins University for establishing the PURA so that undergraduates like me can engage in and further their research interests,” said Chen.


Rebecca Grusby (pictured second from right), Junior, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Project: Improving Hemocompatibility and AntiBiouling of 3D-Printed Cardiovascular Conduits Through Surface Modifications.

Grugsby is helping develop a 3D-printed cardiovascular implant to treat congenital heart defects through testing physical and mechanical properties of the 3D-printed material. She also studies surface modifications to apply to the material to improve the device’s biocompatibility and reduce clotting complications caused by the implant.

“I greatly appreciate the support of the Hopkins Office of Undergraduate Research for making such opportunities available. I appreciate the encouragement from Dr. Kang and Dr. Erol, who continue to guide my academic and professional development through this valuable research experience and helping me advance my career as an engineer,” said Grusby.


Theresa Chen (pictured far right), Senior, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Project: Integrating Protein Mediators to Develop Enhanced Acellular sTEVGs for Vascularization in Mice.

Chen’s ultimate goal is to develop acellular, off-the-shelf vascular grafts. To accomplish this, she helps to improve the three-dimensional culture of small diameter tissue-engineered vascular grafts (sTEVGs). Her work involves fabricating fibrin hydrogel vascular grafts from natural polymers for arterial bypass surgery in mice and pigs. She also studies the impact of pulsatile flow on the grafts using a pulsatile perfusion bioreactor.

“I am extremely honored to receive this award. I’d like to especially thank my mentors, Morgan Elliott and Dr. Gerecht, for guiding and supporting me in my research. Their leadership has enabled me to truly grow into my full potential. I am excited to continue working on this project and I can’t wait to see what the future holds,” said Chen.

Story by: Gina Wadas