Hey! My name is Zander, and I'm a rising third-year in biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. In my lab at school, I research the effects of tau, a brain microtubule protein, in causing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. To study this protein on a molecular scale, my Lab Mentor and I have focused on hydrogel embedding with induced neurons and creating microfluidics devices to best simulate brain physiological processes. Next school year, I will help more with setting up pump systems, managing cell lines, and imaging results.
Another project I work on includes mitigating the effects of arterial plaque buildup in the extremities of geriatric and diabetic patients. My Lab Mentor hypothesized that using a biomaterial, such as a hydrogel, can facilitate blood vessel regeneration in patients who lost circulation. I have focused on helping her with mouse testing, conducting Doppler imaging and confocal microscopy on her samples. Next semester, I want to help more with cryosectioning and computer imaging.
I'm spending this summer on a program called Onward Israel, an extension of Taglit. This program pairs American Jews with internship opportunities in Israel while setting us up with housing and programming in Tel Aviv. My work in Ben's lab this summer comes from a couple of different reasons.
My purpose is to impact the world around me using empathy, starting with the stories and lived experiences of those impacted by unsolvable medical questions. This led me towards regenerative medicine, which focuses on answering these questions through innovation and intersectionality. I gravitated toward Ben's lab because the projects it offers align with this field. On top of this, though, it will allow me to conduct research I'm passionate about in a new cultural context. I hope to return to the States with this knowledge and exposure to make a stronger impact in the future.
I shadow Emma on her CollPlant project and am also continuing Rebecca and Regina's work with gelatin. For Emma's project, I make device holders for her microfluidics chips and also help with cell culturing. For Rebecca and Regina's project, I 3D print tunnels into gelatin and run HUVEC cell media through them. The cells will hopefully grow to form vasculature along the walls of the tunnel.
As mentioned before, my goal this summer is to continue research that I'm passionate about under a different cultural context. I can apply this experience to a familiar environment back at school, allowing me to research more effectively with a broader understanding. After college, I hope to pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering and have dreams of one day becoming a professor.
In my free time, I listen to a lot of music and can usually be found playing guitar, saxophone, or piano. One of my favorite pastimes is hiking, and I love to cook and go on drives whenever I can. I also run a couple times a week (though I'm not very fast) and participate annually in a Latin American dance showcase at school (though I also can't dance very well). What I can do is name all of the capitals in the world, tell really painful dad jokes, make a fool out of myself in public, and remember embarrassingly-obscure facts that people tell me about themselves way beyond when I should,