Studying with UCD Biomedical Engineering - Kate Mockler

My name is Kate Mockler and I am a UCD Biomedical Engineering Student. I studied abroad at the University of Texas at Austin in my third year. The study abroad program was a fantastic experience; an opportunity to meet new people, learn about a new culture and live in a completely different place. It is safe to say that Texas is very different to Ireland!

While studying at UT Austin, I enrolled in a module called ‘Cancer Bioengineering’. I fell in love with this module straight away - never before had I considered the role of biomedical engineers in cancer research. I decided that I wanted to continue learning about this topic and potentially go down this fascinating career path.

When the UCD Engineering Internship department sent out an email describing the Naughton Fellowship opportunity offered by Notre Dame University, I knew that it was something I wanted to take part in. The Naughton Fellowship program provides opportunities for Notre Dame students and students from some of Ireland's leading research universities to experience international education in the STEM disciplines. The program would involve living on campus in Notre Dame and working in a Biomedical Engineering related research laboratory for the summer. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I was selected as a Naughton Fellow.

I travelled to Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana directly from Texas. South Bend is conveniantly located only two hours outside Chicago, so I was able to get the train there most weekends to visit my friends on their J1 in Chicago! I moved into one of the dorms on campus where I met loads of other students from all over America taking part in similar research experience programmes. I also met some other Irish students who were also Naughton Fellows. It was a very friendly and welcoming environment which made it extremely easy to settle in.

My project was titled ‘Engineering Multifunctional Nanoparticles For Targeted Drug Delivery in Cancer’. I was absolutly delighted to have the opportunity to conduct research in an area of Biomedical Engineering that I had become so passionate about while studying abroad at UT Austin. My mentor was Professor Basar Bilgicer, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
I worked with a team of experts in Professor Bilgicer’s laboratory for 10 weeks, conducting experiments as well as learning and developing a number of valuable new skills. I was introduced to techniques such as High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). HPLC can separate and identify compounds that are present in any sample. I was also taught how to use a Rotovap, a very useful piece of equipment in any cell or biomolecular engineering lab. The most valuable skill I learnt is how to prepare and make nanoparticles. Lipid films are first made using chloroform. Using our multifaceted synthetic nanoparticle preparation method, the liposomal components can then be mixed at desired ratios during nanoparticle preparation. I was also taught how to use the Flow Cytometry equipment. Flow Cytometry is a laser-based biophysical technology employed in cell counting.  I am extremely grateful to UCD for selecting me to take part in the Naughton Fellowship program at Notre Dame. If it was not for UCD, I never would have had the opportunity to study abroad at UT Austin, where I was first introduced to the fascinating field of Cancer Bioengineering.  Choosing to study Biomedical Engineering at UCD has been the best decision of my life so far. This course has given me a strong foundation in several engineering disciplines. It has also allowed me to travel to America and study at two prestigious Universities, working and being taught by experts in the field of Biomedical Engineering. I am looking forward to spending the next two years back home at UCD where I will complete the Masters Program in Biomedical Engineering.

I would highly recommend to anybody interested in the research side of engineering to apply to the Naughton Fellowship Program at Notre Dame. If you are passionate about a particular engineering topic you will be amazed at just how much you can contribute and learn from the world of research. UCD is to thank for kick-starting my passion for Cancer Bioengineering, a field that I am excited to continue to explore.