Developing Solutions to Improve Lives

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Diana Velasquez was born and raised in El Salvador, where she remembers the hardships that many people struggled with on a daily basis. At a young age she became inspired to improve health care in her community while improving processes and finding the solutions to problems.

Velasquez was matched with Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Kenneth Tichauer in the Department of Biomedical Engineering on a project called “Tumor on a Window” through the Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering’s RES-MATCH program, which facilitates the matching of undergraduate students interested in research with faculty.

She explains that the animal model in the project involves growing a tumor on a mouse and implanting a window-like chamber on top of it to visualize the process of angiogenesis—the creation of veins and arteries—as well as other factors of tumor growth. To be successful, the correct imaging agents need to be injected at the ideal concentrations before placing the animal in an imaging machine.

Velasquez shares that “I was tasked with finding these ideal concentrations for the two imaging agents that were to be injected in the animals. In order to do so, I prepared serial dilutions of different solution concentrations for the imaging agents and imaged them through a machine that measures the fluorescence of substances.”

Throughout the spring 2020 semester, Velasquez worked on calculations, developed protocols, and created diagrams that explained the entire process as well as the logic of the science behind her project.

She made the decision to pursue her biomedical engineering education at Illinois Institute of Technology because of its multiple opportunities for students to get involved with different labs and its large international student population.

“Being part of this research project enhanced my educational experience in school by providing me with tools and skills in the practical techniques used in laboratories and industry,” Velasquez adds. “Being familiar with these techniques has given me a competitive advantage, while allowing me to know which paths interest me in order to guide me with my postgraduate plans.”

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