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Summer Poster


Rebecca irwin, 2014 Summer ScholarRebecca Irwin

2014 Summer Scholars and Artists Program award recipient

Major: Bioengineering

School: Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science

Project Title: Investigating the Role of Outer Membrane Vesicles and Shear Stress on Biofilm Maturation Using Microfluidics

Project Description:

Bacterial biofilms have a large impact on human health and have been implicated in ear infections, bacterial endocarditis and cystic fibrosis. In addition, biofilm-related infections can form on the surfaces of catheters, wound dressings and medical implants. Because of this, it is of great importance to understand how these biofilm structures grow and how to inhibit their formation. My proposed project is to engineer two microfluidic devices that will allow for further investigation of how biofilms grow and develop. The first device is a biofilm reactor that has two identical, parallel channels, which allows for on-the-chip comparison of two different biofilms in each channel: one natural “wild type” and one mutant. The second microfluidic device will produce artificial outer membrane vesicles (OMV) identical to the ones found in nature, which will help us understand how these OMVs are formed and the nature of their functions in bacterial physiology and behavior.

Rebecca’s faculty mentor is Paul Chiarot, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science.

A quick Q&A with Rebecca:

Where is your hometown?

Webster, N.Y.

Why do you think research is important?

What I find most important and most exciting about research is the ability to explore and create solutions to problems in ways that have never been done before. I enjoy the unknown aspect of it because you can't always be certain what you will learn. Research can take time and patience, but it has been the most rewarding job I have ever had and I couldn't imagine pursuing a career that didn’t allow me to continue this type of work.

What are your future plans?

After graduating from Binghamton University, I plan on attending graduate school to pursue a PhD in bioengineering with a concentration in cell and tissue engineering.

Do you have any hobbies?

When I'm not in the lab, my hobbies include playing field hockey, knitting, yoga and spending time outdoors.

Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

I like to try new cupcake and frosting recipes. My favorite one I have ever made was a red velvet cupcake with a white chocolate filling and mascarpone frosting.

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Last Updated: 5/12/14