"I joined the Iowa Technology Institute as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, having never done research before. I liked it so much that I decided to stay on as a graduate student, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing meaningful work as part of such a great group!”
Hometown: Norwalk, Iowa
Year: Fourth-year PhD student
Program: Biomedical Engineering
Mission Area: Biotechnology
Advisor: Michael J. Schnieders, associate professor of biomedical engineering, assistant professor of biochemistry
What do you work on and what do you enjoy most about your work?
Currently, my work focuses on developing computational tools for the prediction of RNA tertiary structure. My goal is to use a combination of physics-based and machine learning methods to determine the 3D structure of nucleic acids. The ability to accurately predict RNA structure computationally will impact the design of new aptamer therapeutics and complement experimental discovery methods.
One of my favorite aspects of the work I do is how dynamic it is. RNA research is a rapidly expanding field, so there is something new to learn every day and great opportunities for collaboration with other researchers from many different disciplines.
What achievements are you most proud of?
I have had the opportunity to apply for fellowships on the national level and am honored to be both a Goldwater fellow and a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow. Additionally, I am proud to say that I have presented my work at a variety of conferences: locally here in Iowa City, nationally at the National Institutes of Health main campus, and internationally in Ireland. With each presentation, I have been able to share my work with other researchers, receive feedback, and make important connections.
What are your goals for the future? What do you hope to be doing professionally in 10 years?
I hope to stay in research to learn, develop, and share the next generation of biomedical engineering techniques. Additionally, I want to work in an environment that encourages mentorship. I have had wonderful mentors during my time at the University of Iowa and value the opportunities I have had to work with younger students as well. I believe that no matter where you are in your career, you can benefit from both having and being a mentor, so that is something I will look for in the future.