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Researcher of the Month
Biomedical Engineering, Applied Mathematics & Statistics majors, Class of 2013
Research Mentors: Dr. Clinton Rubin & Dr. Ete Chan - Musculoskeletal Research Laboratory, Dept of
Professional meetings & conferences provide invaluable opportunities for undergraduate
researchers to share research findings, develop presentation skills, and interact
with leading scientists in the field. And our BME students know this better than anyone!
Four talented undergraduate researchers who work in the group of Dr. Clinton Rubin, Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, just recently got back from Atlanta Georgia where they presented their work at the annual BMES Society meeting. Among this happy group (see photo, left) is Vihitaben Patel, URECA's Researcher of the Month, and this year’s recipient of the competitive, international Research and Design Award by the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES). Recognizing her work on “Low Intensity Vibration Treatment Tapers Obesity-Induced Type 2 Diabetes by Decreasing the Size of Adipocytes in Mice,” the BMES award annually honors student researchers early in their careers, on the basis of originality, significance, thoroughness of design analysis, and performance evaluation of their work.
Currently a senior double majoring in BME and AMS, Vihita Patel has worked with BME Research Assistant Professor Ete Chan in Prof. Rubin’s group for nearly a year now and has presented at the URECA annual poster symposium (2011, 2012). Her research has been supported by URECA Summer fellowship and URECA small grant awards (2012). Prior to joining the Rubin group, Vihita had gained research experience working in the BME laboratories of Dr. Yi-Xian Qin and Dr. Helmut Strey (2011). She has held the positions of Social Chair for the SBU Biomedical Engineering Society (2012); and Director of the District Safe Kids Training program for the SBU Circle K Club; and has worked as a tutor with the PASS Tutoring Program - Undergraduate Student Government (2011); as a TA for Calculus IV (2011); and as a clerk for Financial Aid Services (2010-present). Vihita also volunteers at Stony Brook Hospital in the pain management ward, and in her freshman year was a member of the University Color Guard. Vihita emigrated from India while in high school, and graduated from Deer Park HS, NY.
Vihita currently is applying to graduate (PhD) programs in Biomedical Engineering, and is extremely positive about all the experiences she’s had in BME—her mentors, the research, the collegial lab atmosphere: “That’s why I don’t want to leave Stony Brook. It’s a great lab. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find another like it…” Below are excerpts of Vihita's interview with Karen Kernan, URECA Director.
Photo (left): Denis Nguyen, James Lennon, Ada Tsoi (SB alum/former URECA Summer Fellow-now at Virginia Tech) Vihita Patel; & Michelle Cheung
Karen: Did you enjoy going to the BMES conference in Atlanta?
It was very exciting! You get to meet a lot of different people from different universities. They tell you about their experiences –about the labs in their universities. And you gain a lot of perspective from talking to different people. This has been really helpful too, because right now I’m applying to graduate schools, so I get to learn about different labs, different programs. It's taught me a lot!
Was this the first professional meeting you’ve attended? Did you feel prepared?
Very much! I had presented at URECA last April, talking about the same project… and that experience taught me alot about how to present, how to talk to different people. It improves your interpersonal & communication skills so it was very helpful!
What do you work on?
In our lab, we are working on obesity-induced type 2 diabetes. We want to develop a treatment that’s non invasive and doesn’t involve any drugs. So we’re looking at low intensity vibration treatment—with high magnitude/low frequency vibrations. Basically what we’ve been studying so far is the obesity model in mice …and how a low intensity vibration treatment seems to improve the glucose intolerance in mice. We’re hoping to proceed to clinical trials and see whether we will find the same changes in humans too. If it works, it would be a great discovery.
How did you get started doing research?
I started doing research in BME in the summer of sophomore year…As I started learning more about the research in different BME labs, I found I was increasingly drawn to biomechanics, and so I contacted Dr. Rubin about joining his group. …I'm lucky because he offered me a position in the lab, and then I started working with Dr. Chan. I’m very happy to be working in Dr. Rubin’s lab. I really love being in the lab.
What do you like about the lab atmosphere?
We have a friendly environment. We always try to help each other. Even though we are working on different aspects of similar projects, we always help each other out. And my mentor, Dr. Chan, is phenomenal! She’s very helpful—a great mentor! The way that she teaches…is that she gives you a little at a time. She doesn’t tell you what to do but she tells you how you would go about doing things…she lets you explore your own options, lets you do research on your own. And I think that’s great! You get to learn more and more, so that you really know what you’re doing instead of just performing techniques and not really getting anything out of it. And Prof. Rubin is a great professor and teacher. He always gives you an option to look at a bigger picture. He always asks you questions that make you think about what you’re doing in a broader sense
Did you come to SB knowing you would be a BME major?
When I entered, I was a biology major. But I really wanted to do BME—and later on, I found out about how to apply to the major. I’m also doing applied math. I’ve always been interested in math. And for the major, there’s very little you have to take on top of BME. So that’s why I’m doing both!
You participated in the URECA summer program (2012). How helpful is that to have a
summer research experience?
Summer is great because you are working full time. You don’t have homework or classes to worry about. You are able to do a lot more reading. I read a ton of papers this summer and I learned a lot of new things. It gives you a bigger perspective…You learn so much more about what you are doing, by having the time to really focus on your project.
Is it difficult to find time for research during the year?
Actually I’m more eager to go to the lab than classes because it’s just more fun. You’re doing more hands-on things . . . But it’s never really felt overwhelming. Most of the classes are helpful for research, and the two actually balance each other out. Time management is something you learn along the way.
How difficult was it when you first joined a research lab, learning new techniques,
getting acclimated to the research environment?
I had learned some of the techniques from laboratory classes that I took. I started out with basic techniques, like PCR…It really wasn’t that difficult in the beginning. In my lab now, Dr. Chan is very involved in the day to day training. She holds your hand and slowly lets it go, taking you through each step of the way.
What are your future plans?
I’m applying for graduate programs for the upcoming fall… I’m also applying to Stony Brook’s Graduate program in Biomedical Engineering—and I’m hoping to stay here. I love it here. We have a great lab environment. ... That’s why I don’t want to leave Stony Brook. It’s a great lab. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find another like it!
What do you like about research?
In a way, it’s a supplement to what you learn in classes. When you work in lab, you’re exploring new grounds, so you don’t really know what you’re expecting out of it. That makes is very exciting. That reminds me of a famous quote from Isaac Asimov who said that “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but, rather is ...'That's funny...' ” So when you’re doing research, you never really know what to expect out of the research you do. But whenever you don’t get the results that you’re expecting, it motivates you to go back, to read more, and to learn new things.
So you don’t get too frustrated when the research isn’t producing the results you
Not really. That’s never got to me. When you don’t get something you’re expecting, it just gives you more motivation to do more background research and see what’s going on!