Jessica Flores - Alumni, Physics
Tell me a little about yourself...
I graduated in May 2017 and I earned a bachelor of science in physics with WISE honors. I arrived in France last month and since have been working on a new research project that deals with fluorescent organic nanoparticles.
How did you choose which research project to work on? How did you get involved with this research?
I started to participate in research projects early on. As a freshman, I learned of research opportunities from circulating WISE emails. I jumped at the opportunity to join the laboratory of Professors David Mckinnon (Neurobiology) and Barbara Rosati (Physiology & Biophysics) in spring 2014 to work on transcriptome analysis of gene expression changes in an in vitro model of cardiac hypertrophy. In my first three semesters of research in this molecular physiology laboratory I gained expertise in recombinant DNA techniques, was selected for a NY NASA Space grant award in summer 2014, and won a Best Presentation award at a CSTEP conference. In the fall of my senior year, I returned to work under the direction of Dr. Mckinnon to gain some experience in bioinformatics.
Over the span of my undergraduate career, I have sought out multiple research opportunities to explore my diverse interests. In the summer of 2015, I interned at the National Synchrotron Light Source II at Brookhaven National Laboratory, working with Dr. Kazimierz Gofron, on “X-Ray Microscopy Development for Beam Characterization at the Inelastic X-ray Scattering Beamline.” In the 2015-2016 academic year, I worked under the mentorship of Professors Yuefan Deng (Applied Mathematics) and George Sterman (Institute for Theoretical Physics), applying myself to “Global Exascale Supercomputing for Studying the Functions and Structures of Platelets” and “Adapting Mori-Zwanzig Formalism for studying the Phase Transition of Platelets.” In spring 2016, I was selected for the prestigious University of Michigan CERN-REU program which gave me the opportunity to work over the summer with Dr. James Pinfold and Dr. Albert de Roeck in the CERN laboratory in Switzerland on particle trajectory visualization/identification with Timepix detectors and magnetic monopole/detector simulations.
From May to December 2017, I have the amazing opportunity to do research at the Institute of Molecular Sciences at the University of Bordeaux under the supervision of Dr. Mireille Blanchard-Desce. Here I am learning about fluorescent organic nanoparticles for bioimaging purposes. I was nominated for this opportunity by Paul Siegel from the LSAMP office at Stony Brook; the iREU program is offered through Louisiana State University and France. Gratefully (and enthusiastically) I was selected and so I went to France!
The WISE program has aided me in my success by offering challenging research opportunities to begin my research career. I have also had much help from professors like George Sterman who has influenced my research goals and helped me get to where I am now. I also have to thank my mentor in the Women's Leadership Council (an initiative which matches high potential women undergraduates with top philanthropic leaders in the SB community) for being so supportive and helping me find amazing opportunities.
Do you have any advice for other undergraduate women in WISE with regard to pursuing research or succeeding as a researcher?
In terms of advice, I would tell other undergraduate women in WISE to not be afraid to change their minds. It's ok to not know what you want to do and it's ok to try different things to help you get there. Take every opportunity that comes along even when you don't feel very confident about your abilities. You may not know your full potential; be confident!
Do you have a favorite research moment?
I think that my favorite research moment occurred here in France. Throughout my undergraduate career, my projects were mostly theoretical or computational. With the skills I gained from those experiences, I've enjoyed working in an interdisciplinary chemistry lab. It's quite nice to see the fruits of your labor live like when I first saw the organic nanoparticles I made using the transmission electron microscope (TEM).
What do you want to do after you graduate?
I'm currently in the process of preparing myself to apply to PhD programs in medical physics and related fields. Specifically, I'm very interested in studying hadron therapy.
In what ways has being a part of the WISE program helped you succeed in your undergraduate program/internships/jobs?
Like I said previously, WISE was very useful when I first started in college. I got my first research position when I responded to a call for student interns that WISE was circulating. Those emails really help! In the middle of working towards my degree I also had many times where I couldn't sign up for classes that I needed. Doreen was always so helpful in pointing me in the right direction. Even now, after graduation, WISE continues to support me. The Director of WISE, Carrie-Ann Miller, and I have kept in touch and she's helping me in my transition to living in France.
I will take part in the Extrabrain project, a synergic and interdisciplinary project gathering of chemists, physicists and biologists at University of Bordeaux (Dr. L. Cognet LP2N, Dr. L. Groc IINS, Dr. E. Bezard IMN). We are interested in understanding the mechanisms of degenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and more specifically how extracellular space is a factor of these diseases. The consortium group wants to use nanoparticles in extracellular space to track single receptors. These receptors will reveal the regulation of their movements in response to the characteristics of their environment (i.e. extracellular space).
My role in this project will be to explore how versatile nanoparticles can be surface-functionalized to target specific receptors using fluorescence multicolor imaging and single-molecule microscopy imaging methods. This could be useful for cancer therapy (tracking single nanoparticles and their interaction with cancer cells having in mind their use as cargo for controlled anticancer drug delivery) and in cardiology as a way to visualize in vivo the molecular events leading to plaque rupture in the coronary bed.