Michelle Stolzoff

GWISE Spotlight on… Michelle Stolzoff (Sterling, IL)Stolzoff headshot

Department/Program: BME, 2nd year candidate for Master’s

Research: The Grinstaff Group has developed pH-responsive nanoparticles which swell in slightly acidic conditions, such as the early endosome shortly after cellular internalization, resulting in the controlled release of a loaded drug. We’ve applied this system to drug delivery for a variety of cancers, and my project has involved implementing different surface coatings, or surfactants, to improve stability and improve cell specificity.

Bragging rights: Best bowler in all of XTNC (Cross-disciplinary Training in Nanotechnology for Cancer)

Favorite technique: Taking images with the SEM in Photonics. It’s always really fun to get micrographs of my labmates’ samples, especially when they have no idea what it looks like.

Favorite Scientist: Nikola Tesla

Biggest fan: Probably my parents. I am their only child after all.

Let’s hear it for this month’s spotlighted member Michelle Stolzoff! Each month, GWISE will profile one of our members in the newsletter and on our website (please send nominations to gwise@bu.edu).

Michelle is a Master’s candidate in BME, and though she is jumping ship in the Fall to pursue a PhD at Northeastern University, she has already left her mark on BU and GWISE. We caught up with Michelle to discuss her research, her experience with the GK-12 fellowship, calculus jokes, and how she combined her love of knitting with her love of networking in the GWISE community.

GWISE: Congratulations on successfully defending your master’s degree! What comes next at Northeastern?

Michelle: I’ll be doing my PhD work with Dr. Tom Webster at Northeastern (his website is http://websternano.org/, which I’ll be on once I actually send them my info) and right now I’m trying to decide what project(s) to work on. It’ll be on the nanoscale, for sure, and I’m definitely partial to working with nanoparticles and cancer therapies.

GWISE: Sounds fascinating! How did you get into this kind of research? What made you want to become a scientist?

Michelle: I always liked putting things together, figuring out how things work, and all those cliche things that engineers did when they were kids. My biggest inspiration to go into cancer research was my mother, who has been a survivor for…a lot of years now. She’s always encouraged me to work hard, and take risks, which resulted in me being shipped off to Illinois Math and Science Academy for high school and going into engineering at the University of Iowa. At both schools I was inspired by my passionate teachers and awesome research experiences. This is why I want to go into academia, to be just half as great as some of my teachers and still do the research I love.

GWISE: Let’s talk about teaching! It sounds like your career goal is focused on that side of academia…

Michelle: I want to be a professor! Not just any old professor, but the best kind. The one that does it all. I know it’ll be a challenge, but I’m determined to do the best teaching, research and outreach I can…I’d totally be like Bill Nye, teaching kids about how awesome science is. Maybe a real-life Ms. Frizzle.

GWISE: As far as living the dream, you did get a chance to teach high school students this year, right?

Michelle: Yes! I also had the opportunity to be an NSF GK-12 fellow with the Boston Urban Fellows Program, in which I was paired with a teacher at Chelsea High School. I prepared chemistry lab demonstrations and activities aimed to connect the chemistry topics the students were learning to real, tangible concepts and applications to their daily lives. Best was my last day, in which we made ice cream with liquid nitrogen!

GWISE: Did Bill Nye & Ms. Frizzle inspire you to be a GK-12 fellow? What were your expectations when you began teaching high school students? Did the experience strengthen your desire to be a brilliant professor someday?

Michelle: While I think Bill Nye and Ms. Frizzle are awesome, I’m pretty sure the science educator who really inspired me were my high school science teacher, Dr. Don Dosch, and history teacher Dr. Lee Eysturlid. Actually just the way my high school had its teachers operate (on a problem-based learning type of course structure) really inspired me to learn (and teach). Also, it helped that GWISE sent out an announcement about the GK-12 opportunity! I had expected a lot of what I did get from the high school kids–a bit unruly, uninterested and easily side-tracked. It was a pleasant surprise that with just a little encouragement they could really put their minds at work, and figure out the concepts I was trying to teach them, as well as several really great questions about the topic at hand! Getting to witness their “aha” moments really confirmed my passion for teaching, so I definitely want to keep aiming for the “brilliant” professorship someday.

GWISE: Sounds like a great experience. Switching gears, let’s talk about grad school. How do you unwind from long days in the office?

Michelle: To keep my sanity I make sure to stay involved with far too many things (GWISE, for example). Outside of student groups and anything BU-related, I enjoy knitting, baking, pretending to know anything about wine or scotch, reading and since moving to the east coast I’ve developed a taste for watching hockey. My latest favorite thing to do, ever, is going rock climbing, which I can never seem to do enough these days.

GWISE: Sounds busy! How did you get into knitting and what is the latest news on the GWISE knitting group?

Michelle: I actually started knitting for the first time ever many years ago, though it was so long ago that I had forgotten how to do it once I re-learned in undergrad. I had been crocheting for a few years, and when my mom started knitting socks I suddenly really wanted to knit socks as well. Since then, I’ve knitted through seminars, lectures (even sitting in the front row), in cars, on trains, on planes, etc. The knitting group is a bit scattered this month. But we’re trying to meet every other Thursday at 6pm in SCI 200B. Next one should be July 25th if all goes well.

GWISE: Nice! Can’t wait to knit with you! Let’s end on a joke! Got a good one?

Michelle: This is a throwback to my BC Calc teacher’s efforts to teach us integrals:

Person 1: What’s the integral of 1/cabin with respect to cabin?
Person 2: A log cabin.
Person 1: No, a houseboat; you forgot to add the C!

GWISE: I love it! Thanks for talking with us & best of luck at Northeastern!