Yiwen Zhang

ENG ’24

  • Title ENG ’24

Major / Minor: Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering

Area of Research: Biomedical Imaging

Name of Mentor: Michelle Sander

How did you get involved in research?

I started volunteering in her lab just to familiarize myself with the laser systems and software for measurements for a semester, then we applied for a UROP grant together. Our proposal was to image the dynamics of localized phase transitions of a thermoresponsive hydrogel and deduce information regarding induced volumetric changes by obtaining the absorption profiles via photothermal microscopy.

How did you meet your mentor?

In the Fall of 2021, I took the class EK307 Electric Circuits and discovered my new interest in designing, solving, and optimizing complicated circuits and their potential biomedical applications. My circuits professor Michelle Sander was very encouraging and she provided me with the opportunity to work on the Photothermal spectroscopy project.

What has your UROP experience taught you?

My UROP experience taught me that the purpose of research is to appreciate the uncertainty and the unknown in the medical field and to realize the need for improvement with technology. In doing research, I’ve learned to actively engage in all BU courses to experiment with different approaches to resolve my research questions. I’ve also learned to deal with academic bottlenecks with patience and sober mindsets. The first thing is always to adjust my attitude.

How has this experience helped you with non-research related things at BU?

Conducting research has been motivating me to explore my potential and try out new things that I was afraid of. As a pre-med student, I hope to incorporate engineering rationale into clinical practices. UROP gave me the opportunity to explore the fields of physics and spectroscopy and their application in analyzing the efficacy of drug delivery agents (hydrogels). It continuously challenged me to think outside of the box and reflect on how technology and research could redefine medicine worldwide. It also helped me to get to know students working on similar projects related to microscopy. They also offered me invaluable insights on my future orientation.

What does a day in your research life look like?

A typical day of research for me starts with reviewing literature for preparing the hydrogel sample. I would calculate the estimated values for important parameters like sample thickness. Then I would go to the lab and fabricate the gel and take basic measurements at the photonics building. Once the preparation stage is done, I would bring my sample to the photothermal system and take measurements of the sample’s absorption and phase profile. Lastly, I would use software like MATLAB and Origin to plot the photothermal signal profiles and interpret the result and discuss the next steps with my PhD mentor.

What advice would you give to someone interested in UROP?

My advice to prospective UROP applicants is that research is a lot of fun. Research is a process of active learning and the process trains us to become better problem solvers. Anyone who is eager to connect in-class concepts to real-world issues through an in-depth study on a specific concept or technology is a perfect candidate for the UROP application. Writing a research proposal and methodology was quite challenging for me, but I know research prepares me to become a qualified physician by training me in the ability to identify a problem, concentrate on it, and present the most satisfactory solution. UROP experience is highly rewarding and impactful.

Yiwen Zhang

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