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Sandra Gonzalez summer research

Sandra Ivonne Gonzalez says a summer program at ASU taught her skills she wants to use to someday open her own biomedical engineering lab.

Posted November 13, 2012

Undergrad motivated by summer research program experience

Sandra Gonzalez, a 2010 graduate of South Mountain High School in Phoenix, spent the summer after her freshman year as a biomedical engineering major at the University of Arizona getting hands-on research experience at Arizona State University.

She is among dozens of high school students and college undergraduates who in recent years have been taking opportunities to be mentored by faculty members in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering who welcome young students into their research labs as interns, trainees or volunteers.

Gonzalez worked on medical-device research with Jeffrey La Belle, an assistant professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering. The collaboration has led to sharing authorship with La Belle on a report to be published in a biomedical research journal.

She writes about her research experience at ASU:

The project we worked on involved determining the properties of a biomarker that is shown to correlate with cardiovascular disease. There are not many medical devices that allow a person to quickly check if they are at risk for cardiovascular disease. With such a device, people would be able to do this in the comfort of their own homes.

We first wanted to consider a biomarker that is found in the blood that could give us an early warning sign of cardiovascular diseases. We focused on just one biomarker, but the ideal device would consist of multiple biomarkers. I focused on neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL). Our goal was to discover all the electrochemical properties of this biomarker so that when we do it for other biomarkers we would be able to integrate them and make a more useful diagnostic device. This work is going to be published in Biosensors Journal.

It’s exciting that I am going to be published in a scholarly journal as an undergraduate. I never thought I would make such a contribution at such an early stage of my education.

Research can be quite challenging, especially as an undergraduate, because you are still acquiring basic science and engineering skills. Professor La Belle was an amazing mentor who gave me experience in techniques that have helped me in so many ways. I’m now using what I learned in his laboratory in work I am doing with a research group at the University of Arizona.

I recommend that all undergraduates, even freshman, apply to summer research experience program because you will learn to apply what you are taught in class to real-world problems.

I expect to graduate in May 2014, and in the future I want to develop devices that help diagnose, treat or cure the millions of people who are affected by cardiovascular disease.

The World Health Organization reports that by 2030 almost 23.6 million people will die from cardiovascular diseases, mainly from heart disease and stroke. They are projected to remain the single leading causes of death.

While physicians over the course of their careers may each help hundreds of patients, one single, powerful medical device could impact the lives of millions.

I want to help people who are fighting against cardiac and cardiovascular diseases.  I want to earn a Ph.D. and become a professor at a leading university, where I can establish my own laboratory and lead my own research group.

Media Contact:
Joe Kullman,
(480) 965-8122
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

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