What brought you to UC Santa Cruz?
The summer before my senior year, I was exposed to optofluidics, which is the integration of microfluidics and optics, and it can be realized in a lot of different ways. I worked at this company that did a different sort of detection technique—particle trapping on a little silicon chip. They would shine a laser through this chip and collect all the particles just by the optical forces that the laser would put onto the particles. Wherever the laser line interacted with the microfluidic channel, that’s where they would get trapped. I thought, “This is awesome. I get to work with photonics.” I decided I wanted to work with optofluidics. My principal investigator, Holger Schmidt, wrote the handbook on optofluidics, so I thought, “I should go work for him.” It was a fun interview process. He scheduled our interview for 10pm, which is 1am in Philadelphia. During our interview, I asked him if there are any redwood trees in Santa Cruz. He sent me a picture of a redwood tree right outside his office. I got a big kick out of it.
Tell us about your research project
I create a bunch of different methods for detecting small particles. Sometimes different particles are detected at the same time and that’s called photonic multiplexing. So we can do spectral multiplexing on our little optofluidic chips and I’ve been working on different ways of utilizing this multiplexing capability. I’ve detected proteins and nucleic acids simultaneously on our optofluidic chip for the Zika virus. We pitch our device as a photonic platform for disease detection. Right now, it’s really a nano flow cytometry system, which is cool in it’s own right, but one day we want to realize it as a point of care diagnostic technique that doesn’t use a bunch of chemicals. It wouldn’t really need a huge laboratory component and it would be fast and affordable. Point of care diagnostics is basically taking diagnostics to the bedside. So it would be great for developing countries or just anywhere, really.
Why Baskin School of Engineering?
Holger is a great resource. He also has the uncanny ability to make things happen, so that’s a huge plus. Also, just the collaborative community in Baskin. I work a lot in Nader Pourmand’s lab, I’ve received guidance from Rebecca DuBois and Nader. Everybody’s very supportive. Also, we’re in a redwood forest. There are definitely days when you just wipe your hands off and go for a walk in the woods when you just can’t stare at a certain problem anymore.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I play competitive ultimate frisbee nationally. There are a couple tournaments that we travel around to. I was just in Colorado for a tournament. It’s really fun and a great community. Other than that, I love to stay active. Running was my first love. I especially love to run in Wilder Ranch. It’s my favorite place in the world right now. Also backpacking, hiking and being outside. California is amazing for backpacking. Living in Philly, I thought camping was awful. But here, it’s amazing.