Interviewer: Benjamin Kerner
Interviewed: Amna Haider
B: So, to start, what’s your name, major, and department?
A: Right, so my name is Amna Haider. I am in the biomedical engineering department and I am a biomedical engineering major, with a chemistry minor.
B: Alright so how did you get into research, and what inspired you to do so?
A: So, I got into research my freshman year, and at the end of my introductory engineering class my professor came up to me, and she asked me if I wanted to join. We have these projects at the end of the semester and one of the projects that I was working on was the same as what my professor was working on. And then she asked if I would like to join the actual project at the end of the semester, so I got into her lab through that because she liked my artwork and the fact that I was in video game design. So, it led into that.
B: So, how long have you been in your lab now?
A: I’m in two labs currently. There’s the one lab I started in freshman year, which I’ve been in for almost three years now and then the other lab, which I have been in for close to a year.
B: Wow, do you have any posters, publications, etc.?
A: I presented at, I want to say, four conferences, one international competition for medical devices, and then other global competitions, as well as the Eureka presentations. Publications… hopefully I should have around three by the time I graduate.
B: Yeah so, why do you talk about both labs, so what does each lab study generally?
A: Well, the first lab that I am in is a musculoskeletal bone lab, so a lot of the things are done by analyzing skeletal structure. We also work with people, like obesity patients and stroke patients, to develop rehabilitative devices that could help them to detect how their disease is affecting their quality of life. So, for example, for the obesity patients who have done a clinical study that monitored their postural stability, we made a video game that would help monitor their postural stability over time, and then be able to show and correct it properly. And then for stroke patients who overcame a rehabilitative system we are making a detection device for the rehabilitation for the stroke patient. So, for example, they would have a bracelet and another bracelet, and from there can detect whether or not their movements are proper and whether or not they’re improving over time. I have also worked on analyzing bone structure through the effects of different drugs on bone, so for example, cocaine on bones. We saw that the bone quality would deteriorate if there were a prolonged use of cocaine. So, there was a lot of structural analysis of the skeletal system, as well as rehabilitation and data analysis. So, that was one lab, my first lab. And then the other lab I’m joining, that I’m in currently, is an imaging lab so it has to do a lot with this new kind of imaging system, Terahertz. A lot of what I would do there is 3D modeling, so I model lenses and spiral faceplates, and then I would work with MAT lab, so a lot of coding that involves working with a laser system being able to acquire data at a certain rate and communication between the computer system with the lasers. Ultimately what we would like to do with this imaging system is use it for burn detection and detecting glaucoma in the eye, and potentially utilize it for cancerous cell imaging. It’s a bit different for cancer.
B: I see, I totally forgot to ask actually, is there any specific Eureka presentation you want to talk about, or any publication?
A: I’d say what was the coolest was my first research project. So the first research project I joined was the one that had to do with postural stability of obese patients. And coming into research I did not know what to expect and I didn’t know where to go, as I had never done research before. What was really cool about it was that I was able to handle actual subjects, human subject data, and kind of analyze it, but I didn’t realize how much work and time we would put in to analyzing it, as there was just a swamp of data. It took a lot of my first spring semester and first summer to sort through all of this data and kind of see what was important and what I can find from it, but what was amazing was after months and months of going through all of this information and trying to figure out whether this was even worth it, we finally found significant results. It was just… I remember I was just so happy. There was one point where I had a setback, where I had to run the data through a bunch of code and I looked at the code file, and I realized it was written by somebody else and there had a mistake in it; I had to redo all of the data analysis after we fixed it and that was also frustrating. But then ultimately, out of that came two potential publications, so that was the highlight of the fact that swamping through all of this information resulted in something that’s meaningful.
B: That’s great! You touched on this a little bit before, but what’s your favorite part of doing research?
A: I would say my favorite part is being able to have that Eureka moment. You don’t know what you’re going to find, and when you do find it, it kind of changes how you see everything. And at the same time, it’s just amazing that you’re able to do something that’s able to contribute to discovery in science.
B: Wow, so will research fit into your eventual career goal?
A: So ultimately, my career goal is to become a physician, so pre-med, but definitely I would love to continue research on the side and be able to continue adding research that’s biomedical engineering related.
B: Sounds good! Do you have any advice for undergraduates looking to get into research or maybe for those looking to get more out of their current research experience?
A: Sure, what I would say is, it’s never too early to start looking around and also, research is an amazing, amazing tool to get into whichever field you would like to go. For example, if you want to go into business, sometimes doing marketing or business research really gives you that experience and knowledge in the field, and you kind of get to learn terms and things that you wouldn’t have known otherwise. It really helps you prepare for that field itself. Getting into research can be difficult, just because there are a lot of different research fields out there, and you might not know what you want to go into, but also there are different professors doing different work and they all have their different time. I’d say keep going at it and if you really really enjoy it, you’ll find something that will push you down a career that’s worth-while in the end.
B: Well, it was a pleasure to meet you! I hope it wasn’t too awful…
A: Not at all, it was a pleasure to meet you too! It was really good, thank you so much.
B: And thank you too.