Nicole Carvajal, a student researcher at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, has been named a 2014 Student Presenter Awardee by the Society for the Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. Her work, titled “Examination of diverse 3-D microenvironments using atomic force microscopy” was presented at the annual SACNAS national conference held recently in Los Angeles.
Carvajal is a graduate of the bioengineering program at the University of California, Riverside, and performed the research working under the mentorship of Dr. Albert Jin, chief of the nanoinstrumentation and force spectroscopy section at NIBIB.
The award committee cited Carvajal’s thorough knowledge of a complex technology, noting that her communication skills and command of the research topic were exemplary in a field of more than 1,000 poster and oral
“We recognize the hard work, dedication and sacrifice that are necessary for a student to stand out from...fellow presenters,” wrote the committee. “We feel that NIBIB’s program is enhanced by the participation of Nicole Carvajal, as such commitment will drive fellow researchers to similar heights.”
Carvajal’s research employed the technique of atomic force microscopy to study the specific forces and molecules involved in cell migration. AFM is a sophisticated technique that can image, at the nanoscale level, the topological and mechanical properties of biological samples in a changing environment. Cell movement plays a major role in healthy processes, such as wound healing, as well as disease processes, including cancer metastasis.
The work presented at SACNAS was conducted to further the understanding of how the 3-D extracellular matrix—the environment in which cells live—can alter the mechanisms of cell migration. Because cell migration is so critical, understanding the process at the nanoscale level provides valuable information that could result in novel treatments, such as blocking cancer metastasis, in the future.
Carvajal’s mentor Jin added, “Nicole has been a truly outstanding research fellow. In addition to the award-winning work presented at SACNAS, her accomplishments at NIBIB include coauthoring a leading American Chemical Society Nano article and her outstanding broader effort in strengthening the biological atomic force microscopy and force spectroscopy research at NIBIB. I expect her to be among coauthors on several future journal articles.”—