Commencement 2012 – URI biomedical engineering major is big in field of tiny research

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KINGSTON, R.I. – May 7, 2012 – Stephanie Barrena, who will graduate from the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering May 20, has had golden opportunities working with silver nanoparticles.

Last summer, the Johnston, R.I. resident participated in a 10-week summer research experience internship at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, funded by the National Science Foundation. She was one of seven students selected from a 170-person applicant pool. She studied silver nanoparticles, tiny units of silver used in medical and commercial industries, from medicines to sunscreens. Barrena presented her research on the toxicity of silver nanoparticles in August and again at the Biomedical Engineering Society Conference in October. As of now, it is difficult to determine any negative effects of the particles on human health, but scientists are still searching for an answer, Barrena said.

Last spring, Barrena attended the Cleveland Clinic’s 4th Annual Aspiring Physicians and Research Scientists Conference. The conference serves as a networking opportunity and educational workshop for minority students from around the country. Barrena was one of 20 students chosen to participate in coaching and mentoring sessions with the clinic’s staff. Barrena received a full scholarship to attend the conference.

“The Cleveland Clinic is a great program; it inspires minority students to pursue something big in the medical field,” said Barrena.

Barrena, a Dean’s list student, has excelled in the classroom, in addition to her research experience. For her capstone senior design project, Barrena is working with two other students to make an Android phone application that acts as an easy-to-use voice control television remote for people with muscular dystrophy. The team presented its project at the Northeast Bioengineering Conference in March.

“All of my classes have been so informative, and I have learned so much that can be applied to real-life situations,” Barrena said. “Choosing biomedical engineering as my major was the best decision I could have made.”

In addition to balancing classwork, Barrena works at two private physicians practices as a student assistant taking patients’ vitals.

This fall, Barrena will apply to graduate schools with physician assistant master’s degree programs. She is also interested in cardiology and further nanoparticle research. With some free time after graduation, Barrena hopes to travel.

This release was written by Danielle Sanda, an intern in URI’s Department of Communications and Marketing and a public relations major.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.

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