Trine student works on brain cancer research

October 20, 2022

By John Lewis
Communication ’23

Lilly SpeierA biomedical engineering student at Trine University had the opportunity to research possible treatments for brain cancer over the summer.

Lilly Speier, of Hartland, Michigan, worked under Lohitash Karumbaiah, Ph.D., in the University of Georgia’s Regenerative Biosciences Center as part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).

Her research project focused on testing the effects of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy in glioblastoma brain tumors. CAR T-cell therapy genetically modifies a patient’s T-cells to induce an attack on cancer cells. To that end, Speier modeled the conditions of a glioblastoma on a small scale using a microfluidic device, or a “chip” that mimics the tumor microenvironment, and quantified the effects of CAR T-cell therapy under experimental conditions.

“I started out by doing a lot of background research, reading literature that already exists,” said Lilly. “After gaining insight from the literature, we spent a lot of time performing our own experiments, then analyzing and comparing these results afterwards.”

Lilly is a big believer in the importance of engaging with REUs during a student’s time at Trine University. The experience helped confirm her post-graduation plans, and she recommends that other students looking for research experience begin applying as underclassmen.

“My time at UGA helped further confirm that I want to go to grad school. I found out that I really enjoyed working with microfluidic devices, and I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering or molecular biology,” she said.

Lilly enjoyed her time researching at the university, especially when she got to use equipment and techniques she had never worked with before. She said that beyond helping to define her future, the experience helped her rise to the challenge of working at a professional level.

“There’s a strong emphasis on publishing your work in graduate research labs,” said Lilly. “We are planning to write and publish a paper about our research, and I’m going to the BMES conference this year to present our results.”

The Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) conference was hosted from Oct. 12-15 in San Antonio, Texas.

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