Netra Unni (1T9) at National University of Singapore

Netra Ummi working in the lab at NUS.

Netra Unni seeds a microfluidic device with tumour cells spheroids during her work at the National University of Singapore.

This summer, I received the Exceptional Opportunities Research Grant to work at the Micro-Tissue Engineering Lab in the National University of Singapore (NUS). Under the guidance of Dr. Yi-Chin Toh, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, I worked on a project that looked at variations in radiosensitivity between parental and metastatic head and neck tumour cells. During this placement, I was able to design and create an irradiation microplate, culture tumour cells and conduct bioassays to measure cell viability. I learned a lot about myself, both academically and personally.

From living in a different country for over 3 months to working with professional radio-oncologists, this experience presented a series of many firsts for me. I got to work behind the scenes and observe what happens when radiotherapy is administered to cancer patients. I was also trained in the production and maintenance of 3D, personalized micro-tumour chips – an area of biomedical engineering I would like to explore further. Perhaps the most rewarding experience for me was the opportunity to interact with collaborators from various institutions, including the National University Hospital. Although I was perhaps the youngest intern in the lab, all of my mentors and collaborators treated me like a fellow researcher. At times, I even forgot that I was a student who had just finished her first year of undergrad!

I found Singapore’s culture to be as diverse as its research. Outside of the lab, I was able to experience different cuisines and even witnessed local markets and the National Day celebrations. I am grateful to NUS and the University of Toronto for supporting me during this unforgettable experience. I can’t wait to see where Engineering Science takes me next!