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Leiva Graduate Fellowship in Precision Medicine Awarded to Bioengineering Graduate Student

Nina Welding • DATE: June 14, 2018

Advanced Diagnostics and Therapeutics has awarded Kimberly Curtis, bioengineering graduate student, the Leiva Graduate Fellowship in Precision Medicine. The fellowship recognizes students who have demonstrated outstanding performance or who bring special qualities or abilities to the University of Notre Dame in the area of Precision Medicine research.
Prof. Glen Niebur works with graduate student Kim Curtis in the lab.

For her fellowship, Curtis will travel to the National University of Ireland, Galway and work with Professor Laoise MacNamara, who is an expert in mechanobiology of bone. Mechanobiology is a field of research at the interface of biology and engineering and this experience will support Curtis’s ongoing research with advisor Glen Niebur, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and director of the Tissue Mechanics Laboratory at Notre Dame.

“In my lab, Kim studies the effects of mechanical stimulation and the bone marrow environment on cells to understand diseases like osteoporosis and metastatic cancer,” said Niebur. “By going to Ireland and working with Professor MacNamara, Kim will have access to and learn to use their unique three-dimensional culture system to study the effects of mechanical signals on cancer cells."

Throughout her fellowship, Curtis will look at the compression of breast cancer cells that are embedded within hydrogels at varying stiffness levels. By doing so, she will analyze how compression may influence the cell’s preference to move within the body as well as how the stiffness of tissue may impact the movement of cancer cells as well.

“By using the hydrogels in combination with compression, I will be able to look at what conditions may be more conducive to making cancer cells metastasize to other parts of the body, like the bone,” said Curtis. “In the body, cancer cells experience a variety of mechanical cues from surrounding tissues, such as changes in stiffness and compression during movement. My goal for the fellowship is to gain a better understanding of how these mechanical properties surrounding the cancer cells impact how cancer spreads.”

Curtis will begin her research in Ireland at the beginning of July and return to campus in November.   

The Leiva Graduate Fellowship acknowledges academic achievement, financial need, character and qualities of leadership. In awarding the fellowships, preference is given to graduate students in the College of Engineering or College of Science whose scholarship is in the area of precision medicine research and education or in a related biomedical science or engineering field.

To learn more about the fellowship and application requirements, please visit https://advanceddiagnostics.nd.edu/opportunities/leiva-graduate-fellowship-in-precision-medicine/.

Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics is a community of affiliated researchers who tackle a wide range of biomedical and environmental health problems – such as sepsis, cancer, influenza, wound healing, drug addiction, mosquito-borne diseases, autism, cystic fibrosis, air pollution, invasive species and many others – through innovation, invention and real-world applications.

— Brandi Klingerman, ND Research