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Siena Mantooth is making the most of her time as a chemical engineering student at Notre Dame. Her journey started long before she set foot on campus, and it is far from over.

Academic Year 2017-2018

Siena was awarded a Precision Medicine Fellowship through Notre Dame's Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics initiative this year and spent the summer performing research [part of her fellowship] at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York. Working in Dr. Metsy Barnes' lab, she immersed herself in immunology research, with a focus on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). An autoimmune disorder, SLE affects the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain. Its cause is still unknown, but genetics and environmental factors have been thought to play significant roles in developing the disease.

Her role at the institute to track and verify if a specific peptide could bind to a particular transcription factor (IRF-5). IRF-5 is a member of a family of transcription factors that regulate the immune system. By preventing its translocation to the nucleus of a cell, researchers hope to devise a therapy and potentially prevent the onset of the disease.

This year, her senior year, will be a busy one. Siena will be serving as a resident assistant in McGlinn Hall. In addition, she will be continuing her research in surface modification as a potential method for drug delivery with Assistant Professor Matthew Webber in the Supramolecular Engineering Laboratory.

More about Siena:
A Clare Boothe Luce Scholar and undergraduate in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Siena is a native of Manassas, Va. She most recently served as service commissioner for McGlinn Hall, helping to connect the McGlinn residents with the community in South Bend through activities such as visiting nearby nursing homes and providing Christmas gifts to a local family. She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers, a frequent participant in intramural sports at Notre Dame, and has studied piano for eight years.

Siena spent summer 2018 as a Precision Medicine Fellow at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Resesarch, pictured here.

Academic Year 2016-2017

Siena Mantooth spent the summer before her senior year in high school in a lab coat. It was part of a biochemistry lab internship at  and part of the Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program. That summer she worked late nights using very expensive lab equipment in a quest to better understand a disease affecting more than 5 million Americans. She was studying therapeutics for Alzheimer's disease, a disease very similar to Lewy Body Disease, which afflicted her paternal grandfather. So the connection for her between finding answers and watching her grandfather's decline made her quest even more real.

Last summer she was invited to George Mason University to work with the same professor she had worked with the year before in the Aspiring Scientists program. This time she was researching metabolites. In fact, she initiated a project designed to target metabolites in a cell and record how they reacted to various stimuli.

In case you think Siena spent all her summer break that year in a lab, think again. She spent the latter part of the summer working with autistic children and teens at a summer camp. "This beautiful adventure afforded me an opportunity to view life through an entirely new lens, living very much in the present. All of these experiences have confirmed my deep interest in engineering and its potential interaction with human bodily processes and functions ... and the incredible potential to improve the lives of others.”

Siena recently completed another summer of research, working on the Notre Dame campus as an NDnano fellow in the Supramolecular Engineering Laboratory under the direction of Matthew Webber, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. The common goal of all the work in this lab is to develop creative solutions for issues that arise in healthcare, specifically improved therapeutics. This meshes perfectly with Siena's goal to change the lives of others through the medical field by utilizing her talents in biomedical and chemical engineering research.

“If I  have learned anything thus far,” she says, “it is that scientific endeavors can be unpredictable and that failures, even repeated failures, are necessary to gain critical knowledge and make real change. Researchers must have patience and perseverance, and most of all, be willing to work through apparent setbacks ... always striving to contribute in meaningful ways to the betterment of the lives of others.”