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SQI: Simpson Querry Institute

SQI inspires high school students interested in biotechnology

High school students came from near and far to visit the Simpson Querrey Institute (SQI) on July 2 and 16 as part of the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) on Biotechnology. The 78 guests received an introduction to the Institute, toured its core facilities and participated in hands-on demonstrations related to SQI research.

Sofia Guedes visited all the way from Rio de Janeiro after her high school counselor recommended the NSLC program. The 17-year-old came away particularly impressed by the 3D printing demonstration — she is interested in 3D printing prosthetics — as well as Claire Liu’s overview of bio-integrated electronics. Liu, a graduate student in John Rogers’ Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics, presented videos and physical examples of the wearable devices the Rogers Group has developed which can attach seamlessly to the skin.

“She showed some materials that were really elastic with electric circuits inside that could detect motions inside the body, and signals,” Guedes said. “I find it very interesting — these small, flexible devices.”

Guedes said she is considering studying biomedical engineering, an interest that was strengthened with her visit to SQI.

“I went here to discover if this part of bio-electrical engineering is the one that I like,” she said. “And yes, it is really the part that I liked here.”

Michael Ibrahim, another incoming senior, made a significantly shorter trek from Willow Springs, Illinois. But like Guedes, he was inspired by the presentations at SQI and left the tour excited about a possible future in science.

Ibrahim enjoyed learning about injectable nanomaterials that enabled paralyzed mice to regain some function in their hind legs, as well as the instruments in SQI’s Peptide Synthesis Core. The students also toured the Analytical bioNanoTechnology Equipment Core (ANTEC) and learned about how its instruments support SQI’s research projects, and created noodles from an alginate gel as part of an introduction to the Institute’s work with biomaterials.

Ibrahim said Northwestern is one of the top universities that he is considering, so he appreciated the opportunity to visit one of its research institutes.

“When I saw (SQI) and I saw all the research that they’re doing, I really liked it and I feel like this could definitely be something I do in the future,” he said. “Especially because I might be a student here, so I might actually be in this specific facility.”