Exploring Synthetic Biology
As a junior studying Biological Engineering, Christina Bray had experience modifying the biological systems all around us; however, since a freshman design class, she was always interested in learning more about synthetic biology. Through her experience at Technische Universiteit Delft, Christina was able to explore this exciting new research area. She explains, “I worked all summer to engineer E. coli to produce an antibiotic that is the best known defense against antibiotic resistant bacterial infections.” While she spent some time at a desk using computer programs to design DNA segments or analyze her data, Christina spent the majority of her days in the laboratory assembling DNA pieces, inserting them into the E. coli, and running production trials to analyze the efficiency of her system.
More than a Tourist
Christina’s international experience extended well beyond the confines of TU Delft. Born in the Netherlands, Christina had a cultural background and knew conversational amounts of the Dutch language. She also took an online Dutch course during the spring semester prior to her internship to brush up her language skills and to supplement the MISTI cultural training. While she encountered some challenges, Christina says, “I felt well-prepared from her upbringing and through the MISTI training to live in and explore the Netherlands as more than a tourist.” She explains, “Through living abroad, in a different culture, I was able to come to a better understanding of myself and what drives me.”
Real World Experience
Christina’s work in the Netherlands exposed her to more than a new research area. She found two new mentors within her research group, and feels she has gained an appreciation of the idea of taking a break from the pressured environment of academia.
THROUGH LIVING ABROAD, IN A DIFFERENT CULTURE, I WAS ABLE TO COME TO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF MYSELF AND WHAT DRIVES ME.
She realizes that the experience and time it will provide her is crucial, at least for her, in finding out what area of the biological engineering field really drives her. “I’ve decided to work post-graduation before pursuing graduate school (possibly in Europe),” she says. Christina also explains that she is “excited to gain more ‘real world’ experience and to see the applications of all of the theory that she learns about in the classroom.”