Andrea Wallace

andrea_wallace_headshot

Biological Engineering
PhD Candidate
3rd Year

HOMETOWN: Bend, OR

UNDERGRADUATE INSTITUTION: Stanford University

WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN YOUR CURRENT FIELD/WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT? 

Like many children, I grew up with a deep fascination for the vast range of biodiversity that surrounds us. My interest in bioengineering arose from the question of whether we, as scientists and engineers, could study and learn from nature and reapply that understanding to develop new biomaterial-based solutions for challenging problems. I love that studying nature’s beautiful complexity enables me to be creative and imaginative when it comes to developing new biomaterials.

PERSONAL RESEARCH SUMMARY:

Development and synthesis of advanced functional materials with highly organized nano- and microstructures are of increasing demand across the medical, optical, energy, and mechanical fields. Often, materials derive functionality from structure and composition, demonstrating the importance of how the molecular components are assembled into the bulk material. As a bioengineer, I aim to understand two of nature’s biological mechanisms for building complex materials – silica biomineralization by diatoms and the block copolymer suckerin proteins from squids – and apply them in a controlled manner to synthesize materials with designed size, shape, and pore structures. Through a combination of biochemistry, protein engineering, and material analytical techniques, I am developing a protein-based material synthesis platform that will enable the synthesis of tangible, large-scale silica-bioplastic materials with complex nano- and microstructures.

PERSONAL INTERESTS: I like learning/thinking about sustainable food practices and I enjoy growing vegetables in my garden. Also arts and crafts (especially sewing projects).