Student Spotlight

ShabnamShabnam Namin

  • Ph.D. Candidate in Biomedical Engineering
  • College of Engineering and Computing
  • Florida International University

Shabnam Namin began her academic journey at FIU as an undergraduate Biomedical Engineering student in 2003. Nearly a decade later she is scheduled to graduate with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the College of Engineering and Computing this summer.

Focusing her research on engineered tissue model systems, Shabnam studies nitric oxide's role in the vasculature in hopes of advancing treatment methods for patients with hypertension. Although hypertension affects over 76 million adults in the U.S., one patient in particular motivated Shabnam to work towards advances in treatment - her father. As the daughter of someone suffering from various heart conditions directly linked to hypertension, Shabnam states that her research is "personal and very important." In addition to personal reasons, the degree program's ability to combine principles of biology, math and engineering proved to be the "perfect match" for the aspiring biomedical entrepreneur.

Shabnam plans to utilize her multidisciplinary approach as a graduate student (simultaneously pursuing an MBA and Industrial Engineering Masters) to establish her own biomedical company in South Florida. We encourage you to read our interview with Shabnam (below) and learn why she is a prime example of what it means to be World's Ahead.

Short interview with Shabnam Namin

Which recent projects have you been working on at the college level?
The title of my dissertation work is "An experimental and theoretical analysis of nitric oxide availability in the microcirculation." In more laymen terms, I focus on studying nitric oxide and its role in the vasculature. Nitric oxide is known to induce what is known as vasodilation, or dilation of the blood vessels. This action in turn reduces the pressure of the blood flowing within the vasculature. Therefore, clinical significance would be for patients with hypertension/high blood pressure.

To investigate nitric oxide's properties, I utilize both experimental methods accompanied with mathematical models. Specifically I focus on studying nitric oxide production and consumption rates within the vasculature. The balance of these two rates will yield information about the amount of nitric oxide needed to cause vasodilation and thus decrease blood pressure. Current values for both rates vary greatly between research groups. I believe combining mathematical modeling and experimental work is the key to solving discrepancies like this. To study nitric oxide production, I perform cell culture work with cells that are known to produce nitric oxide. I stimulate these cells using different agonists and determine fluorescently the amount of nitric oxide that is generated. I incorporate my experimental results into a mathematical model that can estimate production rates.

Another big portion of my dissertation work is aimed at determining nitric oxide consumption rates. Nitric oxide in the vasculature is consumed very quickly by red blood cells flowing through the lumen of the vessels. Therefore, to study nitric oxide consumption, I performed experimental work using a nitric oxide gas source flowing over a solution of porcine blood. Because of the sophisticated analyzers we have in our lab, I could determine how much nitric oxide is consumed in the system, thus allowing me to estimate nitric oxide consumption rates.

Finally, my last project for my dissertation was to incorporate my experimental results for both nitric oxide production and consumption rates into a complex mathematical model. The model incorporates many equations to describe the anatomy of a vessel as well as the reactions that may occur within the vessel. The output of the model estimates the amount of nitric oxide that is needed to play a role as a regulator of vascular tone.

Which of these projects is your favorite? Why?
All of the projects were my favorite. They were all related and necessary in determining a final conclusion. The overall goal and focus of my dissertation, as I mentioned previously, is important clinically for hypertension. This is one of the most common and potentially dangerous ailments that affects nearly 76.4 million adults in the US. One adult in particular that is affected by hypertension is my father. He has had high blood pressure for many years and has consequently had additional heart complications. The more information that we can discover about any disease, the better the chance is of coming up with better treatment options. Therefore, all of the projects that I have worked on in dealing with hypertension have been personally very important to me.

What do you love MOST about your field?
I love how my field is multidisciplinary. It combines knowledge from many fields such as physics, biology, engineering, medicine, mathematics, etc. I feel that because I majored in biomedical engineering I know a little about a lot of things. I originally wanted to go to medical school, but was not excited about majoring in common majors such as biology or chemistry. Also, ever since I could remember, I always had a love for mathematics and numbers. I think biomedical engineering was the perfect match for me. It combines everything I love. Even though I never ended up pursuing a career in medicine, I would not change my field for anything.

What do you eventually want to do with your degree? What's your next step after graduation?
Although I will be getting my PhD, I prefer a career in industry as opposed to academia. I have worked several years in the Biomedical industry and found it to be more interesting than academia. Therefore, eventually I would like to start my own Biomedical company here in Miami. I have always been more entrepreneurially inclined. I feel starting a business would be the most fulfilling career-move for me. I actually have several ideas in mind and am just waiting to graduate to fully engulf myself in that endeavor.

How have FIU & the University Graduate School faculty helped you achieve your goals?
I decided to stay at FIU for my graduate degree because I was really impressed by the caliber of the faculty members in my department. I have seen the university as a whole grow so much in the time that I have been here, always improving and expanding. I feel that I have gained more than just knowledge staying at FIU. I have met and worked with some outstanding people, and I have gained many experiences that will benefit me in my future and career. In addition, the University Graduate School awarded me a Dissertation Year Fellowship which allowed me to not worry about my finances and focus on finishing my degree.

What would you say is the most "interesting" thing about you?
I consider myself a professional student. Although I am graduating this semester with my doctorate degree, I have enrolled for two additional master degrees. One is a MBA and the other is a MS in Industrial Engineering. I feel you can never stop learning and I actually love to learn and take classes. I am told by many that I am a "rare breed". However, these particular degrees will benefit me in my career, especially if I plan to go into business for myself. But I do joke with my family all the time about what to get a degree in next. Although it's in the context of a joke, there is some truth to it. So who knows what degree I will be pursuing in five years from now! Any suggestions are welcome.


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