Mohannad Jabrah, who hails from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, attends Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and took part this summer in the 2020 Stanford Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, known as SURF.
Jabrah, who considers himself a biomedical engineer, worked alongside Monther Abu-Remaileh, a chemical engineering professor who is also an expert in genetics. Jabrah’s SURF project was working on computer models to study the genes that control cellular features known as lysosomes, which are like the recycling and garbage disposal systems of cells. The idea was to understand how these processes can lead to cancer and metabolic diseases. Because of COVID-19, the project had to be virtual.
“Programming was a shift from the usual hands-on work I am involved with, but the project was relevant to my interests in affordable personalized medicine and patient-specific therapeutics,” Jabrah says. Even at this early stage of his academic life, he has been fortunate enough to work in fields as diverse as tissue engineering and heart regeneration to portable neural sensing devices. Developing biomaterials for drug delivery and neural sensing technologies are particular areas of interest.
“I have never found it necessary to confine myself to one area of research,” Jabrah says. “I just truly enjoy the holistic process overall, regardless of what exactly I was working on.”
He said SURF helped instill the skills and tools necessary to secure his future in science, which includes plans for a doctorate. He says science and engineering thrive on diversity of perspective and background — a compelling notion for an eager learner from the Middle East.
“The key takeaway from SURF has been that STEM does not and has never had any boundaries,” Jabrah says.