Ryan Quintana found his passion for research as an undergraduate student at New Mexico State University. The Santa Fe, New Mexico, native earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in May 2020 and is a recipient of a highly-competitive 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
With his selection, Quintana will continue his studies at NMSU and pursue a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering under the supervision of Abdessattar Abdelkefi, mechanical and aerospace engineering assistant professor.
“I am beyond appreciative of both my adviser, Dr. Abdelkefi, and his students for introducing me to the field of precision drug delivery from a mechanical engineering perspective as well as for allowing me to discover my passion for research,” Quintana said.
Since February 2019, Quintana has worked as an undergraduate research assistant for Abdelkefi and collaborated with Abdelkefi’s Ph.D. students on various problems related to dynamics and vibrations of nanotube-based drug delivery systems.
The fellowship is a three-year, $48,000 per year award, which will fund his research project, “mechanical insights on drug delivery nanosystems: nonlocal modeling and experiments.”
“This fellowship is very competitive,” Abdelkefi said. “Indeed, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program supports over 100 sub-disciplines, including engineering, social sciences and psychology. For the 2019 competition, NSF received over 12,000 applications and made approximately 2,000 award offers.”
Quintana’s research will focus on modeling of precision drug delivery systems from a mechanical engineering perspective.
“I aim to create realistic mathematical models that capture how nanoscale structures, such as carbon nanotubes, interact with their surroundings while delivering drugs to specific sites within the body,” Quintana said. “My work will identify and represent chemical and biological effects endured by these nanostructures at different stages of the drug delivery process. Further, I will build the foundation to properly understand the limitations and assumptions in modeling these nanostructures from a mechanical engineering perspective.”
Quintana said he hopes his work can help researchers in numerous disciplines when creating and testing drug delivery systems.
“From a mechanical engineering point of view, the functionality of these systems has yet to be well evaluated or understood,” Quintana said. “In bridging the gap between interdisciplinary research and mechanical engineering, researchers from various fields will be able to gain crucial insight into the behavior of these systems. Further, researchers will be able to optimize the geometry and loading of these systems before experimental testing; thus, this research will serve to lessen the burdens associated with experimentation, allowing for additional investigations into their role in combatting diseases, such as cancer.”
Quintana said he thinks the biggest hurdle for his research project will be navigating the knowledge gap between disciplines.
“The impacts of chemical and biologic effects on these nanoscale systems have not been well explored in the field of mechanical engineering,” he said. “For the sake of developing realistic models, insight will be drawn from molecular dynamic simulations and experimental data. Interpreting this information and creating mechanical equivalents presents the greatest and most interesting challenge.”