Determined to pursue a career in science, biology major Elizabeth Amaro Gonzalez ’17 found herself in Professor Robert Bellin’s lab early on – and never left.

“My whole life pretty much revolved around lab,” she laughed.

Those four years of study and dedication have paid off. Last month, Gonzalez was one of 12 students – out of hundreds of applicants – invited to speak at Harvard Medical School’s New England Science Symposium (NESS). The event provides a forum for students, particularly those of diverse background, to share their research through oral and poster presentations. Oral presentations, for which Gonzalez was selected due to the caliber of her project, are typically made by graduate and post-doctoral students.

“It was definitely a nerve-racking experience to be compared to students that are at that level,” said Gonzalez.

Despite her nerves, Gonzalez was well prepared. She has presented posters of her work at numerous conferences during the past four years, including NESS, and has worked in the lab throughout that time.

Her research, conducted with fellow biology major Melissa Connolly ’17 and under the guidance of Bellin, professor of biology and department chair, focused on developing a material on which cells could grow. In what Gonzalez called an “engineering project,” the work required that she not only understand the biology surrounding optimal cell growth, but also that she utilize CAD and 3D printing technology to design and create the model which would allow for cell growth and that would best reflect cell growth within the body.

“She is very good technically – good at working in the lab,” said Bellin. “When we need to do something, she’ll say ‘Why don’t we try this.’ She also has a good tolerance for failure which is an important trait for researchers, because many times when you are working on something it just doesn’t work. And you still have to come in the next day and do it.”

Following graduation in May, Gonzalez will work with Connolly and Bellin to publish their work in the hope that it will be utilized by those working in the medical implant field. Gonzalez is also hoping to work in the biotech industry and someday earn her Ph.D.

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