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OUR announces research student Tyler Nelson to pursue Ph.D. at Rice

Lamar University’s Office of Undergraduate Research is proud to announce that one of its undergraduate researchers, Tyler Nelson, has been accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy program in the Rice University Tyler NelsonApplied Physics graduate program as a full-time student, beginning in the fall semester of 2020.

While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Nelson began working in Dr. Ian Lian’s research lab.  Lian, associate professor of biology, encouraged Nelson to apply for an Office of Undergraduate Research grant to support research to create cell scaffolding for human cell culturing. Through that process Nelson became acquainted with the grant application process. Subsequently, the Office of Undergraduate Research provided resources which were useful when applying to graduate school.

“I ended up working in Dr. Lian’s lab for the rest of my biology degree and for most of my mechanical engineering degree,” said Nelson. “There I discovered how much I enjoy research and learned about experiment design and how a research lab operates.”

Simultaneously, Nelson caught the attention of Dr. Chun-Wei Yao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Nelson was an outstanding student, who was curious and demonstrated an interest in research in the engineering field as well.  

“Working with him in several courses, I had good opportunities to know Tyler's character and academic achievements,” said Yao. “Tyler has been an outstanding student and succeeded in many engineering classes. I also found Tyler is self-motivated towards learning and conducting undergraduate research.”

In 2019-20, Tyler ran a successful project sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research, titled, “Development of 3D Printed Substrate for β-islet Cell Culturing.” The project addresses the need to grow efficiently the β-islet cells for Type 1 diabetics. Tyler and Lian, his mentor, proposed to use of 3D printed plastics substrates for allowing the β-islet cells to grow more densely and vigorously. A summary of their research efforts is available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NCUuGG2bG6Zav_rm4wdLhtl9Vrb5GFiG/view?usp=sharing

While working with Lian on his research projects, Nelson expressed his interest in pursuing a graduate degree in biophysics and bioengineering fields. Lian then helped Nelson attain his next opportunity at Rice University.

“Since we have an existing collaboration with Dr. Ching-Hwa Kiang’s lab at Rice University, I arranged to have Tyler working at her lab as a visiting student to characterize the biomechanical forces on various cancer cells using Atomic Force Microscope,” said Lian. “Since then, Tyler has been travelling to Rice on a weekly basis and has made good progress on his research project.”

Consequently, Nelson became a co-author on a peer-reviewed paper published in “The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters,” found here: (https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jpclett.0c00730.

Nelson believes his interest in research, opportunity to conduct undergraduate research through LU’s Office of Undergraduate Research with the support of two mentors helped him achieve the opportunity at Rice University.

“Dr. Lian and Dr. Yao both encouraged and assisted me greatly in my academic pursuits,” said Nelson. “I certainly would not be in the position I am in today without their help, as well as the help of all the faculty in the biology and mechanical engineering departments.”