Tissue engineering is a new field of research that wasn’t a distinctive field prior to the 1980s. Science has been moving forwards at an incredible rate in all fields for the last century. Just think about it – In terms of biochemistry, the DNA helix structure was published in 1953 and opened up a whole world of opportunity, with the Human Genome Project being only a stepping stone in the grand scheme of things.
There are two main thrusts of research, that which seeks to increase our knowledge of how biology works, and that which seeks to use this knowledge to create new things (drugs, therapies, other products). Most scientists fall into either one camp or the other. I knew very early on in my days as an undergrad studying biochemistry that I was a creator, not a discoverer. I found my home in tissue engineering.
The field of tissue engineering encompasses research that tries to combine different sciences to create living tissue therapies. To be able to perform tissue engineering you need to understand materials, medicine, and a whole bunch of biochemistry. I received a Masters in Biochemistry from the University of Oxford in 2008. My knowledge of materials science came from working as a research intern at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the summer and winter vacations of my first few years in undergrad. It was actually while working at Sandia that I worked with a postdoc who had done his PhD in tissue engineering, which in turn inspired me to do the same. Following my masters research project in Oxford, I was anxious to do graduate work that would allow me to continue on a similar project. That was how I discovered the Oxford-NIH fellowship which allowed me to keep my mentors at Oxford, while adding in the NIH experience and funding. I also received an NSF GRFP award which paid for the first years of my project.
Am I happy? Yes. Am I stressed? Very, very, much.