December Student (and Alumni) Spotlight - Deanna Stueber ScM'18

December 1, 2018
Ramisa Fariha

Deanna Stueber, better described as “Tough Chick” by her elementary school teacher Mrs. Buckley, has definitely created her own adventure here at Brown. As Deanna was finishing up her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), she received several PhD offers from different schools and one master’s offer from Brown University, “I made my decision at the absolute last minute. Part of me wanted to dive straight into a PhD, since that’s something I have always wanted to pursue. I also wanted to explore genetics so I applied to all genetics programs, thinking about becoming a medical geneticist down the line.” Deanna’s interest in genetics and her desire to explore the field compelled her to pursue her ScM in Biomedical Engineering here at Brown, before pursuing her PhD.

Deanna loved being a part of Brown, and even though she was working in a genetics lab, she found her true passion elsewhere. “I was working on a group project for the ‘Drug and Gene Delivery’ class, where I along with my team members came up with this ‘crazy’ idea of a transvaginal drug delivery system. Upon thinking, my team and I thought this could actually work and we pursued it.” As she started working on it, she loved the project and applied to Brown’s Breakthrough Lab (B-Lab), with another team member. Brown’s Breakthrough Lab is is an intensive 8-week accelerator program designed to support entrepreneurs developing high-impact ventures. B-Lab brings together critical resources throughout its program, designed to help teams strengthen, develop, and advance their ventures. At B-Lab, Deanna had several mentors, including Dr. Edith Mathiowitz, who helped her with her project, “As I worked on this project, I realized how important ‘passion’ is. I was excited about what I was doing- going to the lab, doing literature searching, and building the system! Engineering is about creating something to have a direct impact on patient, and I was finally doing something that I was passionate about! I was self-motivated, and I could feel how it reflected in the work I was doing.” During her presentation at the end of B-Lab, Deanna was recommended to be a panelist at Johnson and Wales University’s “Under 25 and Ready to Thrive”, “It was amazing how a presentation at Brown got such recognition and so many opportunities opened up for me! It was great to be a part of the panel, to tell student how they can pursue their entrepreneurial ideas and passion.”

At the end of the summer, Deanna resumed her work at the genetics lab, only to realize that her true passion was in the field of drug delivery, and she ended up changing her thesis her final year, working in Dr. Mathiowitz’s lab on the transvaginal delivery system. It has been Deanna’s dream, ever since she was young, to be a high-level intellect in the medical field. And it was no surprise when she decided to pursue her PhD at the end of her master’s program. Even though Deanna couldn’t continue to be a part of the Mathiowitz lab due to funding circumstances, she was moved by Dr. Vicki Colvin’s presentation on her interview day, “When she started talking, I was amazed! My reaction was, ‘I didn’t even know this is possible! This is awesome!’” Currently, Deanna is working in Dr. Colvin’s lab as a first-year PhD student, “Dr. Colvin’s work with magnetic nanoparticle enticed me. These are magnetic nanoparticles that have great applications in the field of Biomedical Engineering. These particles react to low magnetic field, and I will be studying drug delivery using these magnetic nanoparticles with an external magnetic field to target them to a specific site.”

Speaking of her choice of the field, Deanna spoke highly of her family and the teachers who’ve helped her ever step of the way, “My father is an engineer, who went on to business, and my mother was an Art and Business major. And my sister is a Biomedical Engineer- who is a constant mentor to me.  I can talk to my dad about business ideas, and my mom will help me sketch and design different systems I have in mind. I owe a lot to them.” Whether it was being mesmerized by seeing the Mona Lisa at an early age, or exploring various natural history museums around the world, the exposure to the worlds of art and science both contributed to Deanna’s passion for the field Biomedical Engineering, “I am so thankful to my parents for exposing me to such diverse worlds at such an early age. Being exposed to the field of art actually impacts a scientist’s creative side, something that is very underappreciated. Being creative helps me come up with novel ideas, and being a graduate student, now I can actually work on them, test them, improve on them, which is really cool!” When she is not busy in her lab, Deanna spends her time being involved in activities around campus, “I am a supplemental TA this semester, and I am also the Vice President of the Graduate Biomedical Engineering Society (gBMES). Once my schedule is fixed, I am also hoping to start volunteering with different organizations that work with women and children, next semester. I think it’s important to spend some time helping others and thinking about those in need.” She also likes to participate in all seasonal activities, “I like to go the beach in the summer, go apple-picking in the fall, and ice skating in the winter! I love ice skating! I love the winter- the snow, the cold, the holidays!” And like everyone else, she likes to spend time with those closest to her on the weekends, “I treat graduate school like a job, where I work hard every single day, and I try to free up my weekends if I can, in order to spend time with the ones I love.” She also enjoys reading, and makes it a habit to read everyday before bed, and right after waking up, in order to keep her calm amidst her busy schedule.

After her PhD, Deanna wants to join the industry, “Ideally I would like to join a pharmaceutical company, where I can continue to study and conduct my research on drug delivery. But I would eventually like to transition to the business side of the research.” As of now, she is enjoying her time being a graduate student at Brown, “The opportunities you have, the exposure, the networking, the resources, the ability to choose your own classes- everything can help you choose your own adventure here at Brown.”