December Student Spotlight - Thomas Valentin

December 1, 2017
Kabisa Baughen

1.When did you decide you wanted to pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering?

Probably a year before I enrolled. I was working as a research technician and realized that I wanted to get more involved in planning and designing experiments and take on more responsibility. Everyone above me in the company had a PhD and after talking with advisors and supervisors they told me I would hit a ceiling with just a masters so I realized that to do what I wanted to do I needed to get a PhD.


2. What is the focus of your research?

Most of my work is focused on biomaterials. My main project is working on laser based 3D printing with alginate. I’m also working on 3D matrices for cancer cell invasion.


3. What has been the proudest accomplishment of your time in graduate school, or a particular “high point”?

I’m very proud of receiving the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Fellowship for my work and, more generally, learning how to persevere through experiments that aren’t working and eventually figure out the solution of something that you’ve been working on for months is rewarding.


4. What has been the biggest challenge or frustration during grad school?

Every grad student probably goes through a rough period where you feel like nothing you’re doing is having the results you want. For me, last summer it seemed like nothing was working and it was an extremely frustrating several months. Eventually, though, I kept working through it and experiments started working and so far things have been going pretty well since.


5. Have you ever done an experiment that didn’t work?

Oh yeah. Everyone’s answer should be yes!


6. How did you choose your mentor?

I had actually met with Dr. Wong’s mentor before applying and he suggested that I apply to Brown and Dr. Wong’s lab. So I took his advice and after I applied and interviewed I talked back and forth with Dr. Wong and decided it was a good fit.


7. How was your project(s) chosen for grad school research? Did you get to pick or was a project assigned to you?

It came out of discussions with Dr. Wong. I had a broad idea of work I was interested and Dr. Wong helped to figure out how that would fit in the scope of the work he wanted his lab to be focused on. Then once we had a general idea of what we wanted to do we discussed multiple different methods we could try and eventually settled on one based on previous experiments.


8. What three qualities do you think are most important for someone entering graduate school?

Perseverance, patience, enthusiasm


9. Where do you hope for your career to be in 5-10 years?

I’d like to be back in industry, but I’m not sure exactly what area yet. I could see working in medical devices, a startup, or a larger biotech company. I probably won’t go into pharmaceuticals.