Collin Edington and Iris Lee
Collin is a research scientist in the Griffith Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), leading the design and implementation of a human-on-a-chip platform for multi-organ interactions. A Pittsburgh native, he got his undergraduate degree in materials science and biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in 2010 and his PhD in bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2014. He minored in photography at CMU, and ever since has remained interested in the power of art to convey scientific principles. He recently expanded his research efforts at MIT to developing 3D tissue models of the central nervous system and associated neurodegenerative diseases. These models will be integrated within the platform to investigate the synergistic effects of multi-organ co-culture on drug interactions and disease states.
Iris graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2015 with a BSc degree in chemistry. She then joined Linda Griffith at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a technical researcher on the Human Physiome on a Chip project – funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – which aims to incorporate ten different organ-on-a-chip models to investigate complex organ interactions and assess drug toxicity at a system-wide level (for example, whether a drug that is not toxic to the liver might have a deadly effect on the brain).
As part of the central nervous system (CNS/brain) team, Iris is working on developing a reliable in vitro brain model for the multi-organ platform. She finds her research fascinating, and is interested particularly in the brain due to its complexity and the fact that relatively little is known about it compared with other body organs. Also, she finds it really fun to be part of a project that explores the unexplored areas in science. Building on this experience, Iris’s next step is to pursue a graduate degree in the field of biomedical engineering.
Outside of the lab, she enjoys swimming and watching movies. She says: “As a US-born Korean who emigrated to Canada at 13, I realised that those with different experiences can contribute unique viewpoints – and I believe this applies to science as well: diverse thoughts are key to scientific excellence, as science is grounded in collaboration and group problem solving. From my diverse upbringing and research experiences, ranging from cancer biology to neuroscience and engineering, I’ve come to understand how important an interdisciplinary approach to science is; there is no scientific research that is isolated from one field to another. Even the research I am currently involved in – the Human Physiome on a Chip project – is only possible because we have professors, students and technicians from all different backgrounds, ranging from chemistry, biology and engineering to technical consulting and modelling. Therefore, I would like young people interested in science to not limit themselves too much to one field, but always be open-minded and explore.”