David Fernandez-Fidalgo was a member of the NEI DIVRO program during the summer of 2013. He took a moment to talk about his experiences with his mentor, Dr. Wei Li in the Unit on Retinal Neurophysiology.
University of Miami, B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and working on a M.S. in Biomedical Engineering with an interest in the interdisciplinary practice between Neural Engineering and Tissue Engineering.
When my girlfriend returned to Miami after interning at NCI, she was impressed with the hands-on lab experience and the intramural staff working and supporting her knowledge and dream to do medical research. Not to be outdone, I knew I wanted an experience like hers so I applied to the Summer Intern Program. Fortunately, Dr. Jeffrey Diamond, a primary investigator at the NINDS, reviewed my resume and realized that I had a common interest with Dr. Li in studying the neurophysiological changes in the retina of ground squirrels during hibernation. In college, I did work designing and constructing micro-scale cooling devices, which also caught Dr. Li’s attention because of his research interest in hibernation.
Your research project?
I worked on marking the cells in the retina so we could better understand the mechanisms involved in how the eye changes during hibernation. I assisted Dr. Li in both dying the cells and marking them with fluorescent markers so we could see what the ganglion cells were doing during different levels of light and temperature.
Why is it important?
This work is important because the retina changes from environmental cues (especially light) in humans, and this can change vision. In ground squirrels, long-term changes might occur in the eye during hibernation. We are working to understand those mechanisms of change during hibernation, and this will better inform our understanding of how vision occurs in humans as well.
What are your career goals?
I aspire to become a physician scientist (M.D./Ph.D.) doing research in the field of Regenerative Medicine in Neurology, specifically stroke prevention and therapy techniques, applying concepts that I have learned in the study of Biomedical Engineering to come up with novel approaches to treat stroke.
What do you think about your experience so far?
The hands on experience and guidance received from Dr. Li and the lab was amazing. Interning at NEI opened my eyes to the possibilities of improving life through medical research and it reinforced my career goals to be a practicing M.D./Ph.D.