Recent alumnus wins Fulbright to study bioengineering in Switzerland

Aaron MayerWhen Aaron Mayer (CWR ’13) started at Case Western Reserve University, he wanted to select a major that combined his love of math, science, medicine and engineering.

He decided to try biomedical engineering—and it turned out to be the perfect fit.

The range of coursework and classes fed Mayer’s overarching interests, but it wasn’t until he began his lab work that his passion grew and he saw the potential for a lifelong career.

Now, just more than a month after commencement, he’s starting that career: He’s earned a Fulbright Award to conduct research at Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne in Switzerland. Mayer applied for the Fulbright while a student at Case Western Reserve and recently was notified of the award.

While at Case Western Reserve, Mayer worked for three years in the lab of Efstathios Karathanasis, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and radiology, which focused on nanomedicine, imaging and cancer research. He was able to have input on experimental design, approach and theory.

“It was in this environment that my passion for biomedical engineering grew from a college major to a lifelong pursuit to develop and engineer products that improve the quality of people’s lives,” Mayer said.

Two of the projects he worked on were “Imaging Metastasis Using an Integrin-Targeting Chain Shaped Nanoparticle” and “Enhanced Delivery of Chemotherapy to Tumors Using a Multicomponent Nanochain with Radio-Frequency Tunable Drug Release.” Both projects were published in ACS Nano and he served as co-author of each.

While in Switzerland, Mayer will conduct a research project, titled “A Nano-Scale Approach to Lymphatic and Cancer Bioengineering,” in professor Melody Swartz’s bioengineering lab, which specializes in immunology and lymphatic approaches to cancer therapy.

Mayer said the lab he chose is one of the only bioengineering labs in the world looking at how lymphatic, endothelial, tumor and immune cells interact in an integrative manner. The researchers use in vivo, in vitro and in silico models, and the lab is a mix of biologists, immunologists and engineers.

“It’s a unique environment that will provide the instruments necessary to carry out my project,” Mayer said. “The relationship that exists here between engineers and immunologists has become a growing trend resulting in the emerging field of ‘immunoengineering.’”

Mayer’s project will seek to identify imaging/nanoparticle pairs that can be used to further understand lymphatic and immune diseases, especially cancer, he said.

“I believe that the nano-engineering and imaging tools I have from my time in the lab and classroom at CWRU can be used to quantitatively and qualitatively analyze the unique lymphatic model that Dr. Swartz is studying,” Mayer said.

Mayer’s Fulbright award gives him the opportunity to continue his education and research while making invaluable connections halfway across the globe.

“At its heart, the Fulbright program aims to foster international exchange,” Mayer said. “I am really looking forward to living in a completely new country, establishing connections with researchers at the EPFL and in Switzerland, discovering a new culture, and being able to do research at one of the premier institutions in the world.”

At the conclusion of his Fulbright research, Mayer hopes to attend graduate school to earn a PhD or MD/PhD in medical oncology from Case Western Reserve, University of California-Berkeley or Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After, he aims to launch a biotech start-up company or become a biomedical engineering professor and run his own research lab.