Fischell Institute Intern Spotlight: Isaac Thomas

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Isaac Thomas is an incoming junior studying bioengineering. This summer, he is a Fischell Institute intern in Director Bill Bentley's Biomolecular and Metabolic Engineering Laboratory. 

Thomas was inspired to attend the university after his older brothers did. In high school, Thomas wasn't sure what he wanted to pursue as a career as he enjoyed classes in the humanities, music, and STEM. 

"It wasn't until I had my first class in physics with what became my favorite teacher in high school that I felt that I wanted to pursue engineering," he said. "I enjoyed building my gadgets and learning how and why the world worked, from sound waves and light diffraction to the forces that allow us to walk. It all fascinated me and made me want to learn more." 

Thomas settled on bioengineering as it seemed like a perfect opportunity to apply the physics he learned about in a meaningful way to help others.

Thomas has enjoyed his experience with the internship, especially with the opportunity to plan out and perform his experiments for the first time. Thomas applied for the Fischell Institute internship as it seemed like a great way to learn various research skills to grow as a future bioengineer. 

"Being chosen as an intern out of so many applicants is a blessing I feel very thankful for, and it encourages me to make the most out of this experience," he said. "Through this internship, I hope to gain both the knowledge and skills that will allow me to become a stronger researcher." 

Thomas is working on characterizing the behavior of strains of E. coli that produce a purple pigment called violacein, which has both anti-tumor and antibiotic properties. He evaluates how these strains react and perform regarding cell growth and violacein production under various media conditions. 

"So far, these strains haven't exactly been behaving as we expected, so trying to unravel why that is has been pretty interesting," Thomas said. 

After graduation, he hopes to get a job in the biotechnology industry and get some work experience. He would also like to return to school to get a master's or doctorate degree once he has a better idea of what he would like to research. Regarding long-term goals and dreams, he wants to develop new biomedical technology to help save and transform lives. 

Outside of the lab, Thomas has played violin for over ten years. He is a proud member of the Gamer Symphony Orchestra at UMD, where he created an orchestral arrangement they performed last winter. He also enjoys composing his music in his free time.

Published August 3, 2023