Fischell Institute Spotlight: Daniella Gatus

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Fischell Institute Director Bill Bentley’s Biomolecular and Metabolic Engineering Lab invited Daniella Gatus, a first-year bioelectronics Ph.D. student from Waseda University, Japan, to visit and learn about the lab’s work with E. coli in January, 2024.

Gatus’s research in Takeo Miyake’s lab at Waseda University involves bacterial electronics and the genetic modulation of E. coli. Through her research, she came across Bentley's work, which sparked her interest in coming to the United States to learn more.

“Our lab [in Japan] has already done multiple successful projects on injecting several types of substances into eukaryotic cells, but recently, we started trying to apply it with bacteria,” Gatus explained. “With the help of the Bentley lab, we can now inject plasmids and proteins into E. coli and observe the corresponding gene expression as a result.”

Gatus’s research at Waseda University previously focused on biofuel cell systems using specific enzymes, and consequently producing electricity useful for a variety of applications. This research was motivated by the drastic increase in disposable face masks being discarded during the pandemic. Gatus wanted to make reusable masks.

She used a biofuel cell system to supply an electric current to a conductive face mask. She then found that a certain level of microampere current would kill bacteria that were stuck to the conductive surface. Gatus used E.coli as a subject, which sparked her interest in learning more and her current project.

Gatus is originally from the Philippines and earned her undergraduate degree in materials engineering in 2021 from the University of the Philippines. She then earned her master’s degree in bioelectronics from Waseda University in 2023.

“I have always wanted to explore outside of my comfort zone in terms of work environment, especially opportunities abroad, which is why I wanted to study in Japan after my undergraduate degree,” she said. “I learned to teach myself to be responsible for my own sake. This also includes being responsible when it comes to graduate school. I’d say that this is character development.”

Coming to the United States for the first time, Gatus said, gave her culture shock.

“Japan is a very ‘I do my own thing so that I don’t bother other people’ kinda country,” she said. “But here [in the United States], everyone is always open to lend you a hand with anything, going out of their way to offer help that you would otherwise not expect to receive. I love how people are always so friendly and smiling, even to strangers.”

While Gatus enjoyed visiting the U.S., her dream is to have a stable and happy life in Japan.

“I really love the lifestyle that I have in Japan, and I have big hopes of having that for as long as I can see into the future,” she said. “The goals I have in mind all lead to me being able to achieve this stable lifestyle in Japan.”

Outside of the lab, Gatus loves playing volleyball and other activities that give her an adrenaline rush. She also enjoys traveling and exposing herself to different cultures.

Published March 15, 2024