Brianna Bradley

By Mary Anne Schoenhardt

For many graduate students, the summer is a change of pace. For Brianna Bradley, a PhD student in the Department of Chemical Engineering, it was the opportunity to conduct research in Japan. As a participant in the Mitacs-JSPS Summer Program, she received funding to travel to Japan and collaborate with a local researcher. The program provided her with the opportunity to learn new techniques, experience Japanese culture, and explore the country.

Brianna’s research is in the field of microfluidics, or the study and control of fluid flow at the micro scale. Brianna is using microfluidics to studying navigation and motility of magnetotactic bacteria, a type of bacteria that have internal magnetic nanoparticles. Similar to how a compass needle will always move to point north, the magnetic nanoparticles cause magnetotactic bacteria to align themselves with whatever magnetic field is present in their environment. The goal of Brianna’s research is to contribute to an understanding of how magnetotactic bacteria could be used for localized drug delivery. While in Japan, she was working with a group of researchers who study organ-on-a-chip, specifically growing vascular networks on microfluidic devices. Brianna hopes to use these microfluidic devices to study the movement of bacteria through this on-chip vascular network.

Brianna first learnt of the Mitacs-JSPS Summer Program through her supervisor, Dr. Carlos Escobedo. Knowing of a Japanese researcher doing applicable work, she reached out to Dr. Yuji Nashimoto to act as a host supervisor. While a host supervisor is needed for acceptance into the program, you don’t have to have a pre-existing connection with them to apply; information on eligible host institutions is available to potential applicants. Brianna’s work was based out of the Tokyo Medical and Dental University, but other researchers taking part in the program were working at various institutions across the country. Brianna says she feels really lucky to have been working where she was. “The other students in the lab were really welcoming, we’d go for lunch together every day” she said, “and Nashimoto-sensei was great!”

In addition to the community within the lab, the cohort of participants within the Mitacs-JSPS Summer program facilitated a community of people going through similar experiences. “We had a group chat with all the fellows in the program,” said Brianna, “it provided the opportunity to meet up for dinner, karaoke, things like that. Everyone is going through the same experience of figuring out life in Japan and learning about the culture, so it’s nice to have people to share that with.”

The biggest things Brianna took away from the program were a chance to learn new lab skills and be pushed outside her comfort zone. She feels that the wider set of skills she now has will open the door up on many opportunities in the future. This was also the first time she had experienced a completely different culture before and gave her confidence to do more travelling in the future. “There’s so many things to do and see in Japan,” she said, “I was so busy, every weekend, every evening!” When asked what she’d tell other people considering this or a similar program, she said “It’s definitely worth it! It’s a great opportunity to visit another country, and not just as a tourist but to interact with people from that country.”


This news article was copied in it's entirety from the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs website. Read the article here.