One young researcher in the spotlight: C. Carrasquilla

Carmen’s M.Sc. project focused on the use of sol-gel immobilized structure-switching DNA aptamers for the development of a new Fiber-Bragg Grating (FBG) sensor platform. The core elements of the project were to develop new signalling methods and new immobilization methods, predominantly based on sol-gel technologies, for sensing of metabolites and biomarkers, with the potential to extend to detection of pathogenic organisms.

For her Ph.D. since 2011 Carmen joined the Chemical Biology graduate program and switched her project into the area of bioactive paper, and undertook studies on two new types of aptamer systems, the first involving RNA aptamers, and the second involving tandemly repeating (concatameric) DNA or RNA aptamers, with the ultimate goal being to print these various species onto paper-based test strips for the development of rapid diagnostics.

This work has already resulted in one publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, which appeared in 2012. Thus, she has already published 3 first-author manuscripts in high impact journals and is on target to publish at least 3 more in the next few years. It is important to note that her work is among the first to combine aptamer and sol-gel technologies for the development of new biosensing platforms, and has already garnered a number of citations.

Over the next 2 years Carmen has the opportunity to work in the newly established Biointerfaces Institute (BI) at McMaster University, where she will be among the first to use high throughput methods to examine a wide range of sol-gel based materials as supports for immobilizing DNA and RNA aptamers.

During summer 2013, Carmen was selected for a travel grant provided by the ISGS in order to participate in the XVII International Sol-Gel Conference (Madrid, Spain). This award will constitute financial aid for her trip to Spain, providing her the opportunity to present her work on sol-gel based “bioinks” for bioactive paper applications.