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Adorno Earns GEM Fellowship for Biomedical Engineering PhD

Jonathan Adorno, a behavioral neuroscience student, came to Northeastern as a Torch Scholar, thinking he wanted to be a doctor. Now that he is preparing to graduate, he still wants to spend his career doing work that helps people with diseases such as cancer—but in the research laboratory rather than the exam room. To take the next step toward a research career, Adorno will enroll in the PhD program in biomedical engineering at The Ohio State University this fall with the support of the GEM Fellowship. This fully-funded fellowship is backed by a network of leading corporations, government laboratories, universities, and research institutions, and it enables qualified students from underrepresented communities to pursue graduate education in applied science and engineering.

Jonathan Adorno COS’19 has earned the GEM Fellowship to support his doctoral studies at Ohio State.

Adorno came to Northeastern from Amsterdam, NY, where his family had relocated from Puerto Rico when he was four years old. At Amsterdam High School, Adorno rose to become student body president and excelled in the Smart Scholars Early College High School Program. In eleventh grade, he started a tutoring and mentoring program in partnership with a local non-profit, Centro Civico of Amsterdam, with the goal of helping young people in his neighborhood succeed in school and eventually go to college. In recognition of his academic promise and leadership qualities, Adorno earned the Gates Millennium Scholarship and the HSF Scholarship, and then enrolled at Northeastern as a Torch Scholar.

Adorno seized the opportunity to chart a unique course through Northeastern. He declared a major in behavioral neuroscience, became deeply involved in community service and the Latinx Student Cultural Center, and took the initiative to create his two dream co-ops at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. Working at LLNL “changed my life completely,” Adorno says: the work there “made me fall in love with biomedical engineering research” and solidified a research career as his goal.

At LLNL, Adorno worked to develop an ex-vivo tumor model for breast cancer, finding his niche at the intersection of oncology, biomaterials and microfluidics. He developed a bioink (like a regular ink, but one that supports cells to live) which allowed his team to bioprint (printing, but with biological components) their desired cellular geometries—all without killing the cells involved. Adorno also continued his passion for encouraging the next generation of scientists, mentoring a group of high school interns during his time there.

Adorno’s research goal is to eventually develop a model system for treating breast cancer metastases to the brain. In cases of such extensive progression, the two-year survival rate is currently about 24%—a number he hopes he can help increase through engineering research with translational medical applications.

This story was originally published on April 3rd, 2019 here.

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