Friday, February 15, 2019

Rebecca Kandell: Sloan Scholar

Rebecca Kandell is a bioengineering graduate student and Sloan Scholar.
Photos by David Baillot/ UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering
Rebecca Kandell knew she wanted to work in a STEM field from a young age. Her mom was a first-generation college student and electrical engineer, and her dad studied mechanical engineering, so engineering had always appealed to her. But she also was interested in biology and had dreams of becoming a medical physician in her youth. It wasn’t until applying for college that she realized she could meld the two into one field: bioengineering.

“I grew up in a family of engineering and science,” Kandell said. “I knew I wanted to get into a technical field.  When I attended a high school outreach event and learned about biomedical engineering, I thought that was a great way to combine engineering and biology.”

Kandell, who grew up in Ridgecrest, California, is now pursuing a Ph.D. in bioengineering at UC San Diego as a Sloan Scholar. Sloan Scholars receive a four-year fellowship worth $40,000 to stimulate fundamental research by early career scientists of outstanding promise.

She’s working in the lab of Ester Kwon, a professor of bioengineering at UC San Diego, designing nanoparticles with an emphasis on treating traumatic brain injury (TBI). Her research focuses on brain and nanoparticle therapy, working to develop tiny sub-cellular particles that could be used to more effectively transport drugs to the brain and help treat TBI and other neurodegenerative diseases. The carried drugs can help with treating complications that come with TBI such as brain swelling and cell death.

Kandell earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering at California Polytechnic State University and conducted research while working towards her degrees. There, she used bioimaging and cell culture to investigate natural therapies to prevent the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation (UV) on skin cells.

While at Cal Poly, Kandell also held several officer positions with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).  As president of SWE, one of the largest clubs on campus, she spearheaded multiple large-scale outreach events attended by thousands of K-12 students, and visited local schools to teach engineering principles to underrepresented minority students.  With her outreach and volunteering, Kandell hopes to inspire students to study engineering in college and reach their full potential.  She has continued to volunteer in San Diego by mentoring students in the Jacobs Undergraduate Mentorship Program (JUMP).

“I value mentoring students, both through scientific research and outreach programs like JUMP,” she said. “Mentorship provides a support system among students so that knowledge and positive experiences can be shared. I am committed to encouraging others to achieve their educational goals.”
Kandell is considering her research career goals, but said there are two components she knows her future endeavors will involve: research and mentorship.

“I am incredibly grateful to the Sloan foundation for their generous award which will allow me to conduct research and also give back to the community.”

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