A rising junior at SUNY Poly, Elena Musteata is not spending her summer lying around. The Toronto native, who double majors in applied mathematics and nanobioscience is occupying her summer with a coveted internship at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Washington, D.C.

Musteata was chosen for the NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), which is designed to inspire undergraduate students to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) through a unique research experience that supports the NIST mission.

“I was excited to be working on a microbiology project, as my undergrad research since freshman year has been in microbiology,” she says. “I am rather fond of prokaryotes. It’s always amusing to investigate the mechanisms behind the strange behaviors they often exhibit which make them such effective infective agents and so remarkably prolific.”

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is a measurement standards laboratory, and a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. Its mission is to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness.

As her internship at NIST got underway, Elena and her colleagues have been designing their experiments, drafting protocols, and beginning mass spec training. After that, it was on to analyzing metabolomics profiles of two bacteria in co-culture.

“This particular interspecies interaction is of significant relevance to the prevalent late-stage, fatal infections in cystic fibrosis patients.”

The prestigious experience of working at NIST brings with it a new adventure of discovery, but Elena says that it’s the knowledge she has gained while at SUNY Poly’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering that prepared her for this rare and much sought-after opportunity.

“I have had to the opportunity to learn many important molecular biology techniques and gain essential laboratory experience during my ongoing undergraduate research with Dr. Cady’s group at CNSE.”

Looking to the bright future that lies ahead for her, Elena hopes to conduct research in nanobioengineering to develop novel, higher efficacy targeted drug delivery systems. She says that she is most interested in Ph.D. programs that specialize in the development of polymers as vehicles for the controlled delivery of drugs, nucleic acids, and experimental gene therapies.

“I hope that I will be able to apply new skills and methods I learn at NIST to my future research endeavors and improve my creative and critical thinking abilities when considering experimental design.”