Blog Posts

Research, Relax, Recharge

By Halle Gibson

As a graduate student in a STEM field, coursework and research can often feel overwhelming and take precedence in my life in terms of time commitment, effort, and mental capacity.  As an undergraduate student in engineering, I did not realize the importance of or how to set boundaries for a healthy work-life balance; however, throughout my many years of education, I have been able to improve this skill and achieve this balance. While I enjoy my work which provides opportunities to explore my curiosity and learn something new each day, I now know that it is essential for me to take time to recharge and relax from my STEM research.

With regard to both mental and physical health, I have found that for me to feel recharged and be at my best, it helps to designate a set amount of time for relaxation and self-care daily. Even a short 15 minutes, when used well, can improve my mood, my happiness, and my stress levels! During this time, I like to unplug from work and science, as well as from my phone along with any obligations that could possibly arise from email or text message notifications. One of my favorite ways to spend this unplugged time is by getting outside and getting active. This could be me taking a walk to enjoy the fresh air, listening to music, or doing yoga to destress and calm my mind. Another way I love to spend my free time is by reading. While I read scientific articles and publications frequently for my research and studies, [...]

November 3rd, 2022|

Early Days in the Lab

By Isha Krishna

When I first arrived at the Montclare Lab, I wasn’t sure what to expect of myself. I had never been in a lab outside of my NYU Tandon undergraduate courses, and I was unsure of my ability to contribute to projects.

After the first week or so of hand-holding and constant supervision from my mentor, I started getting the hang of performing experiments independently. I had written up my own protocols, drawn my own workflows, and I was starting to feel like I knew what I was doing. Then, my partner and I were assigned our first task without the help of our mentor: to make and run one gel while he was out of town.

Confident in our abilities, we came in that day ready to complete our task and leave leisurely after lunch. Not so fast, my friend. Here’s how the day went:

● Upon our arrival, I realized that every other group in the lab was running 1+ gels that day, and the majority of gel supplies were being used.
● Because of our lack of tools, our gel manufacturing was postponed for over an hour.
● Once the gel was made, all the voltage machines except the ancient one were being used.
● The ancient machine runs slower than normal, so it took twice as long to run the gel.
● The stained gel was too dark, so 6+ rounds of destaining were performed.
● While destaining, the gel broke in two places.

And to put the cherry on top, we accidently dropped the gel on the floor.

As I watched my partner fail to pick up [...]

October 14th, 2022|

My Steps Toward Science, Biomaterials & the Lab

By: Jessica Wong

When I was young, I would come home after school and spend hours in my living room, captivated by the guppies in my fish tank. My mother and I had bought three red-yellow hybrid males and two silver females. Within a few months, there were around a hundred guppies with many colors and black-patterned tails, none of which looked the same. I didn’t have the terminology or conceptual knowledge to understand what was going on at the time, but one day I would learn in science class that genetic mutations occurred with each generation.

In high school, my biology teacher had terrariums with frogs, a leopard gecko, and a betta fish. It easily became my favorite classroom and my favorite class. We learned about the Krebs cycle, the chi-square test, and levels of biological organization. In one of our experiments, we used micropipettes to observe antibiotic resistance in E. coli, and I loved seeing the tangible results and confirmation of my hypotheses. The kinesthetic and visual factors of science experiments always stuck with me, and I applied what I had learned to my daily observations and current events on the news. 

I spent a summer in the Dominican Republic teaching English, and we lived across a hospital. There was one day when the hospital’s parking lot was crowded with motorcycles, and my friend explained that the clinics were offering [...]

July 28th, 2022|

Academic Spark

Maggie Thompson

My path to being interested in science did not start as young as some. I spent many years dreaming of becoming a writer or an investigative reporter, who would travel the world to write news stories. Yet, during my sophomore year of high school, after I took a few more science courses, I realized that science, not writing, might be the right path for me. Wanting to further explore my newfound interest in science, I applied to a summer research program through Brown University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focusing on infectious and zoonotic diseases. I was accepted into the program and flew to Atlanta, GA to start my journey within science. During the week-long program, I found that I was more excited to attend lectures and labs than I had ever been about any academic subject—I had found a passion for science!

            Following that experience, I took all the courses I could that were in the science field. I imagined myself working in a lab, discovering new treatments for diseases to make the world a healthier place. After graduating high school during a pandemic, I entered college, also in the middle of a pandemic and was met with new experiences left and right. As a Biomolecular Science major, I was taking courses that allowed me to dive even deeper into the world of drug development, the impact of vaccines, and the world of biomolecular engineering. After a full year of Biomolecular Science courses, I found that not only did I still love the field I planned on going into, but my interest and passion for it [...]

May 27th, 2022|

First Day

Maria Kulapurathazhe

The first day of school is something that I have always looked forward to for as long as I can
remember. Catching up with friends during lunch, writing on the first page of a new notebook,
trying not to look lost on the way to class – these are just some of the small things that make me
have a crazy smile on my face for the entirety of the day.

For obvious reasons, this past first day of school was like no other. After saying goodbye to my
roommates and the city after a fleeting six months as a college freshman, I returned to NYU
Tandon as a junior with eyes set on graduation.

Research Assistant, Maria Kulapurathazhe

Even stepping foot on campus again and exchanging small talk with classmates seemed surreal
after months of virtual backgrounds and disconnected Zoom chat messaging. With everything
around me seeming to have gone through a radical change in the last year and a half, I couldn’t
help but wonder how my experiences over the pandemic would manifest in the fall.

One of the few constants I had though this year was my time in the Montclare Lab. For the past
three months, I was able to fully immerse myself in the day-to-day activities of a bioengineer and
scientist. From figuring out how to analyze different temperature scans to running gel
electrophoresis and even growing used to the distinct smell of bacteria cells, the last few months
were a whirlwind of finding my footing in a field I am beginning to realize my growing passion

Just as thrilling was being able to see everything I had learned in the lab come together in [...]

February 8th, 2022|

Protein Engineering Research Internship

Sihan (Hannah) Jia

I recently graduated from New York University – Tandon School of Engineering with a Master degree of biotechnology. During my time studying biotechnology, I learned to find my topics of interest and designed my own experiments. Every time I presented my research work, I gained many positive comments from my classmates and professors, I felt so motivated and therefore worked harder. I collaborated well with my colleagues and they inspired me a lot when discussing about projects. Since both of my parents work in hospitals, they taught me about medical science since I was a child. Gradually, I began to be intrigued by this amazing field that seemed like another world. So I found that I was more interested in figuring out how life works and that’s why I chose molecular biology as my career. Protein engineering is an enchanting field where altering biological characteristics becomes possible. My previous experience mainly focused on genetic engineering such as constructing and expressing recombinant plasmids in prokaryotes, protein expression and purification, western blot and ELISA. I’m really excited about practicing various new techniques.

Since completing my degree I have joined the Montclare Lab and work with Dustin and Cheng. They encouraged me a lot and guided me to be familiar with their projects. With the help of them and all other lab members, I have learned some new techniques such as syringe pump purification, CD measurement, protein concentration and BCA test. We are currently working on the optimization and application of Q proteins which can self assemble to hydrogel under normal conditions. This project is super cool and can be applied at many fields like drug delivery or conductivity.

January 5th, 2022|

The Solidified Path – Protein Engineering

By: Chengliang Liu

In high school I was known to be a student who really enjoyed STEM classes. As the acting president of the Math Club of my high school, I developed a deep interest in applying mathematical modeling to predict ways in which the world would evolve. I feel grateful that math has opened a new door for me to explore and enjoy the beauty of other sciences. I discovered chemistry and biology were where my true passion lay. Science has always attracted me because it is a method of problem-solving, though every subject of science has helped me to understand the world we live in better, and ultimately I choose this path for my degree.

Having this opportunity to work in the lab over this past summer has strengthened my passion for science. Experimenting with just a single plasmid that was coded for a specific targeted protein, until the pure protein is ready to be tested, is really an incredible experience. During class lectures, professors tried to teach the technical theories of science, but because of time limitations, the lecture is usually broken into fragments. In the grand scheme of things, students are not able to fully understand the reasoning behind the techniques. In lectures we always anticipate successful experiment results, however, this is not the case at all. In a research lab, more often than not this will take multiple trials until desired data can be collected. We discuss the problem we face and try to improve on the protocol, and bit by bit we figure out the issue and eventually solve it. This is what I viewed as the most rewarding part about science, and this is what motivated me to come [...]

December 9th, 2021|

My Journey to the Lab

By Aparajita Bhattacharya    


Growing up, I was utterly fascinated with the inner workings of the living world. This fascination as well as curiosity led me to major in molecular biology during college. However, my senior year, I found that I lacked work experience in the field and didn’t know how my knowledge from class would apply in the real world. Intending to fill this gap, I landed a credit-based volunteering opportunity in a genetics lab that used Drosophila as a model organism to understand aging and Alzheimer’s disease. This lab experience not only gave me a taste of the world of science, but also helped me to get my first job as a research assistant studying the molecular mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease. We sought to map the molecular causes of protein dysregulation, which lead to amyloid accumulation in the brain, and  eventually result in dementia. Since I am interested in more readily applied research, this project caught my attention. In my own small way, I was addressing a challenge facing human health by advancing the understanding of the origin of Alzheimer’s disease. Feeling fired up from my stint in the research lab, I entered a Master of Research in Molecular and Cellular Biology (MRes), which was like a mini-Ph.D. The program allowed me to assess whether I’d be interested in the commitment of a Ph.D. program.

Aparajita Bhattacharya, PhD Candidate 


As a part of the MRes, I worked in two labs executing two Master’s thesis projects. In the first, I investigated the unorthodox idea of translation in the nucleus using a yeast model in the School of Biosciences. In the second, [...]

October 11th, 2021|

A (Not so Typical) Year of an Undergraduate Student

By: Bonnie Lin


March 11 th , 2020: NYU announced that all classes and non-essential research will be conducted
remotely as a precautionary measure for the COVID-19 issue that is getting worse. The sudden
transition into remote instruction was and still is, met with several challenges. However, classes
still managed to move forward with a combination of Zoom and online exams.
Research on the other hand is even more difficult, or even impossible, to fully transition to
remote operation. Ongoing efforts of research through remote settings increased to avoid
delay in research. Despite increased focus on literature research and computational
simulations, findings ultimately required experimental confirmation traditionally conducted
through wet bench research in a laboratory setting.

June 1 st , 2020: Remote research in computational design starts. As a Thompson Bartlett Fellow,
I worked on computationally designing phosphotriesterase (PTE) variants through incorporation
of non-canonical amino acid, p-fluorophenylalanine, to detoxify organophosphates. For ten
weeks, I was able to familiarize with the computational modeling software, Rosetta, and was
able to identify PTE candidates with increased catalytic efficiency and binding affinity with the
help of my mentor Farbod Mahmoudinobar and Dr. Montclare.

The idea of approaching protein engineering from a different perspective was full of challenge
and excitement. Both computational design through remote operation and wet bench research
are similar in two ways: that lasting feeling of accomplishment to participate and contribute to
the world of scientific discoveries and findings.



Fall 2020: Classes are being held through a wide range of flexibility to accommodate students in
the midst of a pandemic. Undergraduates are offered a choice of taking in-person classes, fully
remote or blended (hybrid version). Laboratory courses are offered in-person only and [...]

August 12th, 2021|

Unexpected Computational Research

By: Jason Chen

When I joined the Montclare lab for protein engineering and molecular design in the summer of 2020 (amidst a pandemic), I was eagerly expecting to be thrown into the wet lab world involving the prolific use of SDS-PAGE and the omnipresence of micropipette tips. Instead, I would find myself navigating a Unix shell often in the comfort of my bed (which was not great on my back, in retrospect). Scientific research is not all about wet lab work, as one might presume. In fact, computational work is one of the core driving forces of breakthroughs and advancements, especially in the field of protein engineering.

During my first few weeks, the learning curve was very steep. Although I was armed with three semesters of coding experience from my computer science courses, I was still mystified by the Unix interface and the modeling software called Rosetta. I perused through countless random Github and Stack Overflow web pages trying to figure out how to execute basic commands. I read and reread past papers about our protein construct (phosphotriesterase or PTE) to understand the meaning behind the work.

Most importantly, I received guidance and encouragement from my mentor, the patient and wise post-doctoral associate Farbod Mahmoudinobar. It also didn’t hurt to have worked with other undergrads on the project, Bonnie and Jakub, who sympathized with the struggles of undertaking computational work for the first time. We often connected through Zoom to troubleshoot difficulties and work together throughout the learning process.

Eventually, I grew more comfortable with the project. I gained a better understanding of the background of PTE as well as the overarching goals of our project. I was finally equipped with the [...]

June 3rd, 2021|