Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Mia Onodera

Mary Gates Research Scholar, Autumn 2022

Research Project: Quantitative Microglia Branching Analysis through Machine Learning Software

Project Description: I will build onto the Nance lab’s current pipeline to quantify microglial shape, including skeletonization – branching of the cell body across species. I will utilize machine learning to analyze hundreds of images of the rat, ferret, and mouse microglia. 

What have you learned throughout your research project? 

As I met more people from different backgrounds and got to work in different areas, I realized that not all research involved white lab coats. In the Nance lab, I saw graduate students combine current technology and developing lab techniques to collaborate towards one goal – to develop nanotherapeutics for the brain – through emerging technologies of data science. After completing undergraduate research in analyzing brain cell morphology for over two years, I learned that getting a degree in computer science or working in chemical engineering does not limit the scope of your work in computational technology. Those words have always encouraged me to keep an open mind and approach problems with an interdisciplinary approach. 

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

Don’t let a field stop you from pursuing research! The field which you go into does not matter. I personally, working at a Chemical Engineering lab as an Electrical Computer Engineering student, got to develop more skills and explore my fields of interest by working with cells and python at the same time. Look more into a research group’s papers or projects rather than the title!