Oihane Mitxelena, graduate of the first class in Biomedical Engineering at Tecnun, has received a prize for the best Master's Project in Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine at the UCL in London for her research on cancer
The prestigious University College London has awarded Oihane Mitxelena, currently a PhD student at CEIT, the prize for best Master's Project for her study titled “Porphyrin-loaded magnetic microbubbles for targeted sonodynamic therapy”.
In addition to winning the award for best project, the study, which focused on developing microbubbles that are able to transport medicines to the specific area affected by a tumour, was also awarded the Dean' s Prize, which is given to the best project of all Master's programmes.
Mitxelena, who is a graduate of the first class in Biomedical Engineering at Tecnun, did an MSc in Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine in London. Having completed her work in the UK, she is continuing her studies in San Sebastián as a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering, working with researchers Maite Mujika and Sergio Arana.
What is your award-winning project about?
My project consisted of finding a new form of therapy for cancer. I developed microbubbles that take medicine to the affected area, and then they are released via ultrasound treatment. The truth is that I was very comfortable working on that project, and although I often went to or left the laboratory at unusual hours, I believe that the results have been worth it.
How was your experience in London?
It was incredible. I would do it again, without hesitation. It was a year that I took full advantage of, both in terms of learning more about an area that interests me and learning about other cultures and customs. I also saw how other labs and organizations functioned, which always helps you to improve your own way of working.
What differences did you see in the work/study habits between there and here?
In the first place, the way classes were given was more informal, but they were also quite demanding. For example, we had classes during lunchtime, and the students had no qualms about eating their lunch while the professor talked about biomateriales, something that I would have never dreamed of doing at Tecnun. On the other hand, it was very common for experts to be brought in so they could teach us about their topics of expertise. They also place great importance on being current, and what perhaps was most difficult or demanding was the fact that on exams it wasn't enough to know the information covered in the course. Instead we had to search for articles with new research related to each topic and incorporate them as examples in exam questions, citing the articles' authors and dates of publication.
What attracted to you the world of biomedical engineering?
Being able to supplement or facilitate the treatment and diagnosis of patients without having to get a medical degree, which, from my point of view, involves more direct and difficult contact with patients.
Why did you decide to return to CEIT? What made you choose our Centre?
I did my Final Degree Project and internship in the Microelectronics and Microsystems department and I really liked the work and they way they go about research. In addition to CEIT's experience with doctoral theses, where 540 have been completed at the Ibaeta campus, I also wanted to come back home, because I believe that we have to commit ourselves to carrying out good research here. I don't think that the best answer is always to go abroad, and if we want to be competent then we also need to foster good research at home and "in house".
How are you approaching the doctorate years? Where do you want to go?
Right now I'm very excited, although perhaps I should answer this in three year's time, when I'm writing my thesis! I am working on microfluidic devices that will help to analyse the effect of nanoparticles on carcinogenic cells and from there find the most appropriate treatment, something that seems very interesting and necessary to me. We hope that something beneficial will come out of all the work that we're doing.