Andrew L Cook
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are correlated with tumor aggressiveness and can potentially serve as markers for cancer progression and treatment response. The ability to detect CTCs has particular application for treating metastases, which cause more than 90% of cancer patient deaths. Extremely low CTC concentrations (as low as 1 per mL of blood) are clinically relevant but difficult to detect. Discrimination of CTC and non-CTC cells is complicated because many antibodies will bind to both cancerous and healthy cells. Raman spectroscopy has shown the ability to distinguish cancerous and healthy cells, but Raman's signal-to-noise ratio limits its sensitivity to typical CTC concentrations. To overcome these obstacles I am developing a ZnO nanowire-based biosensor designed to differentiate between cancerous and healthy cells in a blood sample. ZnO nanowires will be functionalized to immobilize target cells and enhance the Raman signal from the cells.
The reason I entered into research in the first place was to further mankind's knowledge of the universe we live in. This goal hasn't changed. More recently, however, I have come to desire to more immediately impact the lives and health of people around the world through physics. I can do that through biomedical engineering. Thus, I want to pursue a doctorate in biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University. I also strongly desire to mentor students coming after me and use my experiences to help them navigate college and graduate school.