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Internship Profile: Sebastian Gallo, Biomedical Engineering ’20 (Stanford School of Medicine)

Name: Sebastian Gallo
Class: 2020
Hometown: Miami
Degree: Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Concentration
Internship location (Company Name and Location): Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif.

How did you find this internship?
I found this internship in the University of Miami News Letter, specifically from Ann Helmers at the College of Engineering.

Describe your internship.
Currently, I’m working in the lab of Nobel laureate Thomas Südhof as part of the department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology to investigate the mechanisms controlling communication in the brain. From this research, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of how these mechanisms work in order to allow for the creation of better therapeutics for treating neuropsychiatric conditions such as autism, schizophrenia, and Tourette syndrome. The focus of my specific project is to investigate how the cell adhesion molecule neurexin stabilizes synapses, the communication point where two neurons meet, to allow for vesicular transport between neurons – therefore allowing for normal communication in the brain.

What did you learn at CoE that has helped you at your summer internship?
Pursuing a degree at the CoE has taught me how to tackle multidimensional issues in our society, such as helping individuals with motor complete spinal cord injury regain hand movement, from more than just a one-dimensional approach. I have thus learned several lessons that have been easily translated to my summer internship through the research I am conducting in Dr. Prasad’s lab, as well as through the challenging classes I have taken. Being able to investigate neural interfaces from a viewpoint as complex as the code involved in decoding thought, to the basic and translational patient level, has helped me more easily visualize the innumerable interactions occurring when two neurons communicate as something we can split into basic events in order to form an understandable story. Taking classes such as Intro to Engineering with Dr. Fahmy and Dr. Fahad, where after days of frustration I learned through an egg drop project that sometimes the best solutions are the simplest, taught me to keep my mind in higher level thought, but to always consider even the easy solutions; having an open mind for, engineering and neuroscience alike, is beneficial.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned at this program?
I have learned to not let myself get dragged down by failures and the frustration that comes with them. It has taken a lot for me to learn to fail “forward” and grow from my mistakes.

Why has this been a good experience for you?
I feel more competitive as an applicant to my future endeavors, and more confident in my ability to continue growing as not only an engineer but also as a person. This experience has thrown me into an environment outside of my comfort zone, in which I’ve learned to become increasingly comfortable with the fact that the more knowledge I gain on a subject, such as human thought, the less I truly know about it. I’ve also faced several personal challenges as I am conducting research in a neuroscience at a molecular level (a level of neuroscience I am not familiar with), in my first institution away from Miami.

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