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Student Awarded 2023–24 Mazilu Engineering Research Fellowship

Sep 12, 2023   |   by Catha Mayor

Hannah Ren '24 was awarded the Mazilu Engineering Research Fellowship for 2023–2024. The award will support Ren's work with Dartmouth Engineering professor John Zhang on new methods for targeted cancer drug delivery.

Hannah Ren '24

"Cancer remains a pressing global health challenge, urging the exploration of innovative approaches to enhance diagnosis and treatment," says Ren. "The recent strides in nanotechnology have unveiled fresh opportunities for precise drug delivery in cancer therapy. I am thrilled by the potential for pioneering methods in cancer drug delivery yet to be explored and tested!"

The project, entitled, "Magnetic Chip Device for Capturing Cancer Cell Exosomes and Enabling Drug Delivery in Cancer Research," aims to answer the question: How can we streamline the isolation of extracellular components, such as exosomes, from human fluids and load them with therapeutics in an economically scalable manner? 

Exosomes—small extracellular vesicles—can transport cargo between cells and have shown promise as vehicles for targeted drug delivery, but their efficient and selective capture remains a challenge. PhD student John Molinski, a member of the Zhang Research Group, developed a magnetic chip device designed to capture exosomes by allowing them to bind with antibody-coated beads. His device, paired with methods enabling purification and tracking, has laid the foundation for further exploration of exosome-mediated drug delivery in cancer research.

"This research pivots the liquid biopsy research in my lab towards a new direction, from point-of-care diagnostics to targeted therapy," says Professor Zhang. "We are grateful to the Mazilu family for their support of undergraduate research at Thayer and for giving Hannah the opportunity to carry on this promising research in biomedical engineering. I look forward to working with her on this research."

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