REU Student Spotlight: Isabel Castillo

By Christelle Paul, SEAS Correspondent

NAME: Isabel Castillo

HOMETOWN: Long Island, N.Y.

COLLEGE: Vassar College


MAJOR: Math and physics dual major

HARVARD LAB: Center for Nanoscale Systems

RESEARCH MENTORS:  Ling Xie, Arthur McClelland, and Hao-Yu Lin

What are you researching, and what is the purpose of your project?

The official term for my project is the “Design Fabrication and Testing of Microfluidic Devices for Biochemical Analysis.” We are building a tiny device that analyzes liquids in a series of channels in a microscope. Creating a small device allows for mass production, and for more efficient analysis of liquids at larger masses. Examples of liquids we could analyze with this device are brain cells or blood.

Do you see yourself pursuing something similar to this in the future?

Yes, I love the research and the engineering aspects of this experience. I like to design and test things and see if they are working. I think I can see myself doing something similar in the future.

Is there anything you would change about the project or the REU experience in general?

I like the project and I love my mentor; she’s very sweet and has a great deal of patience. But having a kitchen in the dorms would be great, because I’m tired of Ramen Noodles. More information about parking would be useful to the people who drive here, as well. Receiving parking tickets or having your car towed seem to be common occurrences in this city, so I would advise other REU students to be extremely careful about where they park.

Before coming to the REU program, did you see yourself working in a certain place or field, obtaining specific degrees, etc.?

I’ve always wanted to get into the engineering field, pursuing research and building things—anything involving engineering, research, or the medical field. Obtaining a Ph.D. is my goal because it will give me the ability to research whatever I want. That freedom sounds very appealing, because I want to do what interests me.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while here?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that everything you’ve done in your past matters. Somehow, some way everything comes into play. That class you didn’t want to pay attention in, or that assignment you really hated will soon show its relevance in the future. My advice is to be mindful of the present. The present is very transient and soon becomes the past. Everything you do will matter.