PhD student Mireia Perera González found her calling at the intersection of medicine and engineering in the discipline of bioengineering, where her work can help prepare and inform future generations of doctors. Currently in her first year at Northeastern, Perera spends most of her time studying cardiopulmonary conditions in the lab of the Integrated Cardiovascular and Pulmonary (ICAP) team. There her research focuses on running MRI studies for research being performed by principal investigators Professor Jessica Oakes on the health impacts of inhaled toxins, particularly e-cigarettes; and Professor Chiara Bellini on tissue and organ mechanics of the cardiovascular system
While assisting Professors Oakes and Bellini, Perera hopes to develop a strong foundation in biomechanics with the imaging technology and data analysis techniques they use, skills she can carry with her to an array of intriguing research areas. She describes her work as being spread across several related fields of study; “I am in the bioengineering concentration, but I consider myself more in the biomechanics realm, and my current work revolves around bioimaging.”
Her long-term aim is to apply these skills to advancing the treatment of illnesses of the heart and lungs, ideally by studying those organs before they develop problems. “The more you know about a subject, the better you can treat it,” she explains, “And cardiopulmonary research is an area where I feel like people are not as concerned about studying it until you already have something wrong. There is less focus on their function when everything is working.”
She credits her undergraduate studies for inspiring her to pursue her PhD in bioengineering – while she had dreamed of being a doctor since she was a child, she found herself too intrigued by other sciences to commit solely to medicine for college. Then, she stumbled upon the biomedical engineering program at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. “I had decided I was not meant to be a doctor, because I liked engineering and physics too much. So when I learned about this field of study, I decided I would give it a try,” Perera recalls, “and my first year in university was awesome! I realized I could be a doctor, but instead of performing surgery, I could design and build everything that doctor needs, or do the research that steers everything they might do.”
While she has not yet decided what’s next for her after she completes her PhD, as an athlete and self-described “micro-adventurer,” Perera knows that a nine to five desk job won’t be able to hold her attention. Equally interested in the opportunities provided by academic or industry research positions, she hopes her love of sport and athletic activity of all varieties will be able to come into play wherever her career leads.