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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Commencement 2009: Top Biology Student Represents the True Vision for an Interdisciplinary Education

May 13, 2009

Commencement 2009: Top Biology Student Represents the True Vision for an Interdisciplinary Education

Photo Credit: Rensselaer/Mark McCarty

Amanda Waite Lund has grown as a scholar as the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) has grown as a new research platform at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Lund, who will be the first student to graduate with a doctoral degree through the School of Science Accelerated B.S./Ph. D. Program, joined Rensselaer in 2002 — just two years before CBIS was opened in 2004. During her time at the Institute, Lund has earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and master’s degree in management, and on May 16, 2009, she will walk across the stage and receive her doctorate in biology.

Truly a student of Rensselaer, Lund has grown with CBIS, developing a strong interdisciplinary background with intense scientific laboratory experience while maintaining close connections with engineers to develop complementary technology and management professors to learn to translate that technology to the marketplace.

“I was raised as a scientist here,” Lund said. “I have seen the transition that RPI has made since CBIS came online, including the fantastic transformation of the biology department. It really helped that all the different departments worked so well together. That allowed me to complete all these programs and work in so many different areas.”

Raised in Connecticut, Lund said she knew that her future was “always science.” One could even say it was in her genes — her mother earned a degree in microbiology, her father in geology.

Soon after enrolling at Rensselaer, Lund earned top grades as well as top scores as co-captain and goalie of the Rensselaer field hockey team. Her prowess on the playing field, which she later shared as a part-time coach, ranked her one of the best goaltenders in the Liberty League. Her experience as an undergraduate also introduced her to the lab where she began working with Associate Professor of Biology George Plopper on the study of adult stem cells. In particular, she was looking at ways to induce the undifferentiated cells to mature into bone cells.

Some of her discoveries in the Plopper lab led to connections with Rensselaer’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. She worked with Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Jan Stegemann to develop technologies that could encapsulate stem cells to control and protect them so that they could be injected at the site of an injury and promote new bone formation.

“I was able to use the biology side to understand and promote the growth and differentiation of the stem cells, and the engineering side to develop the technology that would make them useful in clinical applications,” Lund said. 

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Lund wasn’t sure what direction she wanted to take following completion of her doctorate in biology. She decided to earn a master’s degree in management from the Lally School of Management & Technology. 

“My experience showed me that there is a big gap between basic scientific discovery in the lab and the ability to convert that discovery into an actual product,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to bridge the two worlds and connect their priorities so I could take that knowledge of commercialization back to the basic research setting.”

She is first author on two journal papers, and has several more papers currently under review. She has been named the School of Science Most Outstanding Graduate Student and received the Founder’s Award of Excellence in 2005. She is the member of several honors societies and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

After graduation she will begin a postdoctoral research position at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Lund said she hopes to bring her knowledge in translating research to the marketplace to her future research, which will focus on tumor cell interactions with the immune system.

Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco
Phone: (518) 276-6542
E-mail: demarg@rpi.edu

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.