Biomedical engineering doctoral student receives NSF-funded internship


By Gabrielle Stewart

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Yue “Lilly” Yan, a Penn State doctoral student in biomedical engineering, has been selected to participate in the National Science Foundation Internships for Graduate Students (INTERN) program. The award will support a five-month internship experience with spotLESS Materials, a Penn State spin-out company co-founded by mechanical engineering alumna Birgitt Boschitsch, in State College.

The program is intended to provide graduate students with non-academic research internship activities that develop their skills in communication, innovation and entrepreneurship, and leadership and management.

During her internship with spotLESS Materials, Yan will contribute to sustainability research on the liquid-entrenched smooth surface (LESS) coating. This coating can prevent adhesion of bacteria and dirt on surfaces like toilet ceramic or windshields, reducing the amount of water needed to clean the surfaces. She will aid in the development of a biosensor to identify bacteria for later use in testing the ability of the LESS coating to prevent biofouling, or the buildup of organisms on a wet surface, of medical devices and other industrial tools.

“I’m honored to have received this opportunity to develop experience in an industry research setting,” Yan said. “Witnessing the innovation process, from experimental research to applications that can benefit society, is a very exciting idea to me.”

To prepare Yan for her post-graduation career, the internship will augment her research project with training activities focused on entrepreneurship and global partnership. Yan will have an opportunity to build upon her business and communications skills by participating in high-level pitch and biomimicry (the engineering of solutions to problems based on structures and systems found in nature) trainings, presentations to industry leaders and investors, and projects with innovation programs.

Yan will also be involved in technical and organizational activities on the global scale by working and interacting with international partners and investors interested in the LESS coating’s potential for reducing fresh water consumption. Partnership and review meetings, on-site visits and virtual presentations to partners, sponsors and funding agencies will develop Yan’s experience with real-world application and commercialization of innovative technologies.

“Lilly is a highly motivated and capable student who joined my laboratory as an undergraduate researcher and spent more time in the laboratory than any other student,” said Pak Kin Wong, professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering. “The INTERN program represents a unique opportunity for her to gain management and leadership experience outside an academic setting.”

Yan cited her adviser’s influence on her attainment of the INTERN scholarship as well as her overall academic research experience.

“I want to thank Dr. Wong for everything he has done to support and guide me as a researcher,” Yan said. “His mentorship has been invaluable to my academic success and career development.”

In her research at Penn State’s Systematic Bioengineering Laboratory, Yan explores the use of biosensors and models for monitoring the movement of cancer and immune cells. She has authored two journal articles and contributed as the co-author for three other publications. Yan received a Lockheed Martin Design Excellence Award for her development of a novel biodevice in her undergraduate capstone project.


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Megan Lakatos

Female student smiles for professional photograph

Yue "Lilly" Yan received an NSF internship to work with spotLESS Materials in State College. IMAGE: PROVIDED