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Professional Internship Program

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Janis Smits's Research Internship at University of New Mexico

Latvian PIP, Janis Smits, has enjoyed the ultimate research experience at University of New Mexico, Center for High Technology Materials, in Albuquerque. With a Master's in Science of Physics, Janis was involved in a new frontier of biomedical diagnostics research consisting of the detection of rare cell types and macromolecules in living humans aiming to create a noninvasive method of early cancer detection. A promising new detection modality involves labeling relevant cells/molecules with magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) and selectively detecting them by magnetic relaxometry. The specific work Janis was tasked with was MNPs based directly on their relaxation rate using a magneto-­microfluidic apparatus (which he designed and built). The overall goal of the research was to improve MNP probe homogeneity by orders of magnitude, an essential milestone on the path towards noninvasive detection of individual circulating MNP-­labeled tumor cells in humans. IMG_20170905_172317949

Janis was supervised by Professor Acosta, who has experience in training several dozen early-career scientists in the industry. In addition, Janis had the privilege of being mentored by a truly science-savvy team, including a postdoctoral fellow, expert in sensor physics, a research assistant professor, expert in condensed matter nanotechnology, and a tenured professor from the Pathology department, expert in cancer diagnosis. Janis found further enlightenment by attending the ENC-2017, a conference on Magnetic resonance techniques where he presented a poster on the latest results concerning solution NMR spectroscopy with NV centers, as well as numerous lectures and seminars held at UNM. At the outcome of his research, Janis's name was included in their research journal article (along with other team members) and published in a high-impact multidisciplinary journal. 

All work aside, Janis had the opportunity to join the team of scientists and attend the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, visit nearby sightseeing destinations, and engage with the culture of the American-Indian and Chicano communities.

Janis's biggest achievement during his stay in the US: "A paper coming out with me as a co-author was the biggest thing. Personally I am quite proud of the software I wrote that now runs a lot of the experiments done by the NV group at UNM." And who was the greatest influence for Janis? No surprise here: "Victor Acosta, hands down. He's constantly engaged with the research we're doing (I often received emails with ideas of what to try at odd hours of the day). I also found it inspiring how nothing seemed to get him down. Even when I was feeling genuinely depressed about not seeing signals, he would come back the next day pumped to try other things."

Finally, what did this adamant cyclist recommend to future fellows? "Get a drivers license before going to the States".

Thank you Janis for your commendable contribution to cancer research. We look forward to seeing your future achievements as a prolific researcher and BAFF alum!

Janis next to a confocal microscope, used for interrogating NV centers in diamond.



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