PhD Spotlight: David R. Dias Vera, PhD’20 – Chemical Engineering
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo in 2013, David R. Diaz Vera, PhD’20, chemical engineering, worked at Falconbridge Dominicana for almost two years before joining Northeastern University. As a PhD student in the Department of Chemical Engineering advised by Associate Professor Abigail Koppes, his research focused on neural regeneration strategies and tissue engineering. His work included gene therapy with viral targeting and photostimulation of the peripheral nervous system for which loss of function causes significant socio-economical costs and lower quality of life due to lack of functional recovery with conventional methods. Using in vitro models of neurons involved in sensory and motor function, Diaz Vera has studied the nervous system’s responses to a genetic manipulation and stimulation with light, a less invasive and more targeted approach than electrical stimulation. Importantly, he found that photo stimulation alone can manipulate how neurons grow and behave, which is important for defining boundaries of clinical applications. He also contributed to works focused on using other non-invasive neuromodulation techniques such as ultrasound and optogenetics to target and control nerve regrowth for improved injury recovery. This work was featured in the Journal of Neuroscience Research, Women in Neuroscience special issue in 2021. Overall, Dias Vera contributed to multiple manuscripts and peer reviewed conference presentations during his time at Northeastern. He also took advantage of the competitive graduate co-op program, working at Momenta Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in platform development for protein glycosylation and enzymatic manipulation assays. He was also an outstanding teaching assistant for the Unit Operations Laboratory and Biology Laboratory where students enjoyed his hands-on approach to learning and depth of knowledge. Upon graduation, Dias Vera joined Sanofi Pharmaceuticals in Waltham, Massachusetts, as a scientist in the Genomic Medicine Unit in the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Control group.