Bomy Lee Chung: Healthy hearts and chemical engineering
Engineering often feels like something I stumbled upon accidentally, and it would be dishonest of me to say that I always knew I wanted to be a chemical engineer. Still, my chosen career path allows me to do what I have always been interested in: learning, solving problems, and helping people.
There was never one particular moment that inspired me to become a chemical engineer. Instead, I saw that becoming an engineer would open more doors than other careers would. Being an engineer meant I could work on anything and everything, and so far that has been true.
As a chemical engineer, I have worked in various fields, including solar power, shampoos and conditioners, foods, and pharmaceuticals. The flexibility and the ability to solve problems across all areas of life is, I think, the biggest advantage of becoming an engineer.
When I was younger, I wasn’t even sure what “engineering” was. My childhood dream was to become a heart surgeon. I loved the idea of helping people, and what better way to do so than to work on the heart, one of the most important organs of the human body? Fast-forward 20 years, I am now studying for a PhD in chemical engineering, working on finding new ways to cure heart diseases.
Heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 17.5 million people died from heart diseases, accounting for 31% of all deaths around the world. In the United States alone, the American Heart Association estimates the costs associated with heart disease are over $316 billion per year.
Heart disease can affect anyone, of any age, race, and gender. It is a problem that affects the public as a whole. As such, it is vital that we not only find better treatments, but we develop new ways to prevent heart attacks in the first place.
My current research focuses on using nanoparticles to help prevent heart attacks. Nanoparticles are tiny capsules filled with drugs that can be injected into the body to treat many different conditions and diseases. To put the scale of these nanoparticles into perspective, the period at the end of this sentence is around 1,000,000 nanometers across. The particles I work with tend to be just 100 nanometers.
The tiny size of these particles gives them a lot of advantages over traditional treatments. The biggest advantage is their ability to be targeted directly to specific parts of the body, such as plaques that have built up in blood vessels. By sending drugs directly to where they are needed, they cause fewer adverse side effects and can be more efficient. Theoretically, this means that smaller doses of drugs are needed to have a positive effect on patients.
A lot of progress has been made in the field of heart disease, but more remains to be done. My hope is that my research will contribute towards finding a better treatment for heart diseases. On a professional level, I feel like I am achieving my childhood dream. While I may not operate on the hearts of patients, I do work on the treatments that contribute to their lives. I believe that we will eventually find a way to not only treat heart diseases, but to prevent them altogether. Until then, I am happy to continue researching to improve existing treatments and contribute to that overall goal.
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