Creating Biomedical Technologies to Improve Health


Science Highlight: January 15, 2015

NIBIB Student Scientist Recognized for Her Outstanding Research

Nicole Carvajal receives award from the Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science

Nicole Carvajal, a student researcher at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), has been named a 2014 Student Presenter Awardee by the Society for the Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). Her work, entitled “Examination of diverse 3-D microenvironments using Atomic Force Microscopy” was presented at the annual SACNAS National Conference held in Los Angeles, California, October 16-18.

Photograph of Nicole Carvajal

Nicole Carvajal is an Intramural Research Fellow in the Nanoinstrumentation and Force Spectroscopy Laboratory at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering in Bethersda, MD.

Ms. Carvajal is a graduate of the bioengineering program at the University of California, Riverside and performed the research working under the mentorship of Albert Jin, Ph.D., Chief of the Nanoinstrumentation and Force Spectroscopy Section in the Intramural Research Laboratories at NIBIB.

The award committee highlighted Ms. Carvajal’s thorough knowledge of a complex technology, noting that her communication skills and command of the research topic were exemplary in a field of over 1,000 poster and oral presentations.

The committee emphasized the significance of the award, stating “We recognize the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice that are necessary for a student to standout from their fellow presenters. We feel that NIBIB’s program is enhanced by the participation of Nicole Carvajal, as such commitment will drive fellow researchers to similar heights.”

Carvajal’s research employed the technique of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) to study the specific forces and molecules involved in cell migration. AFM is a sophisticated technique that can image, at the nanoscale level, the topological and mechanical properties of biological samples in a changing environment. Cell movement plays a major role in healthy processes, such as wound healing, as well as disease processes, such as cancer metastasis.

SACNAS green and white logo

SACNAS was founded over 40 years ago by academics and scientists to offer guidance to Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The work presented at SACNAS was conducted to further the understanding of how the 3-D extracellular matrix -- the environment in whiccells live -- can alter the mechanisms of cell migration. Because cell migration is so critical, understanding the process at the nanoscale level provides extremely valuable information that could result in novel treatments, such as blocking cancer metastasis, in the future.

Given the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NIBIB’s commitment to supporting and fostering the success of underrepresented minorities as well as young investigators in science and technology, the NIH and NIBIB were extremely pleased that Ms. Carvajal’s dedication to her work was acknowledged through the SACNAS award.

Ms. Carvajal’s mentor at NIBIB, Albert Jin, Ph.D., added “Nicole has been a truly outstanding research fellow. In addition to the award winning work presented at SACNAS, her accomplishments at NIBIB include coauthoring a leading American Chemical Society Nano article and her outstanding broader effort in strengthening the biological atomic force microscopy and force spectroscopy research at NIBIB. I expect her to be among coauthors on several future journal articles.”

Both Dr. Jin and Ms. Carvajal acknowledged the valuable contributions of their collaborators Drs. Andrew Doyle and Kenneth Yamada, supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) at NIH, and Dr. Raimon Sunyer at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain.


SACNAS was founded over 40 years ago by career academics and research scientists committed to offering guidance to Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in the STEM fields. Today, the National Conference is a gathering of nearly 4,000 students and professionals. Taking place over three days, the conference showcases both undergraduate and graduate student presentations, and offers scientific symposia, keynote addresses, professional development sessions, and a grand exhibit hall in which students can interact with more than 600 program representatives from colleges and universities across the nation.


NIBIB’s mission is to improve health by leading the development and accelerating the application of biomedical technologies. The Institute is committed to integrating the physical and engineering sciences with the life sciences to advance basic research and medical care. NIBIB supports emerging technology research and development within its internal laboratories and through grants, collaborations, and training. More information is available at the


NIDCR is the Nation’s leading funder of research on oral, dental, and craniofacial health. More information is available at the NIDCR website.