Dr. Stephanie Fraley pictured with Dr. Ron Goulet at the Dr. Frank Jones Lab Dedication.

As a UTC student, Dr. Stephanie Fraley was at the top of her class in the Chemical Engineering Department. Now, she uses the skills she learned in her position at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD).

Fraley earned her B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 2006 from UTC, where she participated in a variety of research projects as well as a research thesis as a part of the Brock Scholar’s Program.

“One of the most beneficial aspects of my time at UTC was the opportunity to be mentored one-on-one,” said Fraley. “Having that mentorship was really important. The excellent professors in the Engineering Department and the Brock Scholars Program had a great impact on my life and career. Both programs helped me to develop persistence and broader thinking and gave me opportunities to test myself and my goals. It gave me new perspectives and a higher comfort level with the research process.”

The late Dr. Frank Jones was Fraley’s professor and mentor. Stephanie returned to CECS this fall to join in remembering Dr. Jones at the dedication of a laboratory which now bears his name.  Dr. Fraley joined with two of Dr. Jones’ brothers, CECS faculty, and others in speaking about the impact of Dr. Jones on their lives and his commitment to helping his students to succeed.

The skills that Fraley learned at UTC under Dr. Jones’ tutelage have carried over to her current career.

“In classes in the College, I learned the rules that describe how the physical world works and the methods to reason through almost any problem. This skill is something invaluable and transferrable that engineering teaches,” said Fraley. “Through my involvement on multiple research projects, I got hands-on experience with prototyping and building devices in the machine shop, computer programming, modeling fluid dynamics in micro channels, and optimizing microfluidic design. I still use literally all of these skills in one way or another.”

After graduating from UTC, Fraley earned her Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in 2011 from Johns Hopkins University. Fraley was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, National Tau Beta Pi Fellowship, and was an Achievement Award for College Scientists Scholar, Johns Hopkins Heath Fellow, and National Siebel Scholar. She also served as an ASEE/NSF Engineering Innovations Fellow at Becton Dickinson Technologies, helping to further develop a rapid cell identification technology.

Dr. Fraley joined the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego in July 2014 as an assistant professor of Bioengineering.

“I chose to start my lab at UCSD because it’s a great place to do cross-disciplinary research. I love to work a problem from different angles and collaborate, so I bring together engineering, cell biology, infectious disease, and medicine,” said Fraley.

In the field of Bioengineering, researchers try to apply engineering principles and approaches to living systems.

“Each individual person can respond very differently to an infection. While a pathogen may cause severe illness in one person, another person may have little to no response to that same pathogen,” said Fraley. “Figuring out what modulates these host-pathogen interactions could lead to novel ways to treat infectious diseases, especially those leading to sepsis and some cancers. My research lab focuses on studying these interactions in new 3D cell based model systems and engineering new microfluidic and optical techniques to sort out and analyze molecular signals from both pathogen and human cells.”

In the future, Fraley plans to continue her research and move this technology from the lab to the real world.

“In the near future, I hope to be developing some novel therapeutics and technologies based on my research findings and also be moving the technology I developed as a postdoc out into the world for rapid low cost pathogen DNA identification,” Fraley explained. Fraley and her husband, Nathan, a fellow CECS alum who majored in Mechanical Engineering, are partners with others in bringing the technology to the market with their start-up company.

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