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Shantanu Pradhan

Graduate student
Samuel Ginn College of Engineering

Shantanu Pradhan is studying under the tutelage of Elizabeth Lipke in the Department of Chemical Engineering. His doctoral research focuses on simulating the microenvironmental conditions of breast cancer tissue artificially, outside the human body, in order to study the disease and explore new avenues for drug testing. The research project was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer and a $25,000 fellowship from the Alabama EPSCoR Graduate Research Scholarship Program. Pradhan's research poster, "An Artificial Breast Cancer Tissue for Drug-testing Applications," also earned first place in the Graduate Engineering Poster category at Auburn's 2013 Research Week. A native of Kolkata, India, Pradhan came to Auburn in 2010 to pursue his doctorate. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the National Institute of Technology, in Durgapur, India.

1. Most of Dr. Lipke's researchers are studying cardiac regeneration techniques. Why did you choose to research breast cancer?

I was very interested in the field of biomedical engineering in which Dr. Lipke is working. I wanted to do something innovative and connect Dr. Lipke's previous work with a new research topic. I found some similarities and potential scope between Dr. Lipke's cardiac regeneration work and specific aspects of cancer. So I used the expertise and knowledge gained from the previous work on cardiac regeneration and extended it to the field of cancer research. I am specifically investigating cancer-related angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels) which is also closely related with cardiac regeneration.

2. How far along are you in your research?

I have come quite a distance with my research. After an initial literature survey, we have been able to establish a consistent method of making artificial breast cancer tissue by combining human breast cancer cells and a specific biomaterial, which simulates the microenvironmental conditions in native cancer tissue. Moving on, we want to investigate the phenomenon of angiogenesis in our developed model and establish a platform for testing of various anti-cancer drugs.

3. What's unique about the biomaterial you're using in your research?

The biomaterial that I am using is called poly(ethylene glycol)-fibrinogen which supports the growth of cancer cells in a 3-D environment. This material has been used with other cell types but I am the first person to be using it with cancer cells. Its biochemical and mechanical properties can be modified to match the conditions of native cancer tissue. In the future, it will also help me in the investigation of angiogenesis in relation to cancer.

4. As a graduate student, how important is it to participate in events like Research Week? And how does it feel to win your category?

I feel glad and thankful to Auburn University for organizing events like Research Week, where students from different disciplines can showcase their work in front of a wider audience and also interact and share ideas with a wide variety of people from across campus. As a graduate student, participation in events like Research Week provides me a platform where I can view my work from a broader and different perspective. It also makes me aware of the research being conducted throughout campus, thereby opening possible opportunities for collaboration. I feel happy to have won in my category and also feel proud to see my work getting acknowledged on a broader scale.

5. When you're not conducting research in your laboratory, what are some of your favorite things to do in Auburn?

I have been associated with the Auburn Indian Music Ensemble class for the past two years. Besides these, I also play soccer, tennis and ping-pong. I like to go hang around with friends and go on short trips with them to nearby places.

Read more about Pradhan's research here.

Feb. 10, 2014