Allison Martinez Mejia

Biomedical Engineering
Degree pursuing: PhD in biomedical engineering
Hometown: Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Please provide your lab and description of research.
I am co-advised by Dr. Song Hu and Dr. Jin-Moo Lee. The Hu Biophotonics Lab is focused on combining optics and ultrasound for in vivo high-resolution imaging that can be applied to mechanistic studies in animals and clinical practice in humans. The Lee Lab focuses on translational research to investigate cellular and molecular mechanisms within both the healthy and diseased brain.

My interest lies in the mechanisms that drive neurovascular coupling, the interactions between neuronal activity and cerebral blood flow, and the consequences of its impairment. I intend to use a combined system of two-photon and photoacoustic microscopy (TPM-PAM) developed in the Hu Lab for neurovascular and neurometabolic imaging.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?
Florida International University in Miami.

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?
I have always found the brain to be fascinating. During college, I was able to explore a career in research by presenting at conferences, having my own project and interacting with different professionals in the biomedical field. The idea of being able to make large scientific and medical contributions while also opening opportunities to underrepresented minorities in STEM was thrilling to me.

Why did you pick WashU?
Besides the amazing and super collaborative research being offered, WashU was extremely welcoming to me. As I spoke to different students and faculty, I knew I would be able to find a niche in the school. Also, I was fortunate to be part of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, which gave me a global family within WashU.

What was your favorite course and why?
"Biological Neural Computation." The course material is very dense, but the way it is structured made me push myself to learn so many different things that can be applied to neuro-oriented research.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?
Randall Bateman, professor of neurology, my first rotation mentor. He taught me complex scientific concepts and techniques by relating them to things I had already learned. He would never give me the answer; instead, he asked me questions until I got to it myself.

What advice would you give to a new student?
Have a good relationship with the students in your cohort. They will be a great support system.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
Forest Park!

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?
Happy hours with the BME department!

Are you presently in the workforce or have any work history?
I worked as a software engineer Intern for Vertex Pharmaceuticals. My job was to contribute to the modeling of disease progression that would further aid in drug development.

Are there any not-for-profit agencies that you have volunteered or worked with?
In Miami, the Society of Women Engineers, Adopt a Floor and Camillus House. In Honduras, PREPACE and Teleton.

What are your plans for the future?
I hope to one day run my own lab as an independent researcher that will be inclusive and provide opportunities for young women and underrepresented minorities who have a passion for science and research.