Congratulations to Carlos Renteria, a graduate student in the Cancer Center at Illinois’ Tissue Microenvironment (TiME) training program, who has been awarded a new traineeship with The University of Illinois’ Research Training Program in Environmental Toxicology.

TiMe program trainees research tissue microenvironments to advance biomedical science and health in topics ranging from regenerative medicine to managing the burden of cancer. The Environmental Toxicology training program, offered by the College of Veterinary Medicine, trains students to apply their basic science knowledge to toxicological research questions.

As a TiMe student, Renteria was a member of CCIL program leader Stephen Boppart’s lab, developing optical imaging tools to investigate neural communication and neural tissues. His interest in biology and engineering stem from a familial connection neural disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Renteria looks forward to learning more about toxicology to understand how different pathologies lead to certain behavioral effects.

“We are doing experiments that are unique in a lot of ways. We’re not focusing on just engineering and putting together these systems, but we’re also gathering samples ourselves, putting them on these microslides, doing these experiments, capturing the data, and analyzing them,” Renteria said.

The TiME program gave Renteria the chance to expand on his experience with professional opportunities and build relationships with mentors and peers. The members of the 2018-2020 cohort worked together to organize the TiME Day research symposium, wrote a review paper about tissue microenvironments for young researchers, and learned from each other’s different research topics.

“I think that the TiME program helped prepare [me] in a lot of different ways, from the research that I was already doing, technical skills, soft skills, and being a more confident researcher from the mentorship opportunities that were granted as part of the program,” Renteria said.

Hong Jin portrait

Currently, Renteria has a paper in review on single source actuation and visualization of neural activity. Instead of using multiple laser sources, a single light source is pumped through a crystal fiber and the light dispersed is used to visualize and stimulate neural tissues.

Renteria is excited for future possibilities in the field of optical imaging research and the knowledge he will gain from his new traineeship.

“I hope to come out of the toxicology program as an even more confident and strong researcher with newfound skills and insights,” Renteria said.