Craig Richard, Bioengineering
Tissue Microenvironment (TiMe) Program

Why did you join the Tissue Microenvironment (TiMe) training program? 

When I was an undergrad, I interned with Dr. Rohit Bhargava’s lab in 2014 through the Nano@Illinois Program. I decided to join his lab for my PhD due to my experience in that program.

What kind of research are you working on?

My main project is to develop a quantum dot-based light source for infrared imaging. Quantum dots are semiconducting nanoparticles that emit light due to a property called quantum confinement. I can essentially control the color or type of light they emit by changing the material and size of the quantum dot. Constructing instruments with these quantum dot-based light sources would allow for discrete frequency infrared imaging which enables rapid data acquisitions of large areas. I am also developing technology for the generalized types of nanomaterials like gold nanoparticles using droplet fluidic devices. 

Why is cancer research important?

This would help minimize the number of surgeries that would occur. It takes a large physical and psychological toll when patients are told they didn’t get all of the tumor the first time and have to go back for another round of surgery. It would allow us to detect cancer in a biopsy or a surgical margin while in the operating room based on chemical differences between normal and diseased tissue. This would provide more quantitative data.

How has the TiMe program helped your research career?

One major aspect is our journal club. We review each other’s papers and polish our writing and presentation skills. The program also assists with traveling —being able to go to conferences and things like that. There are general career and professional development opportunities TiMe offers that exposes us to a variety of topics that we wouldn’t learn about otherwise, whether it be in coursework or other TiMe student research. This helps us look at our own research from a different perspective and helps us develop new ideas. 

What are your career plans?

I am entertaining the idea of working in a government lab, maybe some kind of industrial or adjacent academics profession — not exactly academia but not exactly industry. I did a government internship in 2015. I worked in France, and I saw the work culture and environment there and I really enjoyed it. If I can have that kind of environment afterwards, that would be the most ideal for me. 

What are your personal interests or hobbies?

I like to participate in outreach. I work with graduate students in an engineering outreach organization called Envision. We do a lot of science demonstrations throughout the year and have community events, whether it be at the Champaign public library or on campus. The program’s goal is to get students interested in science and target that critical age before they start losing interest. We show them how cool it can be and that it’s accessible. This is especially important to me as a minority student. It’s really important for me to show other students that you can do this too — that it’s not a majority dominated field.