Tynan Becker interns this summer with HP’s Print Adjacencies and Microfluidics Lab, working out of HP print laboratories in San Diego, California. After receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of Maine at Machias, Becker moved to Alaska and pursued a masters in human anatomy and physiology instruction from the New York Chiropractic College. She then taught human biology, anatomy and physiology, and microbiology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks before enrolling in the university’s Ph.D. program in molecular immunology, where she is nearing the completion of her studies.
HP: Can you tell us about what you are working on this summer?
HP Labs is interested in exploring how the company can apply its expertise in microfluidics technology to improve medical diagnostics and they needed somebody with a background in immunology to work on the protein side of those tests. The first thing I’m doing is looking at the technology’s capabilities and constraints when it comes to working with proteins - information that could be of use for multiple future projects. After that, I’ll use what I’ve learned to rewrite the protocols for a number of existing medical tests so that they work with HP’s InkJet technology and then test those new protocols to see how they perform.
HP: How long do you have to get all that done?
I’m here for between five and seven months, so longer than a typical summer internship. I’m also planning to keep going with my Ph.D. research while I’m here.
HP: We don’t think of HP having much to do with biology – what’s the connection with InkJet printing?
Thermal InkJet technology lets you place super-small volumes of liquid very precisely across a 2D plane. Those liquids can include reagents like the protein antibodies used in medical testing, which are very expensive. So if we can figure out how to “print” the proteins in the right way and then automate the process, we can potentially create tests that both work faster and use significantly lower volumes of antibodies and that therefore cost a lot less to run. That could put us on a path towards a new era of more personalized, and therefore more effective, medical treatments.