Q&A: AJ Bizub
AJ Bizub is a senior graduating in Spring 2018 from Chesapeake, Virginia. He is majoring in Materials Science and Engineering with a biomaterials emphasis and a minor in Entrepreneurship and Management. LinkedIn profile.
How did you get interested in materials science and engineering? What interests you the most about the field?
Originally I was very interested in healthcare in general, and maybe going to medical school. Thankfully, my dad talked me out of that and introduced me to biomedical engineering, since he was always a big proponent of going into engineering for my brothers and I. I applied to the BME major here at Hopkins but didn’t get into that program but still gained acceptance to the school, so I did more research and I saw that a biomaterials emphasis in materials science may have been even more along the lines of what I wanted to do since it wasn’t as computationally heavy and was more chemistry focused. What interests me most about the field is how widely applicable it is. If you have a good enough knowledge of materials science, you can make a difference in everything from alternative energy to medicine to microelectronics, and even body armor! The sky is the limit with materials science, and that’s why I love it so much.
What made you decide to come to Johns Hopkins?
Hopkins was my dream college since sophomore year in high school, so I applied early decision. What prompted me to apply ED was the fact that the opportunities for research and reputation in the healthcare field were second to none. Moreover, the BME program was so prestigious and I was pretty set on doing that at the time so figured I’d give the application a shot. Also, since I’m from southern Virginia, it’s not too far away, so I can come home for breaks and it’s not too inconvenient.
Are you involved in any research? If so, what’s your role?
Right now, I am working on my senior design project in Dr. Howard Katz’s lab. I am trying to design a biosensor that can detect MRSA with high selectivity and sensitivity using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. I am using graphene oxide (my personal favorite material) as an amplification mechanism to enhance the signal as well. It’s an awesome project because it’s so interdisciplinary and I got to incorporate my favorite material. I get the chemistry, electronics, biology, and physics all wrapped into one! Before this, I was on an embolization device design team in Dr. Mao’s lab where we tried to design a device to treat aneurysm. Before that I was on a Pizza Hut design team with Dr. Wilson and Dr. McGuigan where we tried to design a pizza box that would retain the temperature and crispiness of Pizza Hut’s Thin n’ Crispy pizza on long deliveries. Before that I was in Dr. Margarita Herrera Alonso’s lab working with drug delivery systems. So my motivation to come here because of opportunities for research turned out to be true!
What impact do you hope to make through your research?
I hope to expand the way in which we can think of how to amplify signals in biosensors. If a proper amplification mechanism can be discovered, MRSA would be able to be detected much earlier on in the process of admitting a patient to a hospital, thus they would be able to be isolated much earlier, and the possibility for the bacteria to spread would become greatly reduced and many, many lives could be saved. Furthermore, this could be applied in the food industry so that if any poultry had the bacteria, it could be sensed before being shipped out.
Outside of lab and class: what are you involved with (groups, organizations, intramurals, etc.)?
I am president of the Society for Biomaterials, Vice President of the Materials Research Society, Treasurer of Alpha Phi Omega (the university’s coed community service fraternity), and a student supervisor at the Phonathon, where we call alumni and fundraise for the university. I have been involved in these throughout my entire time here at Hopkins and I couldn’t imagine my college experience without them. Also, I am an avid long-distance runner and ran the Baltimore Marathon for the first time this past October.
What sort of impact do you hope to have either as an engineer or in a STEM field?
I hope to have the greatest impact on the business end of things by being able to be a bridge between engineers and businesspeople in industry. I will be starting my career at Pall Corporation in their Operations Leadership Program, which will be more of a business role and less of a technical one. I will have to understand the impact of the purification, separation, and filtration systems that are produced there in order to be productive since I will be an integral part of the manufacturing process. I am not sure exactly what I want to do going forward, but during the program, I will have four diverse functional rotations as well as two different location rotations, so that will give me more of an opportunity to discover exactly what I want to do and how I want to have an impact. In the end, however, my ultimate goal is to work my way up to becoming CEO of an engineering firm such as Pall so that I can drive change to enhance efficiency in the production of devices and systems that help people all over the world.
What are your plans or goals for the rest of your time in the program at JHU?
I am hoping to achieve meaningful results in my senior design so that it can perhaps help in the publishing of a paper in the Katz lab. Moreover, I hope to attract more attention to the Mid Atlantic Biomaterials Day that the Society for Biomaterials is organizing so that students and faculty can have opportunities to present their research to professionals in academia, industry, and government. Lastly, I hope to continue to foster the fantastic relationships that I have built with the faculty here so that I can be a resource for students in their job search after I have left the university.