Grad student Xilal Rima chosen for SACNAS travel award

Posted: June 9, 2022
Rima, Xilal outside Koffolt Labs

Xilal Rima, a doctoral student in Eduardo Reátegui's research group, was selected for a scholarship to attend the 2022 National Diversity in STEM (NDiSTEM) Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 27-29. The scholarship includes flight, registration, and lodging. The conference is hosted by the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). 

SACNAS envisions a future where STEM reflects the demographics of our country so the field is better equipped to solve our world's most pressing problems. In particular, it aims to further the success of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, leadership positions, and equality in the STEM field.

Rima is studying dormant cancer cells, because while some cancers may be curable, not all patients respond to treatment and many patients relapse when dormant and often hidden cancer cells re-activate after successful treatment of the primary tumor. Understanding the dormant cancer cell life cycle offers opportunities to target not only the cancer but also its environment to achieve a durable cure for seemingly incurable cancers. In October 2020 he won a SACNAS oral presentation award for his research in this area.

He has also investigated cell patterning, which has become a widespread, high-throughput approach for artificially constructing organic specimens. However, generating samples capable of holding different cell types remains a challenge. The work of Rima et al. seeks to make fabricating such arrays easier and provide a path forward for better understanding cell-to-cell interactions. 

Rima's approach for engineering large-scale arrays of cells within a microchannel uses a technique called microstamping (shown above). The resulting microchannels feature surfaces whose chemistry can be altered to further tailor cell patterning by controlling specific cell types that can be placed both hydrodynamically and by self-assembly into the stamped pattern.

Recently, Rima and other researchers from his lab had their article "Microfluidic harvesting of breast cancer tumor spheroid-derived extracellular vesicles from immobilized microgels for single-vesicle analysisfeatured as a HOT article in the Royal Society of Chemistry's Lab on a Chip journal. 

On January 30, 2020, Rima's work as a first author was featured by AIP Publishing as a Scilight. AIP describes their Scilight showcases as being "the most interesting research across the physical sciences published in AIP Publishing Journals." Rima's article was originally published in AIP Publishing's journal, Biomicrofluidics. 

Also in 2020, he won an honorable mention in the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP) competition. The NSF GRFP is a prestigious honor, and one of the nation's most competitive awards. 

Earlier in his career, he was one of 40 students nationwide to participate in the NextProf Pathfinder Workshop, an intense "boot camp" that helps prepare doctoral students for a successful grad school experience.


Category: Grad Student