Graduate Student Spotlight: Roxanne Glazier (Salaita Group) Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Roxanne Glazier. Photo provided by Roxanne Glazier.
Roxanne Glazier. Photo provided by Roxanne Glazier.

Complicated systems of communication are at the center of Roxanne Glazier’s research. She is developing novel methods to elucidate the mechanobiology of podosomes, protrusive structures that allow cells to migrate through tissue. “More broadly, these methods can be applied to the study of receptor mechanics in almost any cell-cell or cell-matrix interaction,” explains Roxanne. It turns out cells “talk” about a lot of things—cell development, coagulation, remodeling, and the immune response, to name a few.

Roxanne’s own path through graduate school is not without its complexities. She is a student in Emory and Georgia Tech’s joint Biomedical Engineering Program. Her “home base” lab is in chemistry under the leadership of Khalid Salaita. However, she completed coursework at both institutions and completed her Teaching Assistant duties at Tech. While these distinctions govern logistics rather the science itself, students have to be motivated and well-organized to balance such a wide range of influences and opportunities.

Luckily, Roxanne is well-suited to the challenge. “The word that comes to mind when I think of Roxanne is persistence,” says Khalid Salaita. “She has really focused an enormous amount of energy in applying advanced fluorescence spectroscopy techniques to understand important fundamental questions in the area of cell biology. The methods she is developing will be broadly important to understanding how living systems harness molecular tugs for cellular communication and sensing their environment.”

Recently, Roxanne’s research was recognized with the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship seeks to support promising scientists at the very beginning of their careers, offering three years of tuition assistance and stipend support alongside access to a wide range of professional development programs. Roxanne is excited about the opportunity to draw on this support as part of her ongoing exploration of future career options. “I came to grad school completely set on entering academia, but recently I’ve been learning about exciting opportunities in biotech and cell therapy industry,” she says. “For right now I’m keeping an open mind and looking into all options.”

Roxanne credits strong mentoring in BME with helping her succeed in the NSF GRFP competition—17,000 students applied this year for 2,000 awards. “More than 50 percent of the eligible BME students in my cohort have received the NSF GRFP. I think that speaks very highly to the quality of students that Emory (and Tech) attracts.” The national average, Glazier points out, is closer to ten percent of applicants.

Another benefit of Roxanne’s interdisciplinary perspective is the creativity it brings into her work. “My background is in physics and biology, but I’m studying biomedical engineering in a chemistry lab. It’s been exciting to interact with scientists and engineers with diverse skill sets and approaches to problem solving,” she says.

Using that creative lens, Roxanne helped to design a hands-on science activity booth for the Atlanta Science Festival’s Exploration Expo, the yearly capstone to the week-long event held in Olympic Centennial Park. The booth, “Fun with Ferrofluids”, has been a successful addition to the festival two years running. “Activities like these bring science to the general public and I think these experiences really strengthened my application.”