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Grand Challenges Scholars Team Takes on Lacking Treatments for Parkinson's

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Ritchie School Communications Team

Profile  • News  •

Bobby Chopra (’21) has been conducting research under the Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP) and says, “It’s going well.” He is working under Dr. Daniel Paredes on the challenge of engineering better medicine and tackling Parkinson’s Disease and the lack of medical treatments that come with it. Parkinson’s is an incurable disease that is hard to diagnose before physical symptoms are visible. The progression of this illness, over time, cannot be effectively tracked.

To combat these problems in medicine, Bobby and his team member, Jordan Smith (’21), are creating a Capillary Electrophoresis Machine. This machine is capable of detecting rare particles in a large solution. It also utilizes a laser, which shoots through the solution and effectively illuminates the particles needed to diagnose and track the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

This machine consists of electrical and mechanical components. Chopra’s job on this project is to manage the construction of the mechanical components. This task requires the development of an ultra-precise, stand-to-focus laser, an auto injection system to run multiple samples at a time, a pump system to push the sample through the capillary, and the arrangement of all of these systems on a layout that minimizes vibrations.

Currently, the team is in the process of securing grants for purchasing the components. “We are now looking at our budget and figuring out where to buy all the components with the help of our mentor, Dr. Paredes,” explains Chopra, “Jordan and I are primarily working on this project over the summer, since we will both be living in the area. The bulk of the construction of the machine will take place then.”

Additionally, Chopra has been reading medical articles to gain some background knowledge on the science behind the machine. He elaborates, “As far as my role goes, I am an engineer on the project, but I still want to have a sound understanding about the system we are creating. Also, I need to learn the biological side of our project to give sound presentations about our machine.”

Overall, he is happy with the opportunity GCSP has given him. “I’m excited to work on this project and, although planning it and getting started has been slow, securing funds has been our top priority and I think we have been successful in that regard so far,” says Chopra. Ahead for the team, lies the challenge of making the device, which Chopra estimates will take a lot of time and dedication over the summer. However, he feels ready for the challenge. He concludes by saying, “I finally have the opportunity to put what I have been learning to the test and build something beneficial for society.”