‘One of my most rewarding experiences’

November 30, 2022

Aashee at iGEM Paris Jamboree

Aashee Budhwani at the iGEM Paris Jamboree.

Aashee Budhwani ’24 serves as lab and safety manager for award-winning iGEM team

Aashee Budhwani ’24 has benefited from several valuable research and teaching experiences at the University of Rochester.

Aashee at iGEM Paris JamboreeThe experiences have helped the biomedical engineering major from Dubai “discover my passion of helping the community using critical thinking skills by applying shared knowledge of medicine and engineering in critical situations and solving real life problems,” she says.

For example, Budhwani works as a research assistant at the University’s Wilmot Cancer Institute, as a teaching assistant for calculus and general chemistry courses, and a tutor for biology courses. She has also served as team lead for a water storage project by the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) student chapter.

One of the “most rewarding” of her experiences was serving as lab and safety manager for the University’s 2022 iGEM (international genetically engineered machines) team, which received a Gold Medal in addition to three nominations for best hardware, best measurement, and the best composite part at this year’s iGEM Paris Jamboree.

The team of 12 undergraduates developed methods to detect and repurpose defective sap and syrup. “Team Saptasense” created new tools, including several novel biosensors and a glucometer to help reduce waste in the maple syrup industry.

Here is Budhwani’s description of her participation in the project and how it has benefited her.

The three main aspects of this industry that my team targeted were:

  • Preventing fossil fuel consumption and revenue loss from buddy sap.
  • Repurposing unsellable ropy syrup into dextran hydrogels for enhanced seed germination.
  • Improving glucometer technology for ancillary maple product measurements.

As the Lab and Safety Manager I was responsible for:

  • Writing safety proposals for the project’s biological and chemical reagents and electrical and hardware equipment.
  • Getting approvals on the safety forms.
  • Purchasing all materials for experiments.
  • Communicating with the biology laboratory teaching staff about my team's needs and necessities.
  • Ensuring the safety of all members of my team.

This leadership experience gave me insight into my life as a professional biomedical engineer and a principal investigator.

My role in the team was focused on the wet lab sub-team and hardware team, and also included the outreach and education team and human practices sub-team.

As a biomedical engineering major, I was able to apply my knowledge of:

  • Systems and circuits and biosignals in developing an improved glucometer.
  • Concepts of fluid dynamics in designing and characterizing hydrogels.
  • Cell and molecular biology and heat and mass transfer in designing new and improved genetic parts.

Budhwani, who is also completing a minor in chemical engineering, has also served as the vice president and personnel chair of Chi Omega. As part of her team lead role in the EWB project, she was involved in assessing factors that affect the design, construction, and assembly of water storage systems to provide a town in Tanzania with access to clean water.

Her plans after graduation?

“I am leaning more towards industry followed by grad school for a PhD, but the order may flip if job recessions continue,” Budhwani says.