George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

International opportunities expand horizons for Bioengineering student

May 10, 2017   /   by Martha Bushong

Brian Schnoor, a rising junior from Noblesville, Indiana, first learned about George Mason University’s Bioengineering program when he travelled to Washington, D.C. and participated in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine as a high school student. 

During the summer and into the fall or 2017 he will travel again, this time to Europe, taking what he has learned at the Volgenau School of Engineering and leveraging it into two distinct overseas programs, one in Germany and one in Spain. 

“I’ve always been interested in bioengineering because it is at the intersections between healthcare and technology,” said Schnoor. “It’s a fascinating and fast-growing field. There are so many options.”

When Schnoor came to Mason he was proactive about finding research opportunities and landed a job in Associate Professor Carolina Salvador-Morales’s Laboratory of Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine. He has been working in the lab since the beginning of his freshman year at Mason and last year he spent his summer there as part of the OSCAR (Office of Scholarship Creative Activities and Research) award program.

“The lab work amplifies and complements what I learn in the classroom,” said Schnoor. “It gives me direct practical experience and a feel for what lab work is like in the real world.”

In the laboratory Schnoor works on the synthesis of nano-herbicides, which are polymeric particles that envelope herbicides as active ingredients. 

“Brian has contributed to a number of projects in my lab,” said Salvador-Morales. “Because of that he co-authored an abstract and poster, which he and other students presented at the Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting in Minneapolis last year.”

In the last year, he has been leading the nano-herbicides project under Salvador-Morales’s supervision as he is more familiar with this research project.  By gaining direct research experience, Schnoor was able to prove to himself that he is highly capable in a lab. 

All of this made him an ideal candidate for the prestigious RISE scholarship. RISE Germany offers undergraduate students from North American, British, and Irish universities a chance to complete a summer research internship at top German universities and research institutions. Students are matched with a host university or institute according to their area of interest. 

For 12 weeks Schnoor will work alongside German researchers at TU Kaiserslautern near Frankfurt.  The research will deal with how to use Nisin, an antimicrobial compound produced by some biofilms. The researchers in Germany are investigating molecular biofilms to see how they can be used to produce Nisin.

When he finishes in Germany, instead of returning to Virginia, Schnoor will join other Mason students in an exchange program at Carlos III University in Madrid. 

“It seemed like a good opportunity to extend my stay in Europe,” said Schnoor of the exchange program with the Spanish university.  

The exchange program cost is competitive for both in and out-of-state students, and the Department of Bioengineering has aligned its courses with those offered in Spain so students stay on track for graduation.

“Through his research project Brian has become an independent thinker,” said Salvador-Morales. “He has learned how to prepare posters and conference abstracts as well as to draft a research poster. This robust training will allow him to conduct research and study in any part of the world.”