Sophia Bonfigli is a rising fourth-year majoring in Biology with an Anthropology minor. She is part of the Stupp Group, which works in materials science, biology, chemistry and medicine.

Tell me about your SURG topic.

Bonfigli: In medicine, the hardest injuries to heal are things that require regeneration. Certain parts of your body don’t heal very well [such as] your brain and spinal cord. There’s this big focus on ‘How can we design and engineer biomaterials that are able to actually treat and help heal these injuries that would otherwise be permanent?’ The idea is ‘Can we use those already existing signals and that structure in a material that will almost trick or tell the body to heal and regenerate when it wouldn’t normally do that?’ My SURG grant is about these two experiments I’m doing about the system. One is called SEM, which is Scanning Electron Microscope, and the other is called immunostaining.

This is your third summer working in this lab. How is that?

Bonfigli: It’s nice because the longer you’re in a lab, the more you learn. Especially as an undergrad, you don’t necessarily have all the coursework background for what’s happening. So you learn what you can, you study extra what you can and you’re being taught things as you go. Now that I’ve been in the lab for a long time, I can come up with my own experiments. If there’s issues or problems, I can troubleshoot and be like, ‘How can I fix this?’

What do you hope to get out of this research?

Bonfigli: As far as research goes, I care a lot about this project. It’s like my little baby. I’ve been working on it for so long, so it’s really exciting to see that it’s still going well and it’s still going. I feel like a lot of science is going, ‘I think this works like this. Well, I can’t really prove that, so let me rule out every other option.’ So that’s the stage that I’m in. It’s really fun to know that I have another summer to work on things. Especially for biology experiments, you work like an hour to a day on it, and then you have to let it sit or it has to incubate for a week. So in that extra time, I run other experiments, I test other things.

Meet the other SURG Recipients!