Our latest staff spotlight is Kevin Nichols, a Senior Research Engineer at IV. Kevin’s impressive chemical engineering experience drives his efforts to improve malaria detection and positively impact global public health. Here’s what Kevin had to say about his work, inspiration, and background:
Want to hear more from Kevin? Check out his full interview on IV Lab’s Invent blog.
Q: What is your background and what led you to where you are now?
A: Overall, I am interested in using analytical chemistry tools to better understand the world, and find it fun to build tools and develop new ways of doing so. My doctoral training was in biological engineering, where I measured enzymatic reaction rates to better understand how they work. Later, as a post doc at the University of Chicago, I worked in diagnostics where I quantified how much of a specific disease biomarkers was present in a sample.
I have a strong desire to deeply probe into how something works and although my early research experience was focused on biological systems, I was later able to apply my experience with devices for diagnostics to the field of nuclear chemistry at Argonne National Lab. My work there was primarily focused on analytical chemistry related to nuclear fuel systems.
Q: What do you do at IV Lab?
A: At IV Lab, I’m researching and designing microfluidic systems for global health applications. Currently, I am focused on measuring biomarkers for diseases, specifically malaria. I am looking for disease markers for two malaria parasites, Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, to increase sensitivity of lateral flow assays for malaria diagnostics.
I work on experimental design for flow based diagnostic projects. I design experiments and think through how we can quickly determine whether an idea will work or not and how we can design the experiment to have a conclusive answer. The projects I work on at IV Lab are generally multidisciplinary and require work using biotechnology tools, biochemistry, antibodies, as well as hardware design, software design, mechanical and electromechanical design. As a project lead, I need to know enough to see the big picture and see how all of the pieces come together.
Q: What inspires you most about what you do?
A: I am inspired to do something that is ambitious with the prospect of it being something useful for the world and impacting people in a positive way.
Q: Anything else you want to share?
A: I grew up in a household that was uniquely focused on public health. As a child, my mother had polio and lost her brother to the disease. My childhood provided a unique perspective on the impact of infectious diseases and an overall interest in public health. It inspired me to focus my career on positively impacting public health.
Kevin and the rest of the IV Lab team are innovating to improve lives. Learn how we’re creating new ideas and inventions with our new state of the art laboratory.