University of Georgia College of Engineering
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University of Georgia: Thrive in a community-centric research environment

An excellent education starts with passionate educators and supportive peers – and Manjyot Kaur Chug knows this best.

“Being a part of an amicable lab environment helped me make some real good friends from different parts of the world,” she says. “These friends have come from Dr. Brisbois’s lab, Dr. Handa’s lab, my roommates, and many others from the University of Georgia,” says the student studying for her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

That support she felt started even before she began her education at UGA. Before this, she completed multiple research stints at the University of Central Florida, Harvard Medical School and the Indian Institute of Science. 

At these institutions, Chug discovered a knack for research – so much so that she was determined to build a career in leading an independent research group. 

The School of Chemical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering was the perfect setting to hone her technical expertise to tackle the greatest challenges in her discipline. 

Chug got to work with her mentor, Dr. Elizabath Brisbois. “She has served as my PhD mentor during these 4.5 years of my PhD, providing insights and advice on our field of biomaterials and biomedical engineering,” she explains. “She has motivated me to achieve things beyond my abilities and ensured I maintained constant progress in my work.”

That student-professor dynamic extends beyond a professional relationship. “Over these years, we have become close enough to come together outside our lab setting,” says Chug . “These interactions, whether it be coffee, a meal, or celebrating occasions, continue to bring us closer. All of these experiences have been important to maintaining and improving our mentee-mentor relationship.”

Dr. Brisbois agrees. “My research group has regular journal clubs, potlucks, and other gatherings to bring us all together and help create a supportive team both in the lab and personally as students work their way through their degree programmes,” she says. 

It not only helps to break the tension in tackling complicated engineering problems but also encourages students to think creatively. After all, the School of Chemical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering conducts research in three key areas, focusing on translational and applied research in the areas of biomanufacturing, medical devices and biomaterials, and advanced therapeutics.

Work conducted in Dr. Brisbois’s laboratory is an excellent example of how hands-on experience can be fruitful to one’s career. “I had an opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant for her lab course. In my teaching assistant experience with Dr. Brisbois, I co-designed the course and experiments,” Chug explains, emphasising that her responsibility was more than a typical teaching assistant.

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Brisbois’s laboratory has become a place where hands-on experience can boost one’s future career. Source: University of Georgia

This arrangement was intentional – the kind possible with a culture to build a thriving research community and a chance for students to take on the mantle of a faculty member. “This opportunity was so unique and advantageous to me since I had a chance to directly apply my lab work and knowledge to train undergraduate students,” Brisbois enthuses. 

The PhD student also had the chance to participate in the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps. This public-private partnership helps develop scientific and engineering discoveries into useful technologies. Thanks to a grant from the NSF in 2017, UGA was designated as an I-Corps site.

Here, participants had access to resources that create, develop and nurture entrepreneurial teams interested in transitioning their ideas, technologies, devices or processes or other intellectual activities into the marketplace – something that Chug truly appreciated. “I connected with various leaders, scientists, and fellow I-Corps members, allowing me to learn about all different attributes and branches of product commercialisation,” she shares.

Her favourite memory? Interviewing Dr. Bob Langer – a renowned engineer, inventor, scientist, and entrepreneur. “Interviewing him was truly a dream come true that will leave an everlasting effect on me,” says Chug.

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UGA’s student societies are an ideal platform for graduate students to participate in activities aligned with their research interests. Source: University of Georgia, Facebook

That supportive environment and culture are also reflected in the professional societies at UGA. Chug is a member of several graduate student associations at the university and national conferences. “I am a student member of the Society of Biomaterials and lead the efforts as a student representative for the Surface and Characterisation Special Interest Group,” she says.

Brisbois’s laboratory is also a hub for students from around the globe – allowing a unique exchange of perspectives. “One of the best parts of our group potlucks is gathering together and trying all the food and traditions from their home countries,” the professor shares. 

It’s clear that UGA engages in research and culture that drive progress across vast areas of life, making it an attractive location for aspiring researchers. If your interest is piqued, join UGA on its quest for a better tomorrow by applying here today.

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