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Picture of Sylvia Chen

Sylvia Chen

School: Graduate School of Engineering

Department: Chemical and Biological Engineering

Research Interests: Life sciences, Bioengineering

TIE Affiliation

Environmental Research Fellowship


This project proposes to study environmentally sustainable cell therapy approaches for diabetic management. Currently, patients are dependent on tools that are a burden on landfills, such as single-use syringes and pumps for insulin administration and glucose test strips. As the prevalence of diabetes is projected to increase to 10.9% of the global population by 2024, diabetes care-related waste is bound to rise as well and needs to be addressed. Optogenetics, a biological tool that involves light control of photosensitive molecules, can be applied with cell therapy to upregulate the insulin production capability of cells by 2-3 folds. Hydrogel materials and encapsulation processes are studied for the photosensitive cells to ensure desired insulin secretion under illumination. The bio-friendliness of glucose sensor threads is also tested to replace test strips. Lastly, current diabetic treatment methods’ waste levels and improvement areas are reviewed and compared with future diabetic treatments with cell transplantation.


Sylvia is a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Engineering, in the Department of Chemical Engineering. She expects to complete her studies in February 2023. Sylvia received her Bachelor of Science in Chemical engineering, and her Masters of Science in Supply chain management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She has previously interned at Bristol-Myers Squibb (2016), GlobalFoundries (2015), IBM Microelectronics (2015), and Novozymes North America (2013). She also studied abroad at Technical University of Denmark in 2014. At Tufts, Sylvia is a member of the Graduate Student Council (GSC), the Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Society (BEaChES), the Graduate Society of Women Engineers (GSWE), and Tzanakakis Lab.

Current Studies and Future Goals

When asked what she found most meaningful about her field of study, Sylvia responded with the following: "The study of the life sciences and engineering leads to important insights into diseases and pathologies and allows the innovative development of novel therapeutics to improve disease management for patients."

When asked what interested her in becoming a TIE Fellow, Sylvia responded with the following: "The TIE Fellowship program will enable me to incorporate environmental factors in early-stage diabetic treatment research with applications that can potentially improve sustainability and while helping patients in the future. The program is also an excellent opportunity to polish effective written and oral scientific communication skills making my research more accessible to both experts and broad audiences."

After Tufts, Sylvia hopes to work at a life-science start up to develop early stage technologies while contemplating environmental challenges.

Fun Facts!

When not doing school work, Sylvia can be found experimenting in the kitchen, or practicing Italian!

Favorite Music Artist: Nujabes

Favorite Course Taken at Tufts: Biological Systems Analysis and Modeling