To mark Veterans Day, TSC is saluting our former servicemen and women who have transitioned their talents from the armed forces to the U.S. research enterprise. This week, we’re pleased to introduce Anthony Watt, an undergraduate researcher working in the System Tissue Engineering & Morphogenesis (STEM) Lab under Dr. Zhen Ma at Syracuse University and veteran of the Marine Corps, as part of Science is Everyone: Voices in STEM. Below, Anthony talks about the parallels between his work as a Marine and now as a scientist.  

How has federal funding from NSF and NIH furthered your research?

Funding has allowed us the opportunity to have a state-of-the-art facility and the ability to purchase any reagents and biological samples/ materials we need to further our research. It also allows us to purchase computers that can handle complex machine learning algorithms to help analyze the data and help with predictive methods.

As we celebrate Veterans Day, how did your time in the Marine Corps shape your interest in pursuing your degrees at Syracuse? What made you choose your current path?

My time in the Marine Corps, especially working with explosives and in construction while serving as a combat engineer, furthered my capabilities to pay attention to detail and to be incredibly careful when handling materials. Being precise, purposeful, and occasionally pedantic with data collected and the rigor of procedures has helped me achieve both in the Marine Corps and in academia. I chose my current path because I thoroughly enjoy learning new things and with bioengineering being a very diverse and broad major, I could find something I loved to learn about that also helped people.

What are the potential applications for your work? How will it help people?

The lab I work in deals with stem cells and models human heat development and human cardiomyopathies, or heart defects. By recreating the structures of human hearts using stem cells, we are able to better identify the environmental basis of human cardiomyopathies, and screen potential drug candidates for treatment. By creating a model of the human heart in early development stages, we can help to identify the effects of various drugs and environmental effects and give a greater informational output of drug discovery, regulation, and prescription for safe pregnancy and fetus development.

What is something people might not know about your lab?

Our lab is a part of the Bioinspired Institute at Syracuse University, and this allows us to work collaboratively with different groups in various departments and colleges. In the setting, we can bounce new ideas off of other researchers with different backgrounds and interest to develop a more refined approach to the problems they are solving. It also provides a great experience for students to find multiple research opportunities, connect with some of the incredible faculty, and dive deeper into bioengineering.