León-Plata is taking her turn at gaining exposure to other projects in Liu’s lab, learning the techniques her labmate Pham is using: reflectivity and grazing incidence X-ray diffraction. León-Plata came to Chicago with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Universidad Industrial de Santander in Colombia and experience in molecular dynamics simulation at Texas A&M University. She is developing an alternative diabetes therapy. Her method uses toroidal-spiral particles to encapsulate and deliver living cells (islets of Langerhans) that help regulate the body’s response to glucose. Liquid interface techniques are not directly relevant to her work—or not yet—but she finds them valuable. “The perspective is different. The characterization of my system is at cell levels, and here we have the opportunity to look at molecules with angstrom resolutions. With this program, I had the opportunity to learn the basics of X-ray techniques, and now I have better understanding of the results discussed during our group meetings,” León-Plata said.
* The interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.