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Jenna Radovich researches for clues to better understand diseases like stroke and dementia

Story by
Trisha Radulovich
jenna radovich
Jenna Radovich, a senior biomedical engineering major at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering via Florida State University, is looking ahead from undergraduate research to an advanced degree and career in biomedical research. (M Wallheiser/FAMU-FSU Engineering)

Undergraduate Student Spotlight

Jenna Radovich is a senior biomedical engineering major at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. She is from Sarasota, Florida, and is currently working on her senior thesis through the Honors in the Major program at Florida State University. The program allows students to work on a selected topic and graduate with honors after completing a project in a discipline.

What is your area of research?

Over the summer, I assisted in researching structural Ischemic Stroke Recovery using human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) via MRI. My current project investigates the functional changes in the brain relating to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). My mentor is Professor Sam Grant, a researcher at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. We are using functional MRI to study the progression of the disease in rats throughout their lives.

Why is this research so important?

Stroke and dementia are incredibly relevant in our society, ranking respectively as the fifth and sixth most common causes of death in the U.S. By researching to find out specifics on how AD progresses, we can diagnosis it earlier and create and find better treatments. The ischemic stroke treatment research is paving the way for using hMSCs to treat strokes to speed up and assist in recovery.

Why are you so interested in this field?

Since I was a child, I have always been fascinated with biology and understanding how the world works. At one point, my mother got me a microscope to investigate whatever I wanted in elementary school. As I got older and took advanced placement biology and other STEM classes, I became interested in how different diseases come to be, inherited via genetics and how we could use technology such as CRISPR to change this and help these people with debilitating diseases. 

I have always had a passion for the brain regarding its functionality and what can go wrong and how to fix it. I originally intended to study neuroscience. However, I realized it was a better idea to get a broader education for my undergraduate degree. I plan to specialize later on since I knew I wanted to go to graduate school!

Why did you decide to go into engineering?

Engineering opens many doors for jobs in the future. You gain an expanded skillset in the program that carries over easily to numerous occupations. It is especially true for biomedical engineering as it is interdisciplinary, with information derived from biology, chemistry and mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering.

What are your plans for the future? 

I am in the process of applying to graduate schools as I want to get my doctorate in engineering in neuro-engineering, genomics or tissue engineering. The end goal is to go into the industry to do research and help improve our general knowledge within these fields or improve medicine and treatment for various pathologies. 

What is your best advice for students?

My advice is that you need to put the time into the classes and school. It is a big-time commitment. You need to understand the topics to do well and the work is hard. Sometimes you feel like you do not learn anything, then it hits you later as you progress through the program. Then you realize how much you can absorb if you pay attention.

Also, I recommend taking the necessary steps to ensure good mental health if you ever start having problems. I went to the counseling center my sophomore year, and it helped me more than I ever thought it could! 

Fun facts?

I have been involved in sorority life with Alpha Gamma Delta at FSU since my freshman year. I have two dogs, River and Willow. They are both adopted and I love them dearly. I enjoy going to the parks to hike with them. I have played piano since I was about seven!