Royal Palm Beach HS Senior Gets Hands-On Biotech Experience at UF to Develop Heart Stent

mathisonTo hear Royal Palm Beach High School senior Bobbi-Ann Matheson talk about her work this summer, she sounds like any other teenager who spent their days at a typical summer job. Instead, Matheson spent seven weeks in the Student Science Training Program at the University of Florida as a research assistant on a project to develop a polymer cardiac stent.

“I never knew material science and biology worked so well together.” Matheson said, “I got to use materials that I have never worked with, and I liked how they worked with the cells.”

Her research was accepted and time spent at UF earned her 12 college credits, and further ignited an interest in bio-engineering in a young woman who has been fascinated by science her entire life.

“Growing up in Jamaica there wasn’t much to do, so I stayed home and watched nature documentaries,” Matheson said. “It gave me an opportunity to see a world I have never seen before and I always liked it.”

Her experience didn’t come cheap. The program required her to get a partial scholarship and financial aid, but not enough to cover the entire bill. Matheson didn’t let that stop her, “I pushed my mom to let me open a GoFundMe account, and I hit my family members and friends up for the rest,” she said.

It worked, and now Matheson is using that same push to pay for the next chapter – college. Matheson is using a program called QuestBridge that matches students with merit and need-based scholarships with their college partners to offer 100 percent financial aid to students. And she’s not messing around when asked where she’s applying, Matheson replies, “Yale, Columbia and Duke. If you have the opportunity, you have to go for it.”

In the meantime, she’s active with school and keeping her science skills sharp. She’s vice president of the Science Honor Society at Royal Palm Beach High School and is pushing for her group to enter more competitions and do more community work. Additionally she’s entering the Siemens Science and Math Competition,  the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, and has already been nominated by the school for the Pathfinders Award in science.

“Bobbi-Ann is a sweet, humble young lady with a brilliant mind,” said Royal Palm Beach High School school counselor and guidance director Nikki Lanier. “I look forward to seeing her accomplishments in the future.”

More about Matheson’s research: Stents are used to re-open and treat blockages in coronary arteries responsible for heart attacks. A polymer stent would be absorbed by the body after opening a blockage and delivering the medication and could eventually replace the current drug-eluting stents which are made of metal and can cause inflammatory reactions and other complications.

The team Matheson worked on was successful in developing an electro-spinning process to create the polymer thread necessary to fabricate the stent. Additional research and testing will continue before the stent is ready.