STEMinist Profile: Jin K. Montclare, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
While I was always interested in science and math as a young girl, it was through the encouragement of my teachers, mentors and family that led me to my career. I was really fortunate to have had a number of wonderful teachers and mentors throughout my life who cheered me on even when there were times I had doubts about my path.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The beauty about my job is that I am constantly engaged in cool projects with new discoveries and data. Right now, the project that has been occupying my mind has been our “smart biomaterials” work. My students and I designed and fabricated engineered proteins that are comprised of two parts: one that can form a cylinder for binding small molecules/drugs (derived from a coiled coiled protein) and another that can assemble/disassemble as function of temperature (from elastin).

When fused, the resulting hybrid proteins self-assemble into nanoparticles that can encapsulate drugs and upon sensing a particular temperature, trigger aggregation and release. These materials have interesting implications in medicine and drug delivery.

Role models and heroes:
I believe I have been extremely fortunate to have in my life a set of role models (both men and women) that have played a significant role in shaping my career. These include my teachers, professors, advisors and colleagues. However, the most influential role model in my life has been my grandmother. She was a living example of persistence, diligence and character.

She had lost her husband and had to raise four very young children while working as a nurse at an orphanage. Through sheer determination, she was able to successfully raise her children into adulthood as well as help raise me and my brother. She was the one who came over to the US and sent money to bring all her children over. Her strength during her incredible life has been a source of support for me and when I am in a predicament, I draw from her strength.

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