Omar Mustafa wanted to be a civil engineer until he took the freshman introductory engineering class and discovered bioengineering. It particularly resonated with him because, a year earlier, he was diagnosed with an autoimmune inflammatory disease. The condition, which is now under control, causes redness, double vision and severe pain in his right eye.
“I realized that, with bioengineering, I could explore pharmaceutical and medical treatments,” says Mustafa.
To pursue that goal, Mustafa is taking advantage of the College of Engineering’s +1 Bachelor’s to Master’s Degree program, which allows students to earn both BS and master’s degrees in five rather than six years.
“It’s saving an entire year and 50 percent of the cost of my master’s degree,” says Mustafa. “And it will allow me to complete a research project I’ve begun to work on as a research assistant in the Biofluidics Laboratory of Professor Mohammad F. Kiani.”
He is testing the validity of a potential anti-inflammatory drug that Kiani, professor of mechanical engineering, and Dr. Laurie Kilpatrick at Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine are developing. To do so, Mustafa is utilizing an innovative technology Kiani developed that simulates human tissue on a microfluidic chip.
“The fact that we can study actual cells at that level in vitro, outside of the human body, is just fascinating,” he says.
Mustafa was born in northern New Jersey and spent 10 years in his parents’ native Palestine before, at 16, he moved with his family to Northeast Philadelphia. At Temple, he has also participated in the Diamond Research Scholars Program and briefly volunteered as a research assistant with the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research, Molecular Medicine and Center of Biotechnology.
Between May and November, he also will be working with the Research and Development Biology Department of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in West Conshohocken—the kind of pharmaceutical research position he hopes to pursue after earning his master’s degree.
“Dr. Kiani is a really good mentor,” says Mustafa, “He’s pushed me to do things beyond what I thought I could do. Working with him on inflammatory diseases, such as sepsis, has helped me learn more about my own illness and how someday I might impact the treatment of such diseases, including my own.”