Please tell us about yourself

Chemical engineering graduate student Diviya Sinha has received a Faculty for the Future Fellowship from the Schlumberger Foundation. These fellowships are awarded to deserving female scientists and engineers from developing and emerging countries who are pursuing advanced degrees at leading universities worldwide. As a 2015-2016 fellow, Sinha receives a grant of up to $50,000 per year to support her research in immunology.

What did you study?

Sinha received a bachelor of technology degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur before joining the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering in the fall of 2009. She was awarded an MS in chemical engineering practice in 2011 and is currently working in the Blankschtein and Langer laboratories on her PhD thesis, “Low-Frequency Sonophoresis-Assisted Cutaneous Immunization.”

Sinha’s research focuses on investigating the immunological effects of low-frequency ultrasound on the skin immune system for applications in non-invasive transdermal vaccination and tumor immunotherapy.

Tell us about your work

Vaccination is considered to be one of the most significant medical interventions in human history, saving millions of lives from infectious diseases worldwide. Unfortunately, today’s traditional needle-based vaccinations suffer from several limitations including needle phobia, accidental needle-stick injuries, transmission of blood-borne diseases — such as HIV and Hepatitis B — from needle re-use, and inability to induce a potent cytotoxic T cell (CTL) response, essential for robust viral and cancer vaccines.

The skin is a natural site for vaccination, as it is enriched with antigen presenting cells (APCs) that are efficient activators of CTLs. However, the top-most layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, forms the primary diffusion barrier to topical vaccines for skin vaccination. Sinha is studying a way to transiently and safely overcome this skin diffusion barrier while activating the skin APCs for a strong CTL response induction downstream, through a needle-free, low-frequency ultrasound strategy.

“I am truly grateful for this fellowship and feel privileged to be part of this community,” Sinha says. “It has been a pleasure meeting other fellows online, and I look forward to sharing my experiences and learning from others in my pursuit and passion to promote women in STEM.”

The Schlumberger Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Recognizing the link between science, engineering, technology, and socio-economic development, as well as the key role of education in realizing individual potential, the Schlumberger Foundation’s flagship program is Faculty for the Future. The Foundation has awarded new fellowships for the 2015-2016 academic year to 155 women, and has also extended 135 existing grants. The selected recipients are pursuing PhD or postdoctoral studies at 114 host universities in 17 countries and performing research into a wide range of disciplines related to STEM.