Michael McCarty

Michael McCarty
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, Illinois
Principal Investigator: Dr. Chris McKay and Arwen Davé


When I was a kid, I used to think flying remote controlled planes and shooting off model rockets was what I wanted to do in life. I would stay up late at night gazing off at my glow in the dark wallpaper depicting the night sky. As our tiny earth would orbit around the toy mobile on the ceiling, I would dream of traveling throughout the galaxy discovering the vast unknown. One day, before I “realized” this isn’t a real job, I started reading the encyclopedia of amphibians. Because my parents believed this would eventually lead me to becoming a doctor, I was lured into biology. Spending my days roaming around my neighborhood collecting frogs and salamanders, I would categorize them and place them in separate containers. I may have only been 7 years old, but I was already torn between building model rockets and my new found passion for collecting amphibians. Today, I can say I have the chance, once more, to live my childhood dream as I venture to NASA for the 2013 summer academy.


Over 15 years later, I successfully struck the perfect combination of everything I loved to do as a child, since I am now a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Bioengineering department. Although I always knew what I loved to do, I promised myself when I got into college that I would treat it as an adventure. I decided it would be more important to try everything possible, and fail, than finish college and realize I haven’t done any of the things I really wanted to try. Over my 4 years in college, I have experimented with doing research in everything from cell and tissue engineering, nanotechnology, and biomaterials, to bioinstrumentation, computational bioengineering, and biomechanics. While I didn’t enjoy all of the work I did, I discovered more about myself than I have ever known, as well as, learned new techniques to combine all of these amazing fields.

During this last year, I have been working on the micro/nanofabrication of epidermal electronics in Professor John Roger’s research lab. Some of the wearable devices that I have specialized on include micro-antennae, hydration sensors, and thermal sensors. The fabrication of all these devices was only possible because of the mentorship I received by Dr. Jonathan Fan. Recently, I started a new collaboration for which we will be combining the novel electronics that are produced in Prof. John Roger’s lab with the tissue engineering applications, such as muscles, nerves, and skin that are artificially grown in Prof. Hyunjoon Kong’s research lab.

Other than the research I have been conducting for the development of epidermal electronics, I have been working on my senior design project in Professor Rashid Bashir’s lab. After listening to a lecture on how entrepreneurship has influenced his research, I knew I would do whatever it took to get the chance to work in his lab. Once I heard he would be taking students for a senior design project, I jumped at the opportunity to work in his Laboratory for Integrated Bio Medical Micro/Nanotechnology & Applications. This project consists of fabricating devices that are capable of rapid bacterial detection using electrical impedance measurements. With this technology we hope to be able to detect bacterial growth faster and more accurately than any current system on the market. With such amazing guidance and support, this project has landed us in several business competitions as well as being selected as a 2013 Clinton Global Initiative.

Although it may sounds strange, getting into business competitions isn’t anything foreign to me. My freshman year consisted of one of the most fun years of my life; however, by the end of my second semester I knew I was missing something. Over that summer, I spend day and night working on my coding skills. At the conclusion of the summer, I had constructed several websites and trivial mobile applications that helped me polish my skills. Nearly 3 years later now, I am managing 22 employees and interns who remind me every day of the joy I get from making things. Although there is never downtime fixing the bugs the new guy is creating, meeting to discuss objectives for each team, or running over-night hackathons, I will always remember how much fun we have while we are hacking together. Several of the exciting things we have made and have received funding for include: A mobile second-screen application for TV, wireless EKG/pulse plethysmograph/ultrasound, and Bluetooth enabled appliances. It is my ambition, that no matter where I end up in life, I will find myself creating companies or projects outside my daily job that I am excited to wake up and work on every day.

Future Plans:

Looking back at my brief life so far, there have been times I wandered being completely lost, but with some luck and perseverance, I managed to look around and find a trembling beacon that would guide me to my next adventure. I can’t anticipate the future, but I will be going into it swinging the whole way.