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A bioengineering class helped Stanford researchers understand coral bleaching and more

an assistant professor with students in lab
Image credit: Courtesy Polly Fordyce
Aug 16 2017
Fellow, Research, Stanford

Team Traptasia had a problem: The tiny baby sea anemones they were trying to ensnare are, unlike their adult forms, surprisingly powerful swimmers. They are also, as team member and chemical engineering graduate student Daniel Hunt put it, “pretty squishy little deformable things.” Previous attempts to trap the anemones, called Aiptasia, while keeping them alive long enough to study under a microscope had ended in gruesome, if teensy, failure.

But Traptasia had to make it work. Cawa Tran, then a postdoctoral fellow, and her research into climate change’s effects on coral bleaching were depending on them. (Sea anemones, it turns out, are a close relative of corals, but easier to study.)

Team Traptasia includes Salil Sanjay Bhate, a 2016 Bio-X SIGF, Bioengineering, and Louai Labanieh, a 2016 EDGE-STEM fellow. Course TA Kara Brower is a 2014 EDGE-STEM fellow and former EDGE-STEM mentor.