Jorge Bacigalupo, a biology major with a minor in chemistry who plans to graduate in December, said he became interested in the topic of diabetes medication because his grandmother had the disease.
“She hated syringes,” he said, “so I came up with the idea of developing insulin eye drops, and I learned that there is not much research on that topic. Then, once I felt I had a good working product, I wanted to figure out where it would be most useful, and began to study gestational diabetes. It happens all of a sudden to women—they don’t expect it—and I thought eye drops would be better for them [than injections], because they would be easier to use.” Medical experts estimate that anywhere between three and ten percent of pregnancies result in gestational diabetes, often in the third trimester.
Bacigalupo grew up in La Paz, Bolivia, the child of a mother who is an Ohio native and a Bolivian father. “When I turned 18,” the student said, “I wanted to study abroad and decided to come to the U.S. I looked at schools in this area of Pennsylvania because my sister had moved nearby. When I visited Immaculata, I really liked the college and everything here.”
He admitted his research might be seen as a bit more advanced than that done by many undergraduates, but then added that one of his Immaculata instructors, biology professor Carl Pratt, Ph.D., “told me that it’s great. And when I did a presentation on my research at the Pennsylvania Academy of Sciences, it did get a lot of interest.”
Bacigalupo also presented “Control of Gestational Diabetes Via the Use of Insulin Eye Drops: A Mouse Model” at Immaculata’s annual Posters Under the Dome exhibition in April, hosted by the Office of Sponsored Research. The annual event, held in Villa Maria Hall in the first floor Rotunda and the Green Room, offers students a chance to share their work with the campus community.
Bacigalupo didn’t confine his research time to the school year, and has carried the work over into the summer months. “A lot of my time was spent planning,” he said, “and then the research itself has taken about a year in total. I’ve run a lot of different trials.”
One of the reasons enrolling at Immaculata was the right choice for him, Bacigalupo said, is that “there are a lot of excellent people here.” That has become even more evident to him this semester as he travels each week to take a class at a larger university in the Philadelphia area.
“The course is good,” he said, “but there are 200-plus people in the class. There is no real one-on-one with the teacher, and you really never get to talk to the professor. I like that about Immaculata—the chance to talk one-on-one with my teachers.”
Bacigalupo plans to continue his research, he said, in graduate school, where his goal is to earn a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.