Non-Traditional Students Chart New Careers in Biotechnology

Two non traditional students, Trixie Vazquez and Darrell Caudill, stand with their research poster at the 2023 UNH STEM Symposium

Left to right: Trixie Vazquez and Darrell Caudill, 2023 NH BioMade URT Participants


At UNH Manchester under the mentorship of Dr. Won Hyuk Suh, Darrell Caudill and Trixie Vazquez learned the language and culture of a research lab while investigating the use of bioprinted and crosslinked protein-based hydrogels to engineer human neural stem cells as part of the summer 2023 Undergraduate Research Training with NH BioMade. Caudill and Vazquez co-authored a research poster with Graduate Assistant Jacob Brown, and their advisor, Dr. Suh. They presented “Bioprinting GelMA Hydrogels with Functionalized Silica Nanoparticles” at two August conferences: the UNH Summer STEM Symposium and the Annual Meeting of NH-INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) Annual Meeting. 

Caudill applied to the NH BioMade URT program after 20 years in the United States Navy. Caudill’s previous experience as a commercial electrician and naval experience with weapon systems required knowledge of electro-optical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic and cooling systems. Focused on future opportunities in biotechnology and advanced manufacturing in Manchester, Caudill enrolled in the Advanced Manufacturing Technologies (ADMT) Program at Manchester Community College (MCC) where he learned about NH BioMade.

Caudill was eager to transition his career into biomedical technologies and jumped at the chance to train at the UNH Manchester Biotechnology Innovation Center in a crash course on cell culture techniques funded by a NH BioMade seed grant. He was also accepted to the NH BioMade 2023 summer URT program.

Vazquez, another non-traditional student with professional experience in non-profit development, public relations and data management, graduated from MCC in May 2023 with an associate degree in mathematics. She also learned about the NH BioMade URT program at MCC where she renewed her passion for scientific discovery conducting research with Dr. Sadie Reed Stimmell on the “Tiny Earth” project. Vazquez eagerly applied to the NH BioMade URT program. As an accepted student, Vazquez participated in the NH BioMade URT program to conduct research as part of a peer group and learn about in the field of biotechnology research.

Coming from a community college with no biology coursework and no research lab experience, Caudill’s enthusiasm and dedication to ‘completing the mission’ were an asset. He was eager to learn and accustomed to following safety protocols and quality assurance standards. Vazquez contributed her mathematics, data analysis and research skills as part of the team. They implemented lessons learned with newly acquired skills and collaborated with lab partners leading to valuable understanding of scientific research. Both Caudill and Vazquez agree their NH BioMade experiences have prepared them well to transition into the biotechnology field.

Caudill expects to attend school part-time and hopes to find an internship in the Manchester biotechnology industry this fall. He plans to graduate from Manchester Community College with an associate degree in fall 2025.

Vazquez enrolled this fall (2023) in the Biotechnology program at the University of NH-Manchester to pursue her love of mathematics and her childhood dream of becoming a scientist.

The New Hampshire Center for Multiscale Modeling and Manufacturing of Biomaterials (NH BioMade) is an NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-1 project (#1757371) administered by NH EPSCoR at the University of New Hampshire.


Written by: Jennifer Baker, NH EPSCoR
Photo Credit: Jennifer Baker, NH EPSCoR