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Many aspiring scientists wonder how they’ll find the right lab to launch their research career. Retta El-Sayed was pulled right in by a giant magnet.

For the past two years, El-Sayed, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, has worked in the UAB Cyclotron Facility, studying exotic radioactive isotopes with the facility’s team of radiochemists.

It all began when El-Sayed was a sophomore. A friend in medical school invited her along on a tour of UAB’s cyclotron, a 60-ton behemoth used to create the radioactive particles needed for PET imaging. “I wasn’t expecting anything,” she says, but during the tour she got excited about the cyclotron and its potential for creating new types of imaging for cancer research: “I think it’s one of the coolest pieces of research equipment at UAB.”


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