Author: ehgroth

Eli Vlaisavljevich, of Biomedical Engineering, One of Three Named as Goldwater Scholars at Michigan Tech

Story by Jennifer Donovan, director of public relations

A defenseman on Michigan Tech’s hockey team, Eli Vlaisavljevich has twice been named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Academic Team. He made the 4.0 GPA Dean’s List every semester and received the John MacInnes Slide Rule Award for scholastic achievement in 2008. He comes from Shoreview, Minn.

Vlaisavljevich has conducted research with Rupak Rajachar, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, under a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. “He has been one of the many positive influences I have had at Michigan Tech,” Vlaisavljevich says of Rajachar. “He taught me a lot about his own research, the research field in general and the different opportunities that are available for my future.”

Vlaisavljevich was invited to give a platform research presentation at the 2008 Biomedical Engineering Society Conference. He has been accepted to present research at the 2009 Design of Medical Devices Conference this month and the ASME Bioengineering conference in June.

Academically, Michigan Tech is batting 1,000. All three of the University’s nominees for prestigious Goldwater Scholarships this year are winners of the 2009 awards.

John Mark Gubatan, Hansen Nordsiek and Eli Vlaisavljevich, all third-year students, were named Goldwater Scholars by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. Gubatan is a biochemistry and molecular biology major with a double minor in French and Spanish. Nordsiek is majoring in physics, and Vlaisavljevich is a biomedical engineering major.

Although Michigan Tech has produced a number of Goldwater Scholars in previous years, this is the first time the University has had more than one winner in any given year.

Goldwater scholarships–established by Congress to honor the late Senator Barry M. Goldwater–are based on academic merit, research experience and an intent to pursue a career in science, engineering or mathematics. Colleges and universities nominate students for the scholarships, which cover up to $7,500 in tuition and fees.

“The Goldwater is one of the more prestigious scholarships you can win as an undergraduate in science, engineering or math,” said Will Cantrell, associate professor of physics and Michigan Tech faculty representative for the program. “It is highly competitive.”

The Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation received 1,079 nominations this year and awarded 278 scholarships. Other winners in Michigan include four students at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, four at Hope College and three at Michigan State University.

“Goldwater Scholars usually go on to do very well at getting NSF, NASA, DoE and other graduate fellowships,” Cantrell noted.

From Tech Today, April 9, 2009 “Three Tech Students Named Goldwater Scholars”


BME Students Win Awards from Biotechnology Research Center

The Ecosystem Science Center and the Biotechnology Research Center have announced award recipients of the Fifth Annual ESC/BRC Graduate Research Forum, held on Feb. 27.

Two Grand Awards, six Merit Awards and three Honorable Mention Awards were presented.

$500 Grand Prizes

Biotechnology Research Center

Eric Minner (Biomedical Engineering) for “Hydrogel System Delivers Glutathione and Interleukin-10 to Mitigate Secondary Injury following Spinal Cord Damage”; advisor: Assistant Professor Ryan Gilbert

$100 Merit Prizes

Jared Cregg (Biomedical Engineering) for “The Role of Aligned Fiber Density in Axon Motility”; advisor: Assistant Professor Ryan Gilbert

Jill Jensen (Chemical Engineering) for “Selection for Improved Hybrid Poplar Via Dilute Acid and Enzymatic Hydrolysis Using Mini-Reactors”; advisor: Professor David Shonnard

Han Bing Wang (Biomedical/Chemical Engineering) for “Axonal Guidance Conduits Containing Aligned, Electrospun Poly-L-Lactic Acid Fibers Direct In Vitro Neurite Outgrowth”; advisors: Assistant Professor Ryan Gilbert (Biomedical Engineering) and Professor Michael Mullins (Chemical Engineering)


Biomedical Engineering: Summertime, and the Students Are Busy

Story by John Gagnon, promotional writer

How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Houghton?

You’re not, if you’re trying to have Beatrice Burgess, who is 20, help take care of the dairy cattle on the family farm in Brown City.

Her father wanted her to help him out this summer, as she has in the past. She’s a good hand and has been doing farm work “pretty much since I could walk.” But, to her father’s disappointment, Burgess, a junior, instead chose to spend the summer doing research in the biomedical engineering department’s polymeric biomaterials lab.

“This is a great job,” she says. “I thought it would help me.” Burgess is one of 25 undergraduates working on biomedical engineering research.

She is helping Assistant Professor Megan Frost on a project to develop biomedical devices constructed from polymeric materials (such as tubing, implantable sensors and catheters), which the body tends to reject.

Burgess loves science, especially chemistry, and engineering, especially building things. Biomed is a blend of both, plus an opportunity for service. “I’m really interested in helping people do something that’s going to make a difference,” she says.

While in high school, she checked out three other colleges: Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State, but chose Tech. “This campus just had a feel about it. It felt like home. I haven’t run into anybody I didn’t like, which is amazing.”

She brings the work ethic of a woman with a hoe to her college life. She works 30 hours a week in the lab. She’ll cut down but continue the work in the fall, when she will carry 16 credits and be a tutor in the Chemistry Learning Center and a grader in the math department. “I like to be busy.”

That’s the essence of farm work. The worst thing about farming? “Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.” The worst thing about college? There’s no downside, except for maybe some uncertainty. “There’s so many things I want to get into,” she says. “I have to decide.”

Across the room from Burgess is another student researcher: Genny Gierke, age 18, of Chassell, daughter of Associate Professor John Gierke (GMES).

She attended Houghton High School and is an incoming first-year student. Her employment with Frost has usurped previous summer jobs at a local flower shop and in the Summer Youth Program.

Gierke adds dyes to plastic to create compounds that are sensitive to light; the more light they’re exposed to, the more nitric oxide they release; the more nitric oxide, the better the biocompatibility. One result: colorful discs that filter the light to control the release of the gas. About the size of a quarter, they are shades of yellow, red and blue. Does she enjoy the work? “Oh, yeah. Look how pretty those are.”

She keeps a lab book filled with notations and neat drawings and diagrams. Getting paid for work she so thoroughly enjoys “is definitely beyond me,” she says.

She aspires to be an orthodontist—”as of right now, but that’s 10 more years.” She must be one of a few. “I’ve always enjoyed going to the dentist. There’s something I like about it. Well, then, I must be a dentist.” She talks about bringing “humanity” to the work. “You can help people.”

Frost has high praise for Gierke and Burgess. “They are outstanding, very smart and very enthusiastic.”

Down the hall from these two researchers, other students engage in conversation and exemplify enterprise. Their bustle contrasts to the doldrums in some parts of campus.

“I just love the summer,” says chair Michael Neuman, “because there’s so much activity here.”


Students Travel to Ghana with New Medical Device

Story by John Gagnon, promotional writer

Four students embarked to Ghana Thursday to test and demonstrate an infant heartbeat detector they developed which could reduce newborn infant deaths in developing countries.

The team will visit Kumasi, Kranka and Synyani in the west African country to show their device to physicians and midwives to determine its usefulness and get their feedback on how it could be improved.

The mechanism quickly recognizes if a newborn’s heart is beating. Without this kind of technology, sometimes midwives set aside depressed and nonresponsive babies, thinking they are stillborn.

The Tech students have been working on the project for two years. Brooke Smith, who graduated in spring in biomedical engineering, says the device had to be portable, durable, inexpensive and simple enough for an untrained person to use.

“I’m so excited,” she said this week. “We’ve come so far. Now we take it to a developing country, work with them and hopefully make their lives better.”

Besides testing the detector, the students will interview people about other medical devices they might need.

Smith is joined by biomedical engineering majors Samantha Stewart and Elizabeth Moore and Nana Manteau, who is majoring in psychology.

The four students, who will be in Africa for two weeks, belong to the International Business Ventures Enterprise. Robert Warrington, director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies; Anne Warrington, senior lecturer in the SBE; and Michael Neuman, chair of biomedical engineering, are their advisors.

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Update Story

Story by John Gagnon, promotional writer

Four students who traveled to Ghana have returned to campus with an affirmation of their work and some good ideas about how to refine it.

Medical personnel in the West African nation welcomed the students. “They were really interested in what we had to offer,” says Brooke Smith, one of the four. “It was definitely a worthwhile trip.”

She has been part of the International Business Ventures Enterprise and a team of students who have developed a device that detects the heartbeat of a newborn.

“They were really excited about the monitor and that it would be very good to use there,” Smith says.”

The device quickly recognizes if a newborn’s heart is beating. Without the technology, sometimes midwives set aside depressed and nonresponsive babies, thinking they are stillborn, so the device could help to reduce newborn infant deaths in Ghana and other developing countries.

The student team visited physicians, nurses and midwives in Kumasi, Sunyani and Kranka to show their device, determine its usefulness, and get feedback on how it could be improved.

The heartbeat detector is about the size of a luggage tag and is placed on the chest of a newborn. It has a speaker and a light—what Smith says is a “beep and blink” technology—that facilitates counting the heart beat.

Four suggestions for improvement resulted from the trip:

  • Make it flexible. Smith says some of the babies are smaller than they expected, their chests have more curvature, and a flexible device would better conform it to the baby’s chest.
  • Expand its use by making it possible to continually monitor the heart rate, which would be displayed digitally.
  • Make its battery rechargeable, like a cell phone, for repetitive use.
  • Ensure the battery is optimally functional. In Ghana, she notes, power outages occur daily.

Basically, Smith says, the health practitioners that the team met “were excited about anything that we could bring them that would make their life easier.”

In the city of Kumasi, population 1.5 million, facilities are advanced, and procedures and protocols used after a birth are the same as in the US. On the other hand, in the small village of Kranka, population 1,000, there is only rudimentary medical equipment and little of it.

Smith says that the clinic in Kranka could use the detector, with the bugs worked out, as is. So, too, with the hospital in Kumasi—especially if the device were to have a digital display. “But they really want us to be certain that the batteries would meet their needs.” Currently the device is powered by two three-volt coin batteries.

One wrinkle that emerged: the staff in hospitals in Kumasi and Sunyani often are unable to repair faulty medical equipment. Therefore, the Tech students will need to develop technical documentation and give proper training for personnel should a unit break.

Smith was joined by biomedical engineering majors Samantha Jang-Stewart and Elizabeth Moore and Nana Manteau, a native of Ghana, who is majoring in psychology.

Robert Warrington, director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies; Anne Warrington, senior lecturer in the SBE; and Michael Neuman, chair of biomedical engineering, are the advisors.

Smith, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, ends two years of work with the heart rate detector. She’s headed to Cornell University to work on a PhD in the same field.

She believes she is well-prepared. Tech, she says, has given her a solid background in biomechanics, biomaterials and bioinstrumentation—and an experience she’ll never forget.

“I never expected I’d be going to Africa and become an ambassador of Michigan Tech and the US. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The four students belong to the International Business Ventures Enterprise. Robert Warrington, director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies; Anne Warrington, senior lecturer in the SBE; and Michael Neuman, chair of biomedical engineering, are their advisors.

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Biomedical Engineering Students Win 1st Place, 3rd Place in University Undergraduate Research Expo

Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP)

Opportunities exist for undergraduate engineering students to work on independent research projects with Biomedical Engineering faculty. The opportunities vary dependant on funding and projects that are available. Some opportunities are listed below. Please contact the individual faculty member for more details about the project. If you don’t see a project that you are interested in, talk to the faculty member who most closely matches your interests. Projects may be available that are not on this web page, or new projects may be initiated based on student interest.

Undergraduate Expo 2008

1st Place Award Undergraduate Research Presentation

Release of Interleukin-10 from Agarose/Methylcellulose Blended Hydrogel for Spinal Cord Injury Applications

Department: Biomedical Engineering

Advisors: Dr. Ryan Gilbert, Biomedical Engineering

Sponsors: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)

Student Researchers: Rebecca Klank, Biomedical Engineering

Abstract

After initial spinal cord injury (SCI), a secondary, inflammatory injury response leads to further neuronal death. Thus, therapies are being developed to attenuate inflammation following SCI to spare neurons and improve regenerative outcomes. Interleukin-10 (IL-10) is a cytokine that modulates the inflammatory response. In this study, IL-10 was incorporated into a hydrogel blend consisting of agarose and methylcellulose and the release into solution was characterized.Bioactivity and release rate of the IL-10 was confirmed using an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. IL-10 was released from the hydrogel over several days. These data suggest that IL-10 can be loaded into a hydrogel, and be delivered locally over a sustained period of time without altering the activity of the cytokine. Therefore, this hydrogel, loaded with IL-10, has potential to reduce inflammation over a sustained period of time and reduce secondary injury effects in the damaged spinal cord.


3rd Place Award Undergraduate Research Presentation

Anisotropic Micro-fibrous Scaffolds for Nerve Regeneration Applications

Department: Biomedical Engineering

Advisors: Dr. Ryan Gilbert, Department of Biomedical Engineering

Student Researchers: Jared Cregg, Sarah McIntyre, and Matthew Trombley, Biomedical Engineering; Han Bing Wang, Chemical Engineering

Abstract

Following spinal cord and peripheral nerve injury, regenerating axons encounter natural environments that are not suitable for growth. Systems that modify these environments to allow axonal regeneration are of interest for promoting functional recovery after injury. In this study, a novel material that incorporates physical and chemical guidance cues for directed axonal regeneration was developed by adsorbing a gradient of the neurostimulatory protein laminin-1 onto aligned micro-fiber scaffolds. Sensory neurons from chick embryo were isolated and cultured on scaffolds to evaluate material performance. We suggest that these scaffolds may act as a growth permissive substrate and provide axons with necessary guidance cues for regeneration following injury.


Novel Silica Phosphate Sol-Gel Glasses as a Model System to Study Cellular Response to Dynamic Mineralization

Department: Biomedical Engineering

Advisors: Dr. Rupak M Rajachar, Biomedical Engineering

Student Researchers: Samantha Jang-Stewart, Logan Janka, and Kyle Tourni, Biomedical Engineering

Abstract

Vascular calcification is highly correlated with cardiovascular disease mortality, especially in cases of end-stage renal disease and diabetes. Extensive studies have determined that pathological calcification is a highly regulated process. Developing synthetic biomaterials as instructive models of extra-cellular microenvironment can be a significant tool towards more physiologically relevant in vitro model systems. Therefore, the successful development of novel silica phosphate sol-gel glasses will aid our ability to address fundamental effects of dynamic processes on the regulation of pathological mineralization and ultimately to tailored cell instructive materials to control these processes.


Controlled Release of Glucosamine Affects Chondrocyte Activity in Vitro

Department: Biomedical Engineering

Advisors: Dr. Ryan Gilbert Biomedical Engineering

Student Researchers: Brandon Johnson, Biomedical Engineering

Abstract

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease which effects many millions of people in the U.S alone. OA is characterized by the degradation of articular cartilage in joints, leading to pain and in extreme cases physical impairment. A microgravity environment seen during forthcoming prolonged space travel missions can also create osteoarthritic conditions. Current treatments vary yet do not entirely eliminate the symptoms of this disease. Glucosamine is a commonly used treatment of OA however in its current form its effectiveness is limited. In this study a hydrogel, developed from a blend of agarose and methylcellulose, was loaded with glucosamine. We determined the effect of a controlled release of glucosamine on resident chondrocytes in vitro. Additionally, we categorized both the compressive modulus and release profile of the gel. The results of the study suggest that the investigated system may be an effective tissue engineering scaffold to house chondrocytes and release glucosamine to chondrocytes.


Novel silica phosphate sol-gel glasses as a model system to study cellular response to dynamic mineralization

Department: Biomedical Engineering

Advisors: Dr. Rupak M Rajachar, Biomedical Engineering

Student Researchers: Samantha Jang-Stewart, Logan Janka, and Kyle Tourni, Biomedical Engineering

Abstract

Vascular calcification is highly correlated with cardiovascular disease mortality, especially in cases of end-stage renal disease and diabetes. Extensive studies have determined that pathological calcification is a highly regulated process. Developing synthetic biomaterials as instructive models of extra-cellular microenvironment can be a significant tool towards more physiologically relevant in vitro model systems. Therefore, the successful development of novel silica phosphate sol-gel glasses will aid our ability to address fundamental effects of dynamic processes on the regulation of pathological mineralization and ultimately to tailored cell instructive materials to control these processes.


Characterization of Chitosan-coated Magnetoelastic Materials for Use in Percutaneous Implants

Department: Biomedical Engineering

Advisors: Dr. Rupak M Rajachar, Biomedical Engineering

Student Researchers: Logan Janka, Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering; and Natalie Hartman, Biomedical Engineering

Abstract

In this work, we are developing bioactively coated vibrational magnetoelastic (ME) materialsforuse as aremotely activated tunable coating .These coatings promote the inhibition of bacterial adhesion at the tissue-implant interface . ME sensors are currently used as an in situ method of measuring biological processes .This study developed an ME antimicrobial coating and characterized the response towards modulated sensor frequency-amplitude vibrational profiles . A thin film of chitosan, a natural polymer with antimicrobial properties, was produced using spin coating and quantified . Custom-built activation coils were constructed measuring resonant frequencies and amplitudes of coated and uncoated ME material . Based upon collected data, a representative curve was created modeling the changes in resonant frequency and amplitude . A threefold decrease in bacterial adhesion was shown in remotely vibrated ME materials versus control samples . Currently we are testing the effectiveness of these coatings at inhibiting the adhesion of multiple strains of bacteria.


Previous Projects


Award Recipients Announced for Sixth Annual ESC/BRC Graduate Research Forum, Include Several from Biomedical Engineering

The Ecosystem Science Center and the Biotechnology Research Center have
announced award recipients of the Sixth Annual ESC/BRC Graduate Research
Forum, held on March 26. Two grand prize awards, five merit awards
and four honorable mention awards were presented.

The recipients were selected from among the 43 posters and abstracts submitted by students conducting research related to ecology, the environment and biotechnology at Michigan Tech.

$500 Grand Prizes

Ecosystem Science Center

Meagan L. Harless (Biological Sciences) for “Effects of Road Salt (NaCl Pollution on the Survival and Growth of Larval Wood Frogs (Lithobates sylvatica).” Her advisor is Casey Huckins.

Biotechnology Research Center

Eli Vlaisavljevich (Biomedical Engineering) for “Magnetoelastic Materials as Novel Bioactive Coatings for Control of Cell Adhesion to Prevent Implantable Biomaterial Associated Fibrous Overgrowth.” His advisor is Rupak Rajachar.

$100 Merit Awards

Ecosystem Science Center

Rita Koch (SFRES) for “Insect and Disease Response to Prescribed Burning and Wildfire in Pine Forests in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.” Her advisors is Linda Nagel and Andrew Storer.

Mickey Jarvi (SFRES) for “Temperature acclimation of fine roots to soil warming in a sugar maple dominated northern hardwood forest.” His advisor is Andrew Burton.

Kayla Griffith (SFRES) for “H2O18 as an Analyzer of Phragmites australis Invasion from Wet to Dry Sites” Her advisor is Catherine Tarasoff.

Biotechnology Research Center

Christopher Rivet (Biomedical Engineering) for “Development of a Composite Hydrogel Containing Electrospun Fibers for Spinal Cord Injury.” His advisor is Ryan Gilbert.

Jonathan Zuidema (Biomedical Engineering) for “Incorporation of Chitosan and Dextran into Hydrogel Blends Improves Neuronal Adhesion.” His advisor is Ryan Gilbert.

$50 Honorable Mention Awards

Ecosystem Science Center

Emmanuel Ebanyenle (SFRES) for “Impact of Shoot Borer (Hypsipyla robusta) on the Wood Anatomical Properties of Plantation Grown African Mahogany Species (Khaya ivorensis A. Chev.” His advisors are Andrew Burton and Andrew Storer.

Biotechnology Research Center

Yiru Chen (SFRES) for “Overexpression of auxin efflux carrier PIN9 gene alters secondary xylem development, gravitropic response and apical dominance in Populus.” Their advisor is Victor Busov.

Natalie Hartman (Biomedical Engineering) for “Vaporized Bioglass Polymer Composites for Interfacial Tissue Regeneration.” Her advisor is Rupak Rajachar.

Sarah Kiemle (Biological Sciences) for “Land Plant Polymer Homologs in Primitive Taxa of the Charophycean Green Algae, Chlorokybus atmophyticus and Klebsormidium flaccidum.” Her advisor is Michael Gretz.