Author: ehgroth

Eric J. Minner Wins First Place Tie, Third Place Award

Eric J. Minner, Biomedical Engineering won a first place tie in the Michigan Tech Graduate Student Council Colloquium and a third place award in the Poster Session in March 2008.

His presentation was: Hydrogel System Delivers Interleukin-10 and Glutathione to Mitigate Spinal Cord Injuries

In photo at left, Eric Minner (right) with Dr. Ryan Gilbert, Biomedical Engineering Department, advisor


Biomed Engineering Undergraduate Named Goldwater Scholar

Sophomore Jared Cregg (Biomedical Engineering), of Eden Prairie, Minn., has been named a 2008 Goldwater Scholar. The scholarship provides $7,500 for tuition, fees, books and room and board.

Under the direction of Assistant Professor Ryan Gilbert (Biomedical Engineering), Cregg is conducting research on the development of novel, tissue-engineered peripheral nerve grafts. Currently, nerve material is harvested from other locations within the body to repair damaged peripheral nerve. Thus, developing synthetic replacements is necessary. Cregg has invented a polymer coating technique that allows for the construction of three-dimensional conduits that direct axonal outgrowth. He has presented his work at the fall 2007 Biomedical Engineering Society meeting.

“Being named a two-year Goldwater Scholar is a great honor; an honor that can be celebrated not only by me, but by my peers and faculty as well,” said Cregg. “It demonstrates Michigan Tech’s strong capacity for undergraduate research in science, math and engineering.”

“Jared entered my lab with no research experience. However, he worked very hard over the summer months to learn his research area. As a sophomore, he is conducting independent research at a graduate-student level,” said Gilbert. “Jared has shown that with some effort and hard work, amazing things can happen in the laboratory. He is an exceptional individual.”

The Goldwater scholarship is one of the most competitive awards an American undergraduate in science or engineering can receive. This year, 321 scholars were named from a field of 1,035 nominations. Only 52 of the scholars are majoring in engineering. The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency that honors the memory of Senator Barry M. Goldwater.

Cregg is also a member of Michigan Tech’s cross-country ski team and plays violin in the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra.


New Faculty Members Fall 2007

Megan C. Frost joins the Department of Biomedical Engineering as an assistant professor. She comes to Michigan Tech from the University of Michigan.

Frost holds a PhD in Chemistry with a Cellular Biotechnology Certificate from the University of Michigan. She also holds an MS in Analytical Chemistry and a BS in Chemistry from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and a BS in Biological Sciences from the University of Notre Dame.

She has taught Quantitative Analysis and General Chemistry at the University of Michigan. She has also coordinated a departmental seminar series, Chemical Sciences at the Interface of Education.

Frost’s research work includes development of nitric oxide releasing biomedical devices with improved biocompatibility, improving the biocompatibility of hydrophobic polymers via nitric oxide release and improving the performance of planar chromatography,

Frost has been published in numerous works including Analytical Chemistry, the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, Biomaterials, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Journal of Chromatography and the Journal of Planar Chromatography.

Frost is a member of the American Chemical Society, the Society for Biomaterials and the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.

Martyn Smith joined the Depart ment of Biomedical Engineering as a part-time adjunct professor in 2005 in addition to serving as the director of distance learning and summer programs. Dr.Smith has been a member of the Michigan Tech faculty in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, serving six years as head of that department. He also was a professor in the Department of Math ematics and Statistics at Winona State University in Minnesota and a member of the faculty of the Mayo School of Health Related Sciences in Rochester, Minnesota. Prior to joining the BME department he was interim dean of the Michigan Tech Graduate School. He has a master’s degree and PhD from Yale and a bachelor’s degree from Montclair State in New Jersey. Dr.Smith has three daughters and lives in Houghton with his wife, Diane, youngest daughter Anna, and their dog, Laika. For the last two summers he has overseen the building of the biomedical engineering cardboard boats for Bridgefest.


New Biomedical Engineering PhD Program is Growing

Now in its third year, our new PhD program has nine graduate students, with women leading the pack five to four. Areas of concentration include biomaterials, tissue engineering, and physiological measurements. Students with a BS or MS degree in engineering, mathematical sciences, the physical sciences, and/or the biological sciences from an accredited college or university are eligible for admission.

Top row l to r: Eric Minner ‘06, Matt Barron ‘03, Meghan McGee ‘05, LauraWalz.
Bottom row l to r: Ee Lim Tan ‘06, Melissa (Brown) Roberts ‘01, Rachel Bradford, Megan Killian ‘05.
Not shown: Matt Nielsen, ’07


Biomed Faculty Dr Ryan Gilbert, Undergraduates Join Superman’s Team

Story by John Gagnon

Ryan Gilbert has what looks like a dog tag hanging on the wall of his office. Affixed to a small chain is an ornament the size of a half dollar. It bears a Superman logo and the words, “Go forward.” The back side reads, “Christopher Reeve Foundation” — a research initiative established to address the paralysis that proved to be a real, super man’s krypton.

Gilbert, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is inspired by the message as he strives to repair spinal cord injuries and allow paralyzed people to use their limbs again. Gilbert immerses himself in tissue engineering to help regenerate nerves after injury to the spinal cord.

This daunting endeavor is met with indomitable spirit. “We keep this going-forward mentality,” Gilbert says of his work and the students helping him. “When you pick research, you want to pick something that can make a difference in people’s lives. Currently there is nothing that can help these patients with spinal cord injuries. I try to make that evident to the students—that what they’re doing might help somebody some day. We have great students.”

Gilbert’s colleague, Jeremy Goldman, also an assistant professor, says that typically in the US undergraduate students don’t get to participate in research or interact with faculty “in a very serious way.” Their duties, he adds, are usually limited to taking out the trash and washing flasks. Not at Tech, and not in biomedical engineering. Goldman’s students, then, like Gilbert’s, are on the cusp of innovation, working with him on the lymphatic system—specifically trying to reduce edema (abnormal swelling).

The students, Goldman says, grow steadily from neophytes to young scientists. “They read the scientific literature and understand the field—so they appreciate the problems and unanswered questions. They formulate hypotheses, design and run experiments, do the histology and surgery on mice, collect and section tissue specimens, photograph cells, collect data, and report results. They rely heavily on the faculty advisor so they don’t go astray. They get to see several things fail before something succeeds.”

The students and faculty comprise a diverse group, bound by discipline and by a dream of a better life for the rest of the world. They also are decidedly collegial, with faculty and students together celebrating lab successes with movies, picnics, and dinners.

“It takes awhile to get them trained, but they’re extremely enthusiastic, they’re very bright, and they find this fun and exciting,” Goldman says. “They’re doing things that are tedious and sometimes boring, but there are parts of it that are exciting and they just soak it all up and they do well. It’s a great relationship. They’re learning and we’re getting research done.”

Students working with Goldman first and foremost encounter his curiosity. “I’ve always been questioning everything around me,” Goldman says. “Never really accepting things, like diseases, as they are—always wondering why they can’t be a different way.” He imparts that probing attitude to his undergraduate researchers, and describes the collective inquiry simply as “stimulating.”

For his part, Gilbert adds, “I have my door always open to students. They can stop by and ask me questions anytime. That frame of mind is not just my own. It’s everybody here.”

All of it ties in with the vision that Chair Michael Neuman has for the department. “We want,” he concludes, “to do something special very well.


A Matter of Life and Death

The Senior Design Project of Andrew Delvaux, Josh Dykla, Chris Rivet, and Matt Trombley, left, earned 1st Place in the Michigan Tech Undergraduate Research competition.

Also View the Senior Design Projects for 2007


Story by John Gagnon

Michigan Tech students have designed and developed a breakthrough in medical care that could save lives in a heartbeat.

One inventive student group has devised a mattress that facilitates faster and more-effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); another bold group ventures to make the mattress a commercial product.

The two groups address a longstanding and critical problem: a standard hospital mattress, with six or more inches of foam, is soft and pliable. Pushing down to administer CPR is like pushing on a big sponge—the force goes into the mattress and not the body.

The current approach to this dilemma is to use a rigid board, called a crash board, which requires rolling the patient over, sliding the board under the torso, repositioning the patient, and performing compressions against this more-firm structure. The procedure is slow, inconvenient, and inefficient.

Mike Neuman, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, decided to put students to this task. A team of four, advised by Ryan Gilbert, assistant professor, came up with a simple solution: Push a button, suck the air out of the foam, and make it firm. A combination of some tubing, a little motor, and a vacuum pump does the job, which takes just ten seconds.

The measure of their success: with a standard mattress, only 43 percent of the CPR load is applied to the heart; with a crash board underneath, that jumps to 52 percent; and with the Tech students’ setup, that leaps to 81 percent.

Not only does the mattress make CPR faster and better, it also collapses the structure of the mattress so that the torso settles lower than the feet, which helps bring blood to the heart and brain. As well, it reduces the exertion and potential for injury on the part of the person administering CPR.

The students who fabricated the mattress won first place in 2007 in a campus exposition of engineering design projects. Chris Rivet, recalls the day. “We were showing it off,” he says, “when a lady came up to us. She was really excited because she was thinking about all the lives we would save.”

That eventuality is not far-fetched. The marketplace for this mattress could be huge. There are 5,700 hospitals in the US. That’s a lot of beds and a lot of mattresses, even if they’re only placed in critical-care units.

The work represents the University’s endeavor to commercialize technology, including innovations developed by students. The mattress initiative has produced interest.

“Their chances of commercial success are high,” says Jim Baker, director of Technology and Economic Development at Michigan Tech. “They have a product, a company, and a market. There are fewer unknowns in this effort than in other successful initiatives.”

One of the students trying to reach that market is Richard Goodell, a junior in scientific and technical communication. He is the point man for communications on this enterprise. He and four other students have demonstrated the mattress at regional hospitals and at Stryker Corporation, a leading medical-device manufacturer in Kalamazoo.

Goodell and other juniors and seniors comprise a multidisciplinary group representing marketing, business, engineering, and communications.

“We all have really strong wills, personalities, and work ethics,” Goodell reports. “We’ve argued and fought but got things done. The team dynamics just worked.”

Some of these students have given up co-ops, internships, and other enterprises to undertake this work. Why the sacrifice? “How often do you get to start your own business?” one asks.

Their goal is to partner with a large company like Stryker, where they demonstrated the mattress in July. They practiced many times for that opportunity. “We know our product,” Goodell says simply.

Enter good fortune. The students found an alumnus who works at Stryker: Doug Harris ’86, vice president for research and development, who helped organize the demonstration.

“They were enthusiastic,” Goodell says of Stryker. “They’re interested in working with us but aren’t entirely sure yet how this project fits in their plans.”

He and his colleagues ride a wave of hope and uncertainty with bated breath. Another prospect they are considering: going to market directly.

In the meantime, Goodell never envisioned such an experience: “I anticipated being a writer or editor, but not this. I never imagined I’d get this kind of opportunity.”

Helping keep him and his colleagues fixed on the goal are Baker and Jonathan Leinonen, program manager at the Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation. Both men have come up with not only encouragement and direction, but also funding to keep the initiative alive. Baker and Leinonen are in the business of creating businesses that create jobs. They interviewed, recruited, and hired all of the students on the marketing team.

Baker adds, “They’re doing all the right things that companies do every day, and some of those companies fail and some of those companies succeed. Regardless of where this effort goes commercially, it’s a success because of the experience and progress the students have already realized.”

The students are a year ahead of schedule. Their progress doesn’t surprise Baker. “They’re bright. They’re diligent. They remain exceptionally focused on the core objective—how to get to the marketplace the quickest.”

That marketplace can be rigorous, and some things are beyond the students’ control as they eye commerce. But everybody involved is encouraged by the possibility that this product might be just what the doctor ordered. If so, Michigan Tech, the student inventors, and the student marketers—all would reap the financial reward. Michigan Tech’s share would be funneled right back into the effort to commercialize other innovative technologies.

It is said that the marketplace is the greatest test of truth. The truth is, Baker concludes, if this project were successful, “It would be a beautiful win.”