Category: Students

Cody Tuftee and Victoria Santillan Place at GRC 2024

The Michigan Tech Graduate Research Colloquium (GRC) and Annual Banquet 2024 was held on March 27.

Congratulations to the GRC winners.

Oral Presentation

First Place: Natalie Nold
Second Place: Nithin Allwayin
Third Place: Brilynn Janckila

Poster Presentation

First Place: Jessica Czarnecki
Second Place: Cody Tuftee (BME)
Third Place: Victoria Santillan (BME)

Second Place Poster

Drug Eluting Microgels as an Immunomodulatory Corneal Wound

Authors: Cody Tuftee, Saad Asim, Gary Hin-Fai Yam, Muhammad Rizwan

Poster Extract

  • Corneal damage is one of the leading causes of blindness with less than 1 in 70 victims able to undergo a correctional cornea transplant due to global donor shortages; hence, there is a need to develop synthetic alternatives.
  • Sustained delivery of therapeutic molecules to the cornea proves a challenge due to natural defense mechanisms constantly seeking to clear away foreign materials from the eye.
  • The proposed corneal wound sealant seeks to provide a platform for multiple immunomodulatory drugs to be released at different rates to regulate cornea repair.

Third Place Poster

Study of Breast Cancer Cells under Biophysical and Metabolic Cues

Authors: Victoria Santillan, Samerender Nagam Hanumantharao, Stephanie Bule, Carolynn Que, Brennan Vogl, Marina Tanasova, Smitha Rao

Poster Extract

  • Cancer cell reprogramming is a complex process driven by many factors.
  • By culturing cells in 3 dimensional (3D) scaffolds with specific morphologies, we can study how the behavior between cells and protein expression changes.
  • We studied how the scaffolds affected cell-cell interactions and cell-matrix interactions, in the presence of the probe.

My Story: Carolynn Que, MTUengineer

Carolynn Que at work in Dr. Smitha Rao’s Biomedical MicroDevices Lab. She earned a BS in 2018 and an MS in 2020. She now works as an associate scientist at Regeneron.

Guest Blog: Life in the Lab: Biomedical engineering student Carolynn Que, explains how one hallway conversation changed her career.

I saw an opportunity when my course instructor for Micro- and Nanotechnologies took us on a tour of her lab. The lab was small, but she was proud of it, and I was keenly interested in what she was working on. I told myself that the next day in class, I would ask to join her research group.

I chickened out for two months. Then I happened to run into her in the hallway one day. It was just the two of us and I mustered some courage, counted to three and blurted out the question. I flushed immediately thinking about how clumsy it sounded and patiently awaited her refusal. To my surprise, it never came. Instead she casually agreed to meet with me to discuss a potential project. My first thoughts were that she must be mistaking me with someone else; I had two classes with her and she had to know I’m not at the top of my class. I think she did know but Dr. Smitha Rao gave me a chance — and I haven’t looked back since.

Teamwork makes the dream work — and engineering, too.

After jumping through the necessary hoops and following all protocols to become certified to work in the lab, I found myself responsible for creating polymer solutions using various combinations of solvents and polymers such as polycaprolactone (PCL), polyvinylidene (PVDF) and polyaniline (PANI).

Using these solutions, I fabricate nanofibers using a method known as electrospinning. I change the morphologies of the nanofibers by playing around with the voltage and other parameters. I use these nanofibers as scaffolds, seed cells onto them and monitor cell proliferation and growth, which tells me how the cells behave on the scaffolds and helps me figure out ideal wound dressing parameters. The end goal is that one day this technology will expedite the healing process of diabetic foot ulcers or burn wounds.

Fluorescence illuminates the structure of nanoscaffolds used to grow cell cultures. 

While characterizing the fibers, I have learned how to use several facilities and devices. This includes a dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA) machine for tensile testing in a temperature-controlled environment, a field emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM) used in nanoscale imaging, ultraviolet-visible and Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy for compositional analysis, brightfield and fluorescent imaging. Not to mention the cell culture experience I gained working with several cell lines from cardio myoblasts and adult human fibroblasts to breast epithelial cells of varying malignancies.

The work I do in the lab builds on coursework. Working in the lab helped me understand my coursework better because I could relate it to real-life applications.

And I’m a published author. I am a co-author on a paper published in Materialia with others in the works.

Working in the lab has taught me how to use my resources to solve real problems in need of real solutions, whether it be via poring over existing literature or seeking the knowledge of peers and faculty. It is okay not to know everything, but lab work gave me the confidence to learn and better myself daily. It has also taught me to accept outcomes and results as they are — I may not like them, I may not have expected them, but things are what they are, and I will find a use for them or modify experiments to achieve better outcomes.

Working in the lab restored my confidence in myself and helped me realize GPA is just a number. It’s something I would highly recommend to any student.

Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Smitha Rao

Editor’s note: Carolyn earned her Bachelors and Master’s in Biomedical Engineering at Michigan Tech, and accepted a position as an associate scientist at Regeneron, in New York.

Integrated Molecular Innovations Wins Individual Investment and Cash Prize

Last week, Huskies took their business pitches on the road and won big!

Graduate student Rourke Sylvain (biomedical engineering) and Ali Dabas ‘23 (B.S. Biomedical Engineering) pitched imi (integrated molecular innovations) at the renowned Rice Business Plan Competition. They won $25,000 in prize money for the best pediatric device, sponsored by Southwest National Pediatric Device Innovation Consortium (SWPDC). Sylvain, founder and CEO, and Ali Dabas, co-founder and CTO, pitched a wearable device that revolutionizes health care by eliminating the need for centralized clinical testing. They pitched in two categories. The shorter elevator pitch can be viewed on YouTube.

Congratulations to our student teams! We are proud of your hard work!

By Husky Innovate, Pavlis Honors College.

The Rice Business Plan Competition exists so that student founders pushing to create new possibilities in technology, energy, healthcare and more can surround themselves with a powerful network; learn what it takes to secure investor funding.

Play Integrated Molecular Innovations video
Preview image for Integrated Molecular Innovations video

Integrated Molecular Innovations

Health Research Institute 2023 Summer Fellowship Award for Mohanish Chandurkar

Mohanish Chandurkar Poster
Mohanish Chandurkar stands by his poster at the 2022 Graduate Research Colloquium at Michigan Tech.

The Health Research Institute (HRI) at Michigan Tech is pleased to announce Summer Fellowship awardees for 2023. Congratulations to all recipients!

HRI Summer Fellowship awardees are:

  • Alexander Apostle, Chemistry
  • Mohanish Chandurkar, Biomedical Engineering
  • Catherine Rono, Biological Sciences

HRI Student Fellowships are awarded three times a year. More information can be found on the HRI website.

By the Health Research Institute.

Rourke Sylvain Places in High Tech Growth Category

Congrats to Michigan Tech’s New Venture Challenge Competitors!

Central Michigan University (CMU) and Michigan Tech collaborate each year to offer Michigan Tech students a chance to compete in CMU’s New Venture Challenge (NVC). This gala event provides an opportunity for students at both universities to present their new ventures and to network with prospective investors, mentors and partners. Student contestants compete for over $60,000 in prizes and in-kind services.

On Friday (April 21, 2023), two Michigan Tech teams—Bayle Golden, a graduate student in engineering management, and Rourke Sylvain, a graduate student in biomedical engineering—pitched their innovations in the seven-minute pitch category at NVC and won. Congrats go to both teams! NVC awards are as follows:

  • Bayle Golden (engineering management) won first place in the Social Mission category and received $10,000. Golden won an additional $10,000 for Best Overall Venture for a total of $20,000!
    • “At STEMPOWER we are working to create an integrative STEM experience for young girls through a physical toy line and online STEM community. We believe that we can change the STEM landscape and empower an entire generation of youth.”
  • Rourke Sylvain won third place in the High Tech High Growth category, receiving $2,0000. Sylvain’s pitch was “imi (integrated molecular innovations),” an electrochemical biosensor for T4 detection.
    • “imi revolutionizes health care by eliminating the need for centralized clinical testing. We develop bio wearable devices that provide patients the ability to monitor their hormone levels continuously.”

Congratulations to our Husky Innovate student teams for all their hard work! We are proud of your perseverance and determination to take your ideas to the next level. Your solutions have the potential to make a positive impact for so many.

In preparing for the NVC, the students participated in a number of Husky Innovate workshops and prep sessions. Thank you to the Husky Innovate Teaching Team and the MTEC SmartZone, specifically Jason Mack and Patrick Visser, for their guidance to our teams. A special thanks to Michigan Tech alum Joe Corso ’77 (B.S. Electrical Engineering) for coaching our students and sharing his time and entrepreneurial expertise.

Thanks go to Jim Baker, associate vice president for research administration, and Len Switzer, associate director of partnerships for Enterprise and Senior Design, who attended NVC to support teams, represent Tech and build connections. Thanks to our Husky Innovate sponsors: the Pavlis Honors College, the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, and the College of Business, for their commitment to our students. Lastly, thank you to CMU and our host Julie Messing, director of the Isabella Bank Institute for Entrepreneurship, for the warm welcome and continued partnership.

By Husky Innovate, Pavlis Honors College.

Michigan Tech Entrepreneurs Pitch Off-Site This Week

Two Michigan Tech student teams will pitch their innovations at offsite pitch competitions this week. Jordan Craven will pitch Sizelogic at TCNewTech and Rourke Sylvain and Ali Dabas will pitch imi at the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition. Best of luck to both teams!

Jordan Craven is the founder and CEO of Sizeologic. Sizelogic is committed to improving the online clothing retail industry by providing a comprehensive solution that makes it easier for customers to find clothes that fit them perfectly. Craven is in her fourth year of studying management in information systems and computer science at Michigan Tech. View her TCNewTech collegiate pitch tomorrow (May 9).

The TCNewTech University Pitch Showdown is part of the Northern Michigan Startup Week, a weeklong celebration of entrepreneurship, innovation and the startup community in Northern Michigan.

Rourke Sylvain, founder and CEO of imi (integrated molecular innovations), and Ali Dabas, imi’s co-founder and CTO, are pitching a biowearable device that revolutionizes healthcare by eliminating the need for centralized clinical testing. Their device will provide patients with the ability to monitor their hormone levels continuously.

Sylvain is currently completing an M.S. in biomedical engineering and an M.S. in data science and is transitioning into the Ph.D. program for biomedical engineering at Michigan Tech. Dabas completed a B.S. in biomedical engineering (’23) and has an associate’s degree in math and science.

At the Rice Business Plan Competition, they will present their elevator pitch on May 11 at 6 p.m. and participate in the live finals 15-minute pitch on May 13 at 12 p.m., both of which can be watched on YouTube or at the Rice Business Plan Competition website.

By Husky Innovate, Pavlis Honors College.


Rourke Sylvain To Pitch at Rice Business Plan Competition

Congrats to Rourke Sylvain, who made it through the qualifying rounds of the 2023 Rice Business Plan Competition with his start-up pitch for imi – integrated molecular innovations, an electrochemical biosensor for T4 detection. Rourke is one of 42 teams from colleges across the country who are invited to pitch their start-up idea in person May 11–13 at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Rourke is a graduate student pursuing biomedical engineering. Over the course of the past year, he has steadily worked to hone his pitch and develop his business model for imi. His start-up accomplishments include being a winner at the 2022 New Venture Challenge as well as the 2022 Michigan Collegiate Startup Challenge (MCSD) and being a recent recipient of an NSF I-Corps mini-grant.

By Husky Innovate, Pavlis Honors College.


Rourke Sylvain Places at Michigan Collegiate Startup Challenge

Rourke Sylvain
Rourke Sylvain

On Friday (Nov. 11), four Huskies representing three teams pitched their business ideas at Michigan State University during the Michigan Collegiate Startup Challenge (MCSC). MCSC is Michigan’s university-level business model competition specifically designed for student entrepreneurs across Michigan. MCSC fosters entrepreneurship by encouraging students to commercialize their ideas. MCSC is hosted by Michigan State and sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

The 20 semifinalists participating in Friday’s event included the following Michigan Tech teams:

  • Jordan Craven, Tall and Small Designs
  • Anastasia (Asia) Motta and Zane Smalley, The Droplet
  • Rourke Sylvain, Integrated Molecular Innovations (MS Student, Biomedical Engineering)

During the event, 20 college students representing nine schools from across Michigan pitched their ideas.

Congratulations go out to Jordan Craven and Rourke Sylvain. Craven took first place, winning $5,000, and Sylvain took fourth place, winning $1,000. In addition, Asia Motta, first-place winner of the Husky Innovate Idea Pitch, and Zane Smalley represented Michigan Tech well during their pitch. We are excited for the future and look forward to the next steps on their innovation journeys!

Read more at the Pavlis Honors College Blog, by Jessie Stapleton.

Student Entrepreneur Rourke Sylvain Advances in Global Pitch Competition

Rourke Sylvain
Rourke Sylvain

From an applicant pool of 600 students, Rourke Sylvain, president of Michigan Tech’s chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO), is among the 100 participants selected to compete in the 39th Annual Global Pitch Competition hosted by the University of Tampa. Over the next month, Rourke, who is a graduate student pursuing biomedical engineering, will create a four-phase online investor pitch deck—the problem, the solution, a business model, and a video pitch.

Read more at the Michigan Tech College of Business Newsblog, by Shannon Rinkinen.


HRI 2022 Fall Fellowship Award for Brennan Vogl

Brennan Vogl
Brennan Vogl

The Health Research Institute (HRI) at Michigan Tech is pleased to announce Fall Fellowship awardees for 2022. Congratulations to all recipients.

HRI Fall Fellowship awardees are:

  • Priyanka Kadav, Chemistry
  • Brennan Vogl, Biomedical Engineering
  • Isaac Wedig, Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology
  • Chen Zhao, Applied Computing

HRI Student Fellowships are awarded three times a year. More information can be found on the HRI website.

By the Health Research Institute.