WISE Women Drive Innovative Engineering

By: Shannon Frohme
August 25, 2015

Nine talented, young women gain exceptional research opportunities in the 2015 summer Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Research Experience for Women Undergraduates (REWU) program.

The 12-week WISE-REWU Program encourages talented undergraduate women to partake in ongoing technical and experimental research in order to enhance their comprehension in all aspects of research. From bioprinting skin grafts to delivering medicine on a nano-sized operation, these nine young women spent their summers distinguishing their research abilities at the College of Engineering and Applied Science— Temiloluwa Adeniyi ,Tiffany Brooks, Courtney Collins, Gabrielle Cook, Alexia Gaines, Arushi Gupta, Olivia Hoskins, Amanda Miller, and Gabrielle Notorgiacomo.

Adeniyi working in the biosafety cabinet with a cell culture

Adeniyi working in the biosafety cabinet with a cell culture

3D Skin Graft Bioprinting

Currently in the United States alone, there are 122,565 individuals on the waitlist for an organ transplant, while there are merely 4,759 living donors.1 The amount of individuals waiting for an organ transplant is comparable to the population of Dayton, Ohio. Another individual is added to the wait list every ten minutes.

“For those who are fortunate enough to be transplant surgery candidates, complications with surgery, such as immune rejection and cost can present further obstacles,” explains Temiloluwa Adeniyi, CEAS senior biomedical engineering major and material science minor.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average cost of organ transplant surgery ranges from, “$262,000 for a single kidney, to over $1,148,000 for a heart-lung transplant surgery. The cost for anti-rejection drugs can be as much as $2,500 per month.” 2

Bioprinting, the novel alternative to the financial burden and unreliability of organ transplant surgery, consists of three-dimensionally printing live cells to construct skin grafts. Teaming up with Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering Professor Murali Sundaram, PhD, during her summer WISE research experience, Adeniyi applied her desire to expand patient treatment options by investigating the development of bioprinting technology.

Adeniyi spent 12 weeks in Engineering Research Center’s (ERC) Micro and Nano Manufacturing Lab with a multi-disciplinary team encouraging her to innovate user-specified computer-aided design (CAD) for constructing skin grafts. Skin grafts are used for tissue and organ transplants, but also have the potential to positively impact patients suffering from chronic diabetic ulcers, as well as burn victims.

The complexities of creating 3D cells and skin tissue require C.A.D. and mathematical models in order to digitally synthesize the architectural information.3 Adeniyi’s contribution to the team’s efforts consisted of, “making the iterations of the C.A.D. design, developing the code to run the hardware and assisting in the construction of the initial prototype,” she explains.

Attaining hands-on experience working with a multidisciplinary team of distinguished CEAS researchers propelled Adeniyi’s understanding of how diverse teams come to conclusions in the real world. She describes the collaborative discoveries and new realities of the team’s bioprinting research, “We discovered that a multi-syringe pump system is most advantageous for maintaining cell viability, controlling bio-printing parameters and supporting the diverse cell population that facilitates skin growth.”

Adeniyi and Mentor Murali, Sundaram, Phd.

Adeniyi and Mentor Murali, Sundaram, Phd.

Adeniyi breaks down the three significant findings and applications of bioprinting technology development:

  • Bioprinting will reduce the number of individuals internationally impacted by the immense shortage of organ donors.
  • Additionally, the bioprinting C.A.D. will improve organ models for biomedical-industrial research.
  • Ultimately this technology will decrease the cost associated with organ transplant surgery.

“The WISE experience allowed me to understand research in the real world, which closely resembles a corporate setting, where individuals from different fields commonly work together. I am thankful for the tremendous opportunity to develop community with the women in the program, especially Dr. Ghia, Chair of the WISE program,” reflects Adeniyi.

Collins injects a sample into dialysis cassettes to test for leakage

Collins injects a sample into dialysis cassettes to test for leakage

Nanoparticles Keep Cancer in Check

Expecting to graduate in the spring of 2016, Courtney Collins, a biochemistry major, mathematics and communication minor, joined forces and worked alongside Professor Yoonjee Park, PhD, during her WISE summer experience. Collins found inspiration in the enduring research on nanoparticle drug deliverance by Professor Park, Department of Biomedical, Chemical and Environmental Engineering. “I was very lucky to be placed with Dr. Park in the WISE program. Throughout the summer, she was a wonderful mentor to me—she taught me laboratory techniques and procedures, and also encouraged me to think critically and independently,” says Collins.

Nanoparticles undergone targeted, high-power laser induced phase transition

Nanoparticles undergone targeted, high-power laser induced phase transition

Ecstatic to branch out of her comfort zone, whilst applying the foundations of her major, Collins elaborates, “Biochemistry majors couple biology—the science of life-- with chemistry to apply chemical processes as they apply to biological systems.” With Professor Park, she took a journey into the infinitesimal world of nanoparticles, specifically double gold-emulsion nanoparticles, and their ability to act as drug vehicles. The nanoparticles are enhanced with contrast components which improve their visibility in x-rays and CT scans. When stable, the nanoparticles can be externally triggered by ultrasound waves to fuel the controlled drug release.

However pertinent in a variety of medical treatments such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, Collins explains how this research took a different approach, “This research applies nanoparticle drug deliverance to the treatment of retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye that almost exclusively affects very young children.” Current chemotherapy treatments are not entirely effective. This is due to the vitreous seed fall-off, explains Collins, “These small tumors, known as vitreous seeds, break off from the larger tumor and float in the fluid in the eye. Current treatment methods are not targeted enough to reach these seeds.” Nanoparticles that have been targeted with high-power laser induced phase transition can target the vitreous seeds in a controlled manner, preventing the cancer from growing and spreading.

Collins and Dr. Park discuss optimal techniques for particle synthesis

Collins and Dr. Park discuss optimal techniques for particle synthesis

Collins concludes, “Additionally, since the particles would be triggered to release the drug externally, invasiveness could be reduced since multiple injections would not be required.”

Reflecting upon the 12-week summer research experience, Collins states, “WISE allowed me the opportunity to conduct research in an area outside of my major, and gain valuable insight from my mentor, Dr. Park, on personal and professional development.”

Alexia Gaines, sophomore participant in both WISE-REWU and Protégé summer research opportunities, worked alongside Professer Leyla Esfandiari, PhD, on the design and development process of handheld sensors that detect and diagnose medical conditions through DNA strand identification. Read more about Protégé summer research program here.

The WISE program is led by Urmila Ghia, PhD, Chair of the program and has been offering annually, since 1999, workshops on the research process, leadership skills, learning styles business etiquette and preparation for graduate school. For 12 weeks during the summer, students work with a CEAS faculty research on projects in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, Nursing, Pediatrics, and Science and Health (Clermont).

1 "Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network." OPTN:. United States Department of Health and Human Services, 28 July 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

2 "Organ Transplantation: The Process." Organdonor.gov. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 09 Aug. 2015.

3 http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v32/n8/full/nbt.2958.html