Student Research Experiences

Many students in this department have been conducting research with faculty members or have participated in REU programs.Here is what some of these students have to say about their research experiences:

Sarah Brady, Senior:

I participated in the MERIT-BIEN Program hosted at the University of Maryland this past summer (2013). I worked in the MEMS Sensors and Actuators Lab, working closely with the BioMEMS group. This group is aimed at developing systems for manipulating and detecting biomolecules on the micro-scale, offering potential for the creation of miniaturized devices with enhanced abilities to sense contaminants, diagnose diseases, and screen drugs. The goal of my project was to investigate molecular processes involved in an electrochemical biosensor that senses the concentration of a particular drug, clozapine, used in the treatment of schizophrenia. My work contributed to the overall development of the Lab-on-a-Chip device by determining ways in which higher selectivity of the device can be achieved. At the end of the program, I gave an oral presentation of my work as well as presenting a technical poster. I received runner-up for best overall project.

Jadesola Olaoye, Senior:

My project’s title was Doxycycline-Releasing Hernia Mesh My research project was supported by the National Science Foundation REU Program at the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY. May-August, 2013.

Hernia recurrence is associated with abnormal collagen metabolism in the repair tissue. This is caused by the degradation of scar tissue by enzymes called matrix metalloproteinase (MMPs).  Systemic administration of doxycycline has been shown to increase the strength of hernia repair by inhibiting the action of MMPs at the repair site. Project focus was to develop a doxycycline-releasing hernia mesh used to correct the medical defect. Main research work was to develop a coating system for the controlled, localized release of doxycycline from the mesh fabric to the wound site. Project outcomes were:

  • Deposition of doxycycline-loaded coatings onto mesh fabric using select biodegradable polymers: polyvinylpyrrolidone and carboxymethylcellulose (PVP:CMC), cellulose acetate phthalate and Pluronic F-127 (CAP:Pluronic), and poly(lactic-co-glycolic) acid (PLGA).
  • Characterization of the coated mesh through mass, thickness and doxycycline concentration.
  • Measurement of drug release and coating degradation through release studies.

My Research work was presented at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIchE) annual conference, 2013. My Research work was presented at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIchE) annual conference, 2013.

Megha Sinha, Senior:

A brief overview of my research: Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is an increase in mean pulmonary arterial pressure (mPAP) at rest leading to right ventricular failure.  PH is currently diagnosed by performing a right heart catheterization (RHC), which is an invasive and high-risk procedure, to directly measure the pulmonary artery pressure.  The objective of my study was to investigate the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) parameters of the pulmonary artery (PA) as surrogates from RHC diagnosis of PH.  The long term clinical goal is the development of a non-invasive diagnosis and monitoring protocol for pulmonary hypertension .Patient’s with a tricuspid regurgitant jet velocity greater than 2.5 cm/s and scheduled for a RHC were invited to participate in this study. Phase-contrasts (PC) MRI scans were used to measure area and velocity changes over the cardiac cycle using cardiac gating.  The PC images were segmented using an in-house Matlab code utilizing region growing methods.  After segmentation, the area and velocity were calculated.  The MR data was compared to the patient’s RHC data including the mean pulmonary arterial pressure (mPAP) and pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR).  An mPAP greater than 25 mmHg indicated PH and PVR have prognostic significance. Area and velocity measurements from MRI scans were compared to RHC parameters preliminarily investigating the potential clinical use of such measurements in the diagnosis of PH.  The next step will be to conduct CFD analysis on healthy and suspected subjects.  With further research, these findings may be helpful in diagnosing pulmonary hypertension.   

Layne Barefield, Junior:

I am doing research with Dr. Muller Borer. We got a grant from URCA for the next year to conduct this project. The aim of this project is to evaluate the effect of pore size in bioengineered electro-spun mats on stem cell integration and activity.  The overall goal is to optimize tissue-engineering techniques to facilitate stem cell research in simulated 3D tissue microenvironments. The focus of this tissue engineering project is to optimize a simulated 3D tissue microenviorments to facilitate in vitro tissue engineering studies. 

Leela Goel, Sophmore:

I am currently working in ECU’s biomechanics lab, which is part the Department of Kinesiology, under direction of Dr. Paul DeVita.  I am learning a lot about the field of biomechanics and how it relates to biomedical engineering.  Last semester, the study I was working on was the changes in gait characteristics due to gender and load carriage.  The purpose of this study was to determine the differences in gait biomechanics between males and females during load carriage when carrying a standard load on level, incline, and decline surfaces and when changing the position of the load to either low or middle on the back.  I was also the recipient of an ECU Spring 2013 Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (URCA) award.  I presented the results from this study at the 2013 State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research & Creativity Symposium (SNCURCS). 

Amos Coa, Senior:

First, I am working with Dr. Stephanie George on two projects. The first is a validation study comparing computational fluid flow and MRI acquired fluid data. This study allows us to see if a computational fluid model can accurately reconstruct complex blood flow within the body. If it does, then such fluid models could provide insight to the effects of changed blood flow conditions, such as an implanted stent. This project was presented as an oral presentation at both the North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium, and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

The second project involves the construction and testing of a shoulder joint model to serve as a task trainer. This task trainer would be used to practice the procedure of treating a shoulder dislocation, a process referred to as “reduction.” Once tested, this task trainer could be used to accelerate user learning and proficiency through task simulation. This project was presented at the 2012 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting as a poster.

Lastly, I have worked at Iowa State University in the lab of Dr. Jeanne Serb as part of an research experience for undergraduates (REU). My project focused on scallops, a diverse group with over 300 species. Using PCR to amplify target gene regions of scallop tissue samples from Madagascar, a better understanding of scallop evolutionary history can be formed through the development of a molecular phylogeny. This ten week project was funded through the National Science Foundation. This project was presented as a poster at the Iowa State University REU symposium in August 2013.