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Inaugural class of WVU biomedical engineers to present senior projects

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 Erin Midkiff is chief engineer on a project that looks at the next generation of intraocular lenses.
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Working in three teams, West Virginia University’s inaugural biomedical engineering class has developed an intraocular lens characterization, software that is about 90 percent accurate in diagnosing lung disease from the sound of a patient’s cough and formulated a printable ink for use in creating the next generation of flexible electrodes for brain recording and stimulation.

Sixteen students in all will showcase their work in an open house, led by chief engineers Meg Neely (Morgantown) and Erin Midkiff (Winfield), Ryan Mezan (Weirton) and Melanie Hott (Augusta). The four are also students in WVU’s Honors College.

Working with Alcon, a global company that specializes in eye care products, Neely, Midkiff and their team will showcase their system for intraocular lens—or IOL—characterization.

“We developed a rotating fixture that can hold and image 4 IOLs,” said Midkiff. “The image processing code we developed can immediately characterize and identify the specific features of the different IOL types.”

Midkiff, who hopes to one day manage a medical device product development team, gained insight into the wide variety of opportunities open to biomedical engineers.

“Through my senior design experience as a chief engineer, I gained valuable leadership and teamwork skills as well as industry experience through frequent conversations with our client, Alcon,” she added.

Neely concurred noting that after she completes her master’s degree in the discipline at Boston University, she plans on working in the medical devices and development industry.

“This project has really helped me to find my passion and work toward my next steps in my career in this field,” Neely said. Other members of their team include Drew Arnett from Fairmont; Christopher Peters from South Riding, Virginia; Adam Palmer from Ravenswood; and Bill Monaghan, from Vanderbilt, Pennsylvania.

Working with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Mezan and his team developed software that was about 90 percent accurate in diagnosing lung disease from the sound of a patient’s cough. The technology may be converted into a mobile platform.

“As the chief engineer and an aspiring medical doctor, this project has allowed me to experience first-hand how research and medicine can be combined to develop new diagnostic tools,” said Mezan, a Goldwater Scholar. “Working on this project has also allowed me to develop new skills as a leader and build relationships with research professionals that I intend to use in the future.”

Joining him on this project were Adam Chivers from Wellsburg; Kristina Sebacher (Honors College) from California, Maryland; Brian Tomblin (Honors College) of Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Kystal Capers of Jackson, New Jersey.

Hott’s team formulated and tested a printable ink composed of a conductive polymer and carbon nanotubes for use in creating the next generation of flexible electrodes for brain recording and stimulation. The ink was then printed on flexible substrates using additive manufacturing. The team, which included Karlee Lobban (Honors College) from Morgantown, Tyler Church from Martinsburg, Austin Alatorre (Honors College) from Parkersburg and Michael Derosa from Huntington, worked with Department faculty as well as mechanical and aerospace engineering faculty.

“This project has strengthened my skills and confidence in conducting and participating in research, and also my ability to communicate and build professional relationships,” Hott said. “This will be valuable as I begin pursuing my Ph.D. in bioengineering at Lehigh University in the fall.”

The senior projects will be showcased at an open house April 26 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in G120 of the Advanced Engineering Research Building on WVU’s Evansdale Campus.

According to Associate Chair Cerasela Zoica Dinu, the event is an opportunity for students to showcase their innovative projects and their applications to a broader audience. 

“We recognize the value to our students and our program to form strong ties with clinicians, industry and government professionals, and we are committed to working with these partners to help us prepare our students for successful careers in biomedical engineering,” said Dinu. “Only through a real-world application of their capstone design experience can students understand how the engineering knowledge base and skill sets acquired during their training at WVU could be put to work for solving a health-related problem.”

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mcd/04/19/17

CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4086, Mary.Dillon@mail.wvu.edu

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