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The Pioneer Newsletter is brought to you by the students, faculty, and staff of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The newsletter staff and its collaborators strive to bring you the latest news from all aspects of the BME community. To submit articles, opinions, ideas, or events for publication and for more information about the newsletter, please visit:

Inside this issue: A Career Exploration: Two Other Pre-Health Professions


Arthritis Simulation Gloves Aid Design Of Easy-To-Use Products


Interning in Ireland Zach Hughes


Alumni Spotlight: John Brumfield, Sales Representative


Events & Deadlines March’s Events, Scholarships, and Other Opportunities!


Volume IV, Issue 6

Attacking Cancer Cells: With Hydrogel Nanoparticles

By David Terraso


ne of the difficulties of fighting cancer is that drugs often hit other noncancerous cells, causing patients to get sick. But what if researchers could sneak cancerfighting particles into just the cancer cells? Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Ovarian Cancer Institute are working on doing just that. In the online journal, BMC Cancer, they detail a method that uses hydrogels - less than 100 nanometers in size - to sneak a particular type of small interfering RNA(siRNA) into cancer cells. Once in the cell the siRNA turns on the programmed cell death the body uses to kill mutated cells and help traditional chemotherapy do it’s job...

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Hydrogen nanoparticles. (Photo: Andrew Lyon)

Pioneering New Ideas:

Your Degree: 11 A Ticket to the World, The Travels of Boon Heng Faculty Spotlight: Steve Potter, Ph.D.

March 2010


And More !

Brock Wester, Graduate Student

By Dhruv Vishwakarma


eorgia Tech graduate and current Georgia Tech Ph.D. student, Brock Wester, has quite a bit under his belt. During his Ph.D., which involves research in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory Univeristy, he has managed to co-found and pioneer Nanogrip Technologies Inc. along with four other Georgia Tech alums, James Ross Ph.D., Swami Rajaraman Ph.D., Ashley Halkyard, and Tom O’Brien, and one of his coadvisors, Mark Allen Ph.D. As a part of the biological wing of the Advanced Technology A sampling of various tips offered for novel microtools developed Development Center (ATDC) VentureLabs by Nanogrip Technologies Inc., a company co-founded by Ph.D. located in the basement of the ES&T... student Brock Wester, a member of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech. (Photo: Nanogrip Technologies Inc.)

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“That’s So BME!”

By You!

Voices From The Student Body

“I threw snowballs at the windows of the ES&T building. The grad students were not happy. :)” - BMESniper “I thought the sign about deleting desktop icons and eating in the lab was a prank... until they came in, took my cup of coffee, and put it on the table outside the computer lab.” - Caffeinecraverrrrr “When I lost my buzzcard playing in the snow, I panicked because I no longer had lab access so that I could feed my cells.” - Lab Lemming

Want yours here? Submit your “That’s so BME!”s to:


Staff Members Editors in Chief Willa Ni Chun Yong Staff Writers Joseph Abrahamson Jerome Choo Eric Huang Nancy Kim Andrew Lei Stacie Leung Ruobin Ling Graham McAdory Elaina McLean Aswin Natarajan Ayesha Patel Karan Patel Elina Sarmah Rosemary Song Dhruv Vishwakarma Layout Editors Kevin Lam Annie Macedo Webmaster Elysia Hwang

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Faculty Sponsor Wendy Newstetter Editors Nida Dharani Kanav Jain Nikolaus Shrum Photographers Debika Mitra Kelli Koenig Gopi Patel Kiersten Peterson Collaborators Karen Adams Don Fernandez Paul Fincannon Sally Gerrish Karen Harwell Jennifer Kimble Megan McDevitt Adrianne Proeller Shannon Sullivan David Terraso John Toon Abby Vogel

A Couple of Words From the Editors in Chief


s the promise of spring rinses the tang of midterms from the air, another upcoming season brings mixed emotions: summer. The remaining half a semester of hurdles distance those humid days, but summer planning is well under way. Hopefully the content this newsletter brings you has opened your eyes to the opportunities that are not only available, but completely achievable to students. The choices are many: internships, study abroad, co-op, research, or classes. Experience of each of these paths has crossed the pages of The Pioneer at least once. Despite our relatively short history, the archives available on the website hold an exploration of those choices. As each semester passes, those archives will fill with your stories and advice. We thank all the students, professors, industry members, and staff who have taken the time to help us create this record. We also thank the collaborators and advisors for their continued support, enthusiasm, impromptu brainstorming sessions, ideas, and time. With the Coulter Department's innovative curriculum, dedicated professors, and eager students, we have a culture. The Pioneer not only strives to communicate this culture, but to also embrace this unique and oftentimes quirky character we know as BME. Yours sincerely,

Chun Yong and Willa Ni Editors in Chief The Pioneer

A Brief Career Exploration GT’s Pre-Health Advisor Discusses Two Unique Health Professions


want to be a doctor, so I can combine my love of helping people with my biomedical engineering degree.” If I have to read that sentence in one more pre-med student’s personal statement, I may jump out of the glass-covered opening to the outside of my first floor office! I am not implying that there is anything wrong with wanting to help people and apply your knowledge of biomedical engineering. The issue is that almost every premed BME student uses this line in their personal statements. If you want to help people and use your BME degree, you should design drug-eluting heart stents. I am sure the human owners of those clogged arteries would find that extremely helpful! Many entering Tech students have a limited knowledge of the health professions. They know what doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and maybe optometrists do, but that’s the limit. There are over 200 health professions out there. Allow me to highlight two you might not be so familiar with. Prosthetist or Orthotists What a wonderful way to apply your engineering background to helping people! In a nutshell, a prosthetist meets with a patient to measure/design a devise to replace a lost limb. An orthotists creates a device to aid a patient’s current limb. For example, an orthotist might create a knee brace for an ACL tear. You can be certified in both. Many Tech students are surprised to hear that the first Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (MSPO) in the

US is at Georgia Tech! For more information, visit the MSPO website at and the national website at Podiatrists Students who are interested in surgery, yet want to develop strong patient relationships, might be interested in podiatry. As a podiatrist, you might do patient consultations three days of the week and spend the last two days doing surgeries. A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine spends his/ her four years in medical school learning about the whole body, but really focusing on the foot and ankle. After medical school, a podiatrist does a 3-ish year long residency that focuses on surgery and patient consultations. It’s interesting to note that since not many students know about podiatric medicine, there aren’t 40,000+ applicants (like M.D. applicants)! Instead approximately 1000 applicants vie for almost 600 seats. The average salary for a podiatrist is about $189,000 and is a field with high career growth. Please go to to learn more and contact a mentor! I hope this has made you start thinking either about why you really want to be a doctor/pharmacist/physician assistant/etc. or what other possibilities are out there in health care. I enjoy doing career exploration with you; after attending a Mandatory Pre-Health Advising workshop, please make an appointment at:

By Jennifer Kimble

Upcoming Workshops Mandatory pre-health workshops are now being offered. Please attend at least one of these before scheduling a one-on-one meeting with Jennifer Kimble. General tips and guidelines for your health professional school application will be discussed: Mar 11, 4:00 PM, Pres. Suite A Additional workshops will also be held for those applying for Fall 2011 entry. This month, Kimble will be discussing how to write effective personal statements for your applications: Mar 1, 4:00 PM, Pres. Suite A Mar 9, 11:00 AM, Clary Theatre Mar 10, 6:00 PM, Clary Theatre Mar 18, 4:00 PM, Pres. Suite A All workshops are located in the Student Success Center.

For more information on advice and upcoming workshops, contact GT’s pre-health advisor, Jennifer Kimble at:

Available Academic Support Services Struggling with your classes? Want to do better? With half the term already over, attend some of these workshops which might help you get that A! “Overcoming the Stressors of Procrastination and Perfectionism” March 4 - 11 AM, Main Library (Wilby Room, Ground Floor) “Playing GAMES with Your Study Skills” March 15 - 6 PM, North Avenue Apartments Learning Center March 16 - 6 PM, Hefner Hall Learning Center March 16 - 7 PM, Brittain Rec

BME Advisors Kim Paige / Freshmen Advisor Paul Fincannon / Student Advisor Sally Gerrish / Industrial Advisor Shannon Sullivan / Graduate Advisor Schedule an appointment at:

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Hydrogel Nanoparticles from Page 1 Many cancers are characterized by an over abundance of epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR). When the EGFR level in a cell is elevated it tells the cell to replicate at a rapid rate. It also turns down apoptosis, or programmed cell death. “With our technique, we’re inhibiting EGFR’s growth with small interfering RNA. And by inhibiting it’s growth, we’re increasing the cells’s apoptotic function. If we hit the cell with chemotherapy at the same time, we should be able to kill the cancer cells more effectively,” said John McDonald, professor at the School of Biology at Georgia Tech and chief research scientist at the Ovarian Cancer Institute. Small interfering RNA is good at shutting down EGFR production, but once inside the cell siRNA has a limited life span. Keeping it protected inside the hydrogel nanoparticles allows them to get into the cancer cell safely and acts as a protective barrier around them. The hydrogel releases only a small amount of siRNA at a time, ensuring that while some are out in the cancer cell doing their job, reinforcements are held safely inside the nanoparticle until it’s time to do their job.

“It’s like a Trojan horse,” said L. Andrew Lyon, professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech. “We’ve decorated the surface of these hydrogels with a ligand that tricks the cancer cell into taking it up. Once inside, the particles have a slow release profile that leaks out the siRNA over a timescale of days, allowing it to have a therapeutic effect.” Cells use the messenger RNA (mRNA) to generate proteins, which help to keep the cell growing. Once the siRNA enters the cell, it binds to the mRNA and recruits proteins that attack the siRNA-mRNA complex. But the cancer cell's not finished; it keeps generating proteins, so without a continuous supply of siRNA, the cell recovers. Using the hydrogel to slowly release the siRNA allows it to keep up a sustained attack so that it can continue to interrupt the production of proteins. “We’ve shown that you can get knock down out to a few days time frame, which could present a clinical window to come in and do multiple treatments in a combination chemotherapy approach,” said Lyon. “The fact that this system is releasing the siRNA slowly, without giving the cell

time to immediately recover, gives us much better efficiency at killing the cancer cells with chemotherapy,” added McDonald. Previous techniques have involved using antibodies to knock down the proteins. “But oftentimes, a mutation may arise in the targeted gene such that the antibody will no longer have the effect it once did, thereby increasing the chance for recurrence,” said McDonald. The team used hydrogels because they’re non-toxic, have a relatively slow release rate, and can survive in the body long enough to reach their target. “It’s a well-defined architecture that you’re using the intrinsic porosity of that material to load things into, and since our particles are about 98 percent water by volume, there’s plenty of internal volume in which to load things,” said Lyon. Currently, the tests have been shown to work in vitro, but the team will be initiating tests in vivo shortly.

David Terraso is a media relations specialist in the GT Communications & Marketing Office and a collaborator of The Pioneer.

Arthritis Simulation Gloves Aid Design Of Easy-to-Use Products

By Abby Vogel


s the U.S. population ages, manufacturers of consumer goods are realizing that many customers may not be as nimblefingered or sharp-sighted as they once were. To help product designers and engineers address those changing requirements, researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have been developing evaluation methods and design techniques to identify and address the needs of all consumers, including those with functional limitations. GTRI’s latest product is a pair of arthritis simulation gloves, which reproduce the reduction in functional capacity experienced by persons with arthritis. The gloves help those responsible for consumer products better understand how arthritis affects a person’s ability to grasp, pinch, turn, lift and twist objects. “A product manager or designer can put these gloves on and attempt to open their company’s products or packaging,” explained GTRI principal research scientist Brad Fain. “If they are unable to open a product or package, then chances are high that people with moderate to severe symptoms of arthritis will also have difficulty opening it.” The gloves can be used with a variety of consumer products, including medicine bottles, beverage containers, office supplies, medical devices, vehicles, cell phones and many other consumer products. They can also be used with many different types of packaging, including clamshell packages, cardboard boxes, cereal containers and foil packages.

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GTRI principal research scientist Brad Fain holding up a pair of arthritis simulation gloves. (Photo: GTRC / GIT)

Arthritis Simulation from Page 4 Three companies, including Kraft Foods, are currently using the gloves inhouse.

tional purposes. The gloves can be purchased alone, or as part of GTRI’s disability awareness kit, which also includes a low-vision simulation kit, a finger strength simulation kit and a

sensitivity issues and age-related macular degeneration. “A product manager can put the glasses on and observe products to see if he or she can read important things written in small print, like instructions or an expiration date,” added Fain. In the future, many baby boomers will likely demand the same access to products that they currently have -- even as their functional abilities decline. “These older individuals will attribute any inability to open or use a product with deficiencies in the product itself,” added Fain. “That message or perception can be detrimental to companies because they want to avoid being associated with a product that’s difficult to use. The arthritis simulation gloves and the rest of the items in the disability awareness kit can help companies avoid these design mistakes.” Abby Vogel is a communications officer in the GT Research News & Publications Office and a collaborator of The Pioneer.

While wearing the arthritis simulation gloves, GTRI principal research scientist Brad Fain tries to open a medicine bottle. (Photo: GTRC / GIT)

“Maxwell House always keeps our consumers’ needs in mind when designing packaging,” said Linda Roman, senior group leader for packaging strategic research at Kraft Foods. “For example, we used the gloves created by the Georgia Tech Research Institute to verify that the lid on our new instant coffee jar is accessible for those who have difficulty opening jars with regular caps. The gloves helped us evaluate the EZ Grip lid to be sure that our lid is, in fact, easy for our consumers to use.” The gloves were designed to reduce a wearer’s functional ability to grasp something and either pull or rotate it by 33-50 percent. They also stiffen an individual’s finger joints and restrict the range of motion of his or her fingers. To create the finger stiffness and reduced finger strength experienced by individuals with arthritis, the gloves were designed with metal wires between layers of neoprene and other fabrics. In addition to identifying ease of use issues with products, the gloves are also intended to raise awareness about issues faced by people with disabilities and to support programs focused on ease of use in design. Currently, the Arthritis Foundation in the United States and Arthritis Australia are using the gloves for such educa-

Kraft Foods used GTRI’s arthritis simulation gloves to verify that the Maxwell House instant coffee EZ Grip lid was accessible by consumers who have difficulty opening jars with regular caps. (Photo: GTRC / GIT)

CD training program. The finger strength simulation kit consists of finger exercises that are calibrated to certain amounts of force recommended for packaging and the training program teaches individuals how to use the gloves. The low-vision simulation kit contains a pair of glasses that simulate common visual disabilities, including various degrees of cataracts, visual acuity problems, contrast

For more information about the arthritis simulation gloves or the disability awareness kit, please visit:

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Interning in Ireland: BME Undergraduate Student Zach Hughes


urviving in a foreign country alone holds a romantic sense of adventure. This promise of a journey drives students to go abroad and live amongst people with a different way of life, eat unfamiliar foods, and experience their culture to come back with stories. In this issue, Zach Hughes shares his journey with The Pioneer. His story starts in his Systems Physiology class in his junior year where he first heard of an opportunity to work abroad. Hughes applied for the program knowing only that he would get an internship abroad; where it would be, however, was unknown. A few months later, he found out - Ireland. He had landed a five-month paid internship with Seimens Healthcare Diagnostics which would start in the fall of his senior year. The project which Hughes was concerned with was working on improving the performance and longevity of a cellcounter device. “It’s something really related to biomedical engineering… So my

chemistry classes and statistics were useful… but it was more about being able to piece together information you already knew than scholastic learning.” One project that Hughes and his team managed to successfully tackle was in eliminating the blockage caused by the acrylic blocks in the counter. However, for Hughes, “the most memorable part of the trip had to be traveling through Europe.” His travels included N. Ireland, Scotland, London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Sienna, Barcelona and Rome. Modestly, Hughes admits, “Well I didn’t really do anything overly adventurous but there definitely were things I saw that were personally significant. But I loved the Cliffs of More which is just an insanely beautiful place.” Genuine excitement colors Hughes' narration as he continued to describe all the places he had seen – from the intricate “forest of stone” of the Sangrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona to simply walking around in the streets of London. Hughes also takes note of the

By Aswin Natarajan small idiosyncrasies he found in Europe. “Europeans have a real sense of importance for leisure time so that’s something I’d take back to America,” mentions Hughes. As an example he points out that “in Europe, they expect you to know what to order [in a restaurant], but it would be considered very rude for them to bring you a check unsolicited.” When asked what aspect of going abroad affected him the most, Hughes asserts, “It lets me keep my options open. You get to see things differently because you realize that there are different options outside of what you were used to. You also gain a sense of confidence because you’re in a country all alone and after the experience you know that you can take care of yourself.” Hughes, who plans on getting a doctorate, will be applying to schools in Europe as well as schools in the United States. Aswin Natarajan is an undergraduate student in the Coulter Department.

To Those Of You Too Unfocused To Finish This Article… This One Is For You


he laptop loungers, the tenacious texters, this author wants to recognize the daydreamers bold and doodlers proud. The the head-nodders; the lecturenappers; the Facebook-obsessee; and even the folk who spend all their time listening to music in just one ear. Now that I've got all your divided attention, I want to ask something: How in the world are we going to survive?

Biomedical engineering, last I checked, was 132 semester-hours of group projects, intense lab work, and lectures designed to lightly cover some core material from, oh say, double-E and then ask you full-scale homework and test problems. It's not for the faint of heart. It gets worse, too. Engineering and science are held up by the kind of people who spend years drawing blood vessels on kidneys, obsessively specifying the color of every one of 13M screws in a rocket engine, or observing orangutan mating calls. Our generation, growing up in the toxic “information age” populated by blackberries, Facebook notifications, twittering and

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texting, is heavily (and rightfully) criticized with possessing extraordinarily short attention spans; the engineers of the future are --Wait. Yeah, okay. Sorry: had to check my email. Research has generally been on the side of attention. Some of the strongest support came from the late 80s where the concept of “being in the zone” or “possessing Flow” was studied and popularized by psychology researcher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, and recent studies in market research don't really seem to be improving the sentiment. Baba Shiv, marketing psych researcher at Stanford's Business School, has been performing experiments that seem to show that distracted people are weaker decision makers. When faced with a choice between a healthy, delicious fruit salad and a rich, chocolately, and ostentatiously crisco-derived chunk of chocolate cake, people strongly preferred the cake when distracted by thoughts of their own mortality or extra-long phone numbers. But at the same time, you might think

By Joseph Abrahamson that someone who can effectively context switch, jump from remembering some inconsequential Swedish phone number to carefully considering their choice of daily snack are actually better adapted to this kind of world. BME is hoping to teach us to use our “multidisciplinary background to foster communication across professional and disciplinary boundaries” which also sounds a whole lot like a challenge of context switching. Maybe we're not all that bad off. Maybe we're actually just practicing for the demands of the real world. So, professors, next time you see rows 4 through 13 idly typing away at their computers and smiling just a bit too much, even for the oft-understated joys of PDEs -- I know, I know --- consider that we're just preparing our minds to integrate your material within the variegated context of biomedicine. Or maybe just send out the lecture notes on facebook. Joseph Abrahamson is an undergraduate student in the Coulter Department.

Alumni Spotlight: John Brumfield, Sales Representative

By Nancy Kim

Brumfield is currently a sales representative at St. Jude’s J ohn Medical. During his undergraduate years at Tech, Brumfield took part in the BME Student Advisory Board and was one of the founders for BMES. Brumfield also participated in research and later on had the opportunity to be one of the founders of Zenda Technologies, an Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) company, as an undergraduate. During his time at Tech, he worked as a project manager for Zenda Technologies in developing the technology of detecting concussions. This later on developed into a product that detects Alzheimer’s Disease. Brumfield's experience at Zenda Technologies later lead him to discover an unknown passion of his: business. Throughout his four years at Tech, Brumfield focused on going to medical school. However, after discovering his passion for business, he decided to set aside medical school for a while and focus on the business route. After graduating from Tech, he became an affiliated faculty member of the Georgia Tech BME department. Then for a year he helped run clinical courses at Grady and managed the start-up company, Zenda Technologies. One day, Brumfield was giving a tour of the BME building to the representatives of St. Jude Medical. The employees had come to interview students for various positions and decided to interview him as well. Soon Brumfield was on a plane to Chicago to get trained for his new career as an engineer for St. Jude Medical.

John Brumfield is an alumni of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. (Photo: John Brumfield)

John Brumfield conducting a tour of a BME lab. (Photo: GTRC / GIT)

Currently, as a sales representative in the cardiac rhythm management division, Brumfield has to make sure that a certain amount of revenue and customers’ needs are being met. He also does technical work as in implanting medical devices into patients. When asked about his everyday work, Brumfield explains that each day differs. Some days, he would work multiple surgeries and have clinic hours. On other days, he may only work one surgery. One of his most memorable experiences while he was working at St. Jude’s Medical was implanting a pacemaker into a newly born baby. He clearly remembers the day of July 4, 2007 rushing to a

children’s hospital not knowing that a team of seven to eight surgeons were going to ask him, 18 months out of college, what they should do to a 28 week term baby. The heart rate of the baby was 30 beats per minute (bpm) when it is supposed to be around 120 bpm to 130 bpm. While the surgeons performed an immediate Csection, Brumfield used his problem-solving skills he had acquired to implant a pacemaker into the premature baby. Correct placement and coiling of the pacemaker leads were some of the critical factors to consider during this procedure. As for advice, Brumfield suggests, “Do as many taste testings as you can!” He encourages the undergraduates especially the freshmen to get involved, do research, study abroad, co-op and embark on various other experiences for they can later open doors to many opportunities. Brumfield especially encourages students to talk with industry members, faculty members and upperclassmen about BME to get a sense of what they are going into. To upperclassmen, no matter what people say about the limited job opportunities, “Don’t be discouraged!” There are jobs out there for BMEs. Be open to various types of jobs, and be ready to present yourself as a biomedical engineer. Nancy Kim is an undergraduate student in the Coulter Department.

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March Events & Deadlines March 2 - BMES: Internship Workshop Need advice on building a resume or tips for having a successful interview? Assistant Director of the Internship Program, Ann Blasick, is holding a workshop for BMES members. 11:00-12:00 PM, Whitaker 1103. March 4 - Nationally Competitive Scholarships Information Session Learn valuable information about scholarship and fellowship opportunities available to both undergraduates and graduates, including Fulbright, Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Gates, Churchill, Truman, Goldwater, Udall, and NSF. Everyone is welcome! Hosted by Dr. Karen Adams. 11:00 AM, Student Success Center Suite A. March 7-10 - Heart Valve Biology & Tissue Engineering Meeting Register for the 4th Biennial Heart Valve Biology & Tissue Engineering Meeting at Hilton Head, SC, at March 9 - Presenting With Power Learn how to effectively and dynamically communicate your research in this interactive workshop led by Ms. Christina Bourgeois. Participants will leave the workshop with a working draft of their PowerPoint slides and concrete tips. 11:00-12:00 PM, Student Success Center, Suites C & D. Register by emailing: March 10-14 - Annual Hilton Head Regenerative Medicine Workshop Register for the 14th Annual Hilton Head Workshop at Hilton Head, SC, at March 11 - Standard Practices and Standards of Excellence in Posters Several research posters used in the past will be examined and commented on their design. Students will also learn tips on how to effectively convey their research in a poster setting. Led by Dr. Jeff Donnell. 11:00-12:00 PM, Student Success Center Room 319. Register to attend by emailing: March 16 - IBB Breakfast Club Join Valeria Milam, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Materials Science & Engineering, in her seminar “Colloidal Particles as Substrates for Double-Stranded Probes.� Continental breakfast will be provided. 8:30-9:30 AM, IBB 1128. March 16 - BMES: Election Meeting Vote for BMES officers for the upcoming academic year! Those interested in running for positions should email Rafeed Chaudhury at 11:00-12:00 PM, Whitaker 1103. March 17 - BMES: March Cookout GT BMES is holding a cookout in the quad behind the Whitaker building. Members receive the Spring 2010 BMES T-shirt and are welcome to have hot dogs and hamburgers! Non-members may resister for new membership. 4:00 -6:00 PM, Biotechnology Quad behind Whitaker. March 18 - Young Innovators Seminar Join Lingchong You, Ph.D., assistant professor of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University. 11:00-12:00 PM, Whitaker 1103. March 22-26 - Spring Break March 30 - Bioengineering Seminar Join James E. Moore, Ph.D., for his bioengineering seminar. 11:00 AM, IBB 1128. March 30 - BMES: Edwards Lifesciences Edwards Lifesciences, global leader in heart valves and hemodynamic monitoring, headquartered in California, will be recruiting students for their company. If you are interested in industry after graduation, come to Whitaker 1103 at 11:00 AM!

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NeuroTalks The director of the Laboratory for Neuroengineering, Steve Potter, Ph.D., invites you to join in biweekly seminars. Two Neurolab researchers, undergraduate and graduate, will present a 20-minute informal talk followed by a 10minute discussion. Lunch will be provided. Upcoming sessions in February are as follows: March 12, 1:00-2:00 PM March 26, 1:00-2:00 PM Contact Dr. Potter for more information on location and opportunities to present:

2010 Pre-Teaching Summer Undergraduate Experience The 2010 Pre-Teaching Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (P-T SURE) is a paid research experience in a Tech engineering, science, math or technology lab. In addition to the gaining research experience, students who are considering careers in K-12 education are paired with current math/ science teachers to engage in research and to develop plans for integrating this research experience into the K-12 curriculum. P-T SURE students may also have the opportunity to work with high school students in the labs. Applications are due March 15. For additional information and application instructions, visit: All events are subject to change. For more updates on locations and times, please visit:

Want to promote your organization? Advertise an event? Post an important deadline or opportunity? Email all submissions to:

Join the Georgia Tech Biomedical Engineering Society today! Meet new people in your department, learn about the biomedical engineering industry, and attend numerous seminars hosting BME alumni and company representatives from around the country! Fill out an application now! More info can be found at:

The Innovative STEM Foundation is proud to bring you the 3rd Annual Innovative STEM Conference. The Innovative STEM Foundation is committed to creating and sustaining a pipeline of students that will become this country's next generation of leading scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathemeticians. The three day conference will be held in Morgan State University from March 11-13, 2010. For more information, visit:

The University of Maryland School of Public Health Summer Training and Research (STAR) program is designed to provide traditionally underrepresented undergraduate students with 2 consecutive summers of a 10 -week research training and career development program. The program’s goal is to enhance trainees’ potential to become a biomedical or behavioral scientist in research areas relevant to preventing and treating cardiovascular disease. The application deadline is March 15th! For more information, visit:

For the fourth consecutive year, ThinkSwiss will select 15 talented and motivated U.S. students from all fields of study who apply for a research project at a Swiss university or research lab. The awardees will receive a monthly stipend of $1000 for a period of up to three months. Become a fan of ThinkSwiss on Facebook and you will receive more information about the scholarships, events and Switzerland. The deadline for applications is March 31, 2010.

For a complete listing of undergraduate and graduate opportunities, visit:

For more information, visit:

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Brock Wester from Page 1 building, Nanogrip has made significant innovations and improvements in the field of micromanipulation and its applications in a biological environment, as well as other areas like optics and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). As necessity is the mother of invention, Nanogrip Technologies Inc. grew out of a need for a micro-scale tool to perform specific operations that were not available on the market. Three Ph.D. students at the time, James Ross, Yoonsu Choi, and Brock Wester, developed a form of microtweezer technology that is interchangeable across many control platforms, which increases viability of commercialization and a larger market share. This technology, along with assistance from Georgia Tech and ATDC, led to the birth of Nanogrip Technologies Inc. Wester explains, “We decided to create a tool that would do what we needed. We built it. There was a patent put around that technology, and that patent turned into the company.” The primary product of Nanogrip Technologies Inc. is a microtweezer system. Originally developed as a simple blunt microtool for basic micromanipulation, customer input has lead to a plethora of Nanogrip microtweezer tips, each with its own application. The tips, composed of a Nickel-Chromium alloy, are all very accurately modeled based on their predetermined geometries as well as reactions to external forces. Generally, this allows for precise measurements of the forces exhibited at the tip. Biologically, this allows for more precise understanding of

Brock Wester, Ph.D. student of Georgia Tech and cofounded of Nanogrip Technologies Inc. (Photo: GTRC / GIT)

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The Mt-x-NI series microtools is able to open from 0-350 microns. (Photo: Nanogrip Technologies Inc.)

cell material properties and the ability to perform stress-strain testing. This leads to a variety of applications such as injury threshold testing, which examines the strain exerted on a cell versus a change in behavior, be that cell death or a modification in activity like a change in electrical activity for neurons. Nanogrip has also developed its own proprietary manufacturing process that allows for rapid changes to geometries with only a few tweaks in the manufacturing process. Nanogrip refrains from manufacturing a positioning control stage to allow flexibility in this connection to equipment varying from robotic arms to microscope stages. Overall, the company currently focuses on “the microtool, docking station, and any kind of mounting solution that’s required to [interface] our product to another product.” In addition to microtweezer development, Brock Wester’s current research under Michelle LaPlaca Ph.D. and Mark Allen Ph.D. is focused on single-cell injury models for traumatic brain injury. This model deviates from most other models in that it treats the injury from a single-cell standpoint, as opposed to a systemic injury model, which treats all cells as having the same injury. Development of the microtweezers that launched Nanogrip Technologies Inc. has allowed for such finer-resolution testing, high repeatability and precise control of injury infliction. Brock’s undergraduate experience here at Georgia Tech has led him to where he is today – a Ph.D. candidate and Chief

Technology Officer of a pioneering startup. Brock earned his B.S. in Computer Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2004. He was involved in research as an undergraduate, as many undergraduates are, and recommends that current students do the same – “I think the undergrad program does a very good job of exposing students to a variety of engineering experiences which really aids in the selection of a career path.” However, “even in my graduate student career, my career goals have changed.” Opening opportunities and allowing exposure to many different areas of a field gives the student a much more comprehensive view of options available – graduate school, medical school, industry, etc. Brock plans to remain with Nanogrip in the coming years as it is positioned to expand with support from various grants. Next Nanogrip is planning “to connect our microtool to a computer, allowing software control so the tips can perform some predetermined action - open and close, speed control, etc. It really allows for automation and true repeatability.” Additionally, plans to attach electrical and/ or mechanical sensors on the tips for electrical and mechanical feedback and to scale the tools down to allow manipulation of nano-scale objects such as carbon nanotubes and graphene are underway. For more info on Nanogrip Technologies Inc., visit: Dhruv Vishwakarma is an undergraduate student in the Coulter Department.

Your Degree: A Ticket To The World The Travels of Boon Heng Lee


oon Heng Lee, born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia graduated with highest honors from Georgia Tech with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering. In the summer of 2008, he participated in the BME Study Abroad Program at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, often called the MIT of Europe, in Switzerland. Afterward, he went to Basel, Switzerland to work for Straumann, a leading implant and restorative dentistry company and frequent collaborator with the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering for Georgia Tech and Emory University. For six months Heng worked on product development. His time in Switzerland even coincided with the 2008 European Football Championships! In January of 2009, he spent six months at the National Institute for Medical Research in his birth country of Malaysia working on the genomic sequencing of A(H1N1), also known as swine flu. As of October 2009, he is studying in England at the Imperial College London,

By Karan Patel the world’s 5th ranked university according to the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings, pursuing his M.S. in Biomedical Engineering. He describes his current program as a completely new experience. For example, English schools have their final exams after the winter holidays. Finals also count for about 80% of one’s final grade, with the sum of all other work filling in the remaining 20%. Since Imperial College is located in the heart of London, he is in proximity of famous museums such as the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall (host to a multitude of famous bands including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones), and The Royal College of Art to name a few. He says that studying and working abroad challenges you on a personal level. One’s self-confidence and independence grow while abroad due to immersion in a new environment. The major advantage of studying or working abroad is widening understanding and perspectives of different cultures. For example, Heng explains that

Boon Heng Lee, BME alumni of Georgia Tech, in London. (Photo: Boon Heng Lee)

just because an American school is different from an overseas school one does not have a better quality of education – it is just different. He has immensely enjoyed his experiences and encourages everyone to leave their comfort zones and experience something new. Karan Patel is an undergraduate student in the Coulter Department.

Recent Coulter Department Publications The Pioneer congratulates the following faculty, post-docs, and students for this past month’s research publications. Accounts of Chemical Research Semiconductor nanocrystals: structure, properties, and band gap engineering. Smith AM, Nie S Acta Biomaterialia Biomolecular surface engineering of pancreatic islets with thrombomodulin. Wilson JT, Haller CA, Qu Z, Cui W, Urlam MK, Chaikof EL Human mesenchymal stem cell differentiation on self-assembled monolayers presenting different surface chemistries. Phillips JE, Petrie TA, Creighton FP, García AJ Validation of a high-throughput methodology to assess the effects of biomaterials on dendritic cell phenotype. Kou PM, Babensee JE Antioxidants & Redox Signaling A model of redox kinetics implicates the thiol proteome in cellular hydrogen peroxide responses. Adimora NJ, Jones DP, Kemp ML Brain Research Altered local coherence in the default mode network due to sevoflurane anesthesia. Deshpande G, Kerssens C, Sebel PS, Hu X

Biomaterials The delivery of superoxide dismutase encapsulated in polyketal microparticles to rat myocardium and protection from myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury. Seshadri G, Sy JC, Brown M, Dikalov S, Yang SC, Murthy N, Davis ME Nucleic Acids Research Slow non-specific accumulation of 2'-deoxy and 2'-O-methyl oligonucleotide probes at mitochondria in live cells. Rhee WJ, Bao G NeuroImage Object familiarity modulates effective connectivity during haptic shape perception. Deshpande G, Hu X, Lacey S, Stilla R, Sathian K Journal of Biomechanics Neural mechanobiology and neuronal vulnerability to traumatic loading. Laplaca MC, Prado GR Pullout strength of suture anchors: Effect of mechanical properties of trabecular bone. Poukalova M, Yakacki CM, Guldberg RE, Lin A, Saing M, Gillogly SD, Gall K

Page 11

Faculty Spotlight: Steve Potter, Ph.D. Brain Scientist Achieves Learning Through Art


esides academics, Steve Potter, Ph.D., associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, has also “dabbled in a variety of activities.” This includes hang gliding, being vegetarian, and inventing a high speed camera that images neural voltages at 1000 frames per second. On the scholarly side, Potter thinks about thinking, learning, and memory processes as incorporated into art, research, and teaching. In collaboration with SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at The School of Anatomy & Human Biology, University of Western Australia, Potter has linked nearly fully developed rat embryo brain cortex neurons grown in a multielectrode array (MEA) at his laboratory at Georgia Tech through the internet to pen-wielding robots in Australia and displays around the world to study learning and memory in vitro. MEART, the Semi-Living Artist, was the first of such projects and involved a pneumatic arm that moved to signals transferred over the internet by neurons reacting to electrical stimulation. While now retired, much of the technology developed through MEART has now “emerged from a chrysalis” and become Silent Barrage. This display of 60 paper-wrapped poles and accompanying drawing robots that move up and down the poles marking rings gathers sensory input from video cameras that record the positions of viewers of the exhibit and

feeds that information back to the multielectrode arrays to stimulate the neurons to fire. Then the drawings are analyzed for any patterns. Potter hopes that running this for a long period will allow him to see neural learning and memory in an artistic, visual presentation. Recently, Silent Barrage won 1st Prize (18,000 Euro) at VIDA 12.0 Art and Artificial Life International Awards presented by Fundación Telefónica in Spain. Other research projects conducted in the Potter lab include a NIH project on electrical stimulation potentially applicable to the brains of epilepsy patients and a NSF project in collaboration with ECE professor Ron Harley, Ph.D., on neural network controlled power grid systems. For epilepsy patients, when drugs have little to no effect, only two other options are available: live with it or get parts of the brain removed. Potter hopes to introduce a third choice of electrode implantation and electrical stimulation. For neurons left alone with no stimulation for a long time, electrical stimulation cures their random and directionless signaling, an event that will hopefully translate to an in vivo environment. Experiments are underway to implant electrode arrays into intact rats with epilepsy. For the collaborative power grid project, Potter serves as the neuroscientist in the group, teaching them how to make their artificial neural networks better

The silent barrage. More pictures and full video may be found at:

Page 12

By Rosemary Song

Steve Potter, Ph.D., is an associate professor of the Coulter Department. (Photo: Gopi Patel)

resemble biological ones. Current digital signal processes that can only approximate how a power system will respond in a certain situation will be no match for artificial neural networks that can be trained to learn from responses. Again putting the internet to use, Potter hooks up his neurons in MEAs to send signals and control small system setups at Missouri University of Science & Technology, a project he finds has a bit more of a tangible purpose than MEART or Silent Barrage. Potter is a firm believer in real world presence and hands on research, a trait that shows up in his teaching methods. Students in his Neuroengineering Fundamentals class grow their own neurons, propose experiments to conduct, and then carry out their proposals. One memorable project explored the effects of music turned into electrical signals and applied to neurons. The other class Potter teaches is Introductory Neuroscience. Tailoring his curriculum to being in the real world, he asks his students to make Wikipedia articles on topics not already on Wikipedia and to write detailed reviews on Amazon for a neuroengineering book of their choice. As demonstrated, Potter emphasizes “assignments that affect the real world,” especially when brains, research, and thinking are involved. Rosemary Song is an undergraduate student in the Coulter Department.

March 2010  

Continued on Page 10 With Hydrogel Nanoparticles Continued on Page 4 By David Terraso Your Degree: A Ticket to the World, The Travels of Boo...

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