April 5, 2016

Students Present Research at 14th Annual BioExpo

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Studies on a wide variety of subjects — on the differences between men and women in aging’s effects on skeletal muscle, vector machine learning’s use in mammographic diagnosis of breast cancer, and storm conditions’ effects on bioreactor efficiency — were on display at the 14th annual BioExpo Research Symposium. Allowing students to present research on biological and environmental engineering alike, the program, hosted by the Institute of Biological Engineering was held in Duffield Hall and included a speaker series, dinner, and research judging.

As co-presidents of the IBE— Cornell’s undergraduate society for biological and environmental engineering majors —   Charlie Xu ’16 and Annie Chau ’16 led the charge in planning and running this year’s expo. They noted that the entire IBE E-Board put much effort into seeing the program through. The BioExpo, they confirmed, was IBE’s largest event of the year.

Indeed, hard work was on display in more than just the event organization; the primary aspect of the symposium was the research competition, judged by a panel of faculty and graduate students. Competing for a top prize of $500, teams and individual students alike showed off a wide variety of work both research-oriented and technological.

Of this latter type, James Busch, Guarang Dimri, Kelsey Krupp and Sonia Patel –– all masters of engineering students within the BEE department –– were at the BioExpo to present work on a newer, safer retractor for open heart surgeries. Currently, 55 percent of open heart surgery patients end up with a broken rib, while many more continue to feel pain a month after surgery. Krupp and team see this as the result of outmoded retractors and set out to devise a better design.

After pulling out a 3-D printed model of his group’s redesigned retractor, Busch explained what makes Cornell, and Ithaca, a good environment for the type of research on display at the BioExpo.

“We collaborated with the Cornell Veterinary School, which allowed us to use our retractor on injured animals, and even the anatomy lab at Ithaca College,” he said.

Collaboration with other institutions was a common theme. Diana Herrera ’19 was at the BioExpo to demonstrate work she had done with the Neurological Institute at Columbia University during the latter half of her high-school career. Her research explores the correlation between the size and location of surgical lesions and the reduction of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms.

Herrera plans to take the knowledge she gained working at Columbia and apply it to research at Cornell. When asked if she would like to be back at the BioExpo next year, she retorted eagerly and without hesitation, “Hopefully! And with new research to show you!”

Carlie Mendoza ’16, also presented recent work  alongside a team of other students, has been working on the development the Cornell Prime Dot, a new generation of silica-based nanoparticles for use on cancer patients. Mendoza explained that the new dots were already being used in clinical trials on patients with brain cancer and melanoma.

Medical research and engineering constituted a large portion of works on display. Spreading knowledge about the theme, Prof. Bruce Ganem, the J. Thomas Clark Professor of Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise, and Prof. Cole Gilbert, entomology spoke at the event.