That history continues in 2017.
Juniors and Honors students Anna Gilpin, a biomedical engineering major from Martinsburg, and Jared Beard, a mechanical engineering major and physics minor from Morgantown, are the 43rd and 44th students at WVU to earn the award since the program’s inception in 1986. The scholarship provides as much as $7,500 for tuition, fees, books, room and board for students who demonstrate their aptitude through course work and their own original research.
Gilpin, who is the second-straight biomedical engineering major at WVU to win the award, has been conducting research in the area of regenerative medicine since the summer before her sophomore year. She has been working alongside Yong Yang, assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering.
“Dr. Yang has been incredibly influential in my pursuit of a Ph.D. and research career in biomaterials for regenerative medicine,” Gilpin said. “Since joining his lab as a freshman, he has supported my growth as a researcher by giving me the opportunity to experience and contribute to many aspects of the research process and by working with me to write a review for publication. He has always encouraged me to go the extra mile and strive to achieve the best work possible.”
Gilpin has been researching ways to develop a non-damaging method of decellularization using supercritical carbon dioxide, a process that involves isolating the extracellular matrix, or ECM, from its native cells and genetic material. She is currently working to design a stem cell biomanufacturing technique that involves culturing cells that develop into connective tissue, blood vessels and lymphatic tissue within collagen microspheres of physiological stiffness.
“The ECM contains biological and structural components that regulate and support cell function,” Gilpin explained. “By isolating it via decellularization, you can use it as a foundation to create a personalized tissue by adding a patient’s own cells back to it. Additionally, it can be used to facilitate cell growth in in vitro cell cultures.
“Regenerative medicine is an exciting field because it has the potential to be hugely impactful for human health through revolutionizing the treatment of a multitude of diseases and disorders,” she continued. “It may replace current treatments that are ineffective or inaccessible for patients by harnessing the natural mechanisms of the body, which is ultimately the most powerful tool.”
Gilpin had the opportunity to present her research at the 2015 American Institute of Chemical Engineers student conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Beard’s interest in how things worked led him to mechanical engineering but he was confused on what he might ultimately do with his degree. That all came into focus his freshman year when he had the opportunity to work in the Flexible Electronics for Sustainable Technologies Lab under the direction of Kostas Sierros, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. That experience cemented his interest in materials.
“Dr. Sierros has helped me grow as a researcher,” Beard said. “He has provided me with support and guidance for all aspects of research, from technical writings to designing and conducting experiments. Working in the FEST Lab gave me experience working with both the design and implementation of 3D printing devices and printable materials. This includes work toward developing layers for solar cells and improving our in-house built 3D printer, among other projects.”
In 2016, Beard participated in an International Research Experience for Students between WVU and the University of Crete-Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas. He and six other students worked on research projects with photocatalytic, thermochromics and gas sensing materials. Joining him on the trip were Dimitris Korakakis, professor of computer science and electrical engineering, and George Kiriakidis, an adjunct professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
“As part of the IRES program, Drs. Sierros and Korakakis provided a forum to engage with all stages of a research project and background knowledge on the culture in Greece,” Beard said. “While in Crete, Dr. Kiriakidis offered a new perspective. He was very supportive of both our group’s development as researchers and assimilation to the Cretan culture. Furthermore, as a physicist, he offered a new perspective on research. It was one that placed a strong emphasis on understanding the mechanisms behind a process, in addition to the outcomes.”
Beard plans to incorporate his interest in materials along with his affinity for programming and interfacing mechanical systems with computers in graduate school. He will be studying ways to integrate robotics and materials science for the improvement of advanced manufacturing processes.
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