Extending Capstone Projects and Beginning Professional Journeys

Aug. 11, 2022


three students stand in front of a conference backdrop
Taliah Gorman, Spencer Ciammitti from Team 22054, and a student from another university at the ASAIO conference.

Taliah Gorman was project leader for Team 22048. After her team presented its Interdisciplinary Capstone project at Craig M. Berge Design Day, Gorman took the results before an international audience in Chicago at the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO) annual conference.

“It was the first conference I ever attended,” said Gorman, who completed her bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering in May and will continue with the College of Engineering accelerated master’s program in the same discipline this fall.

“I was nervous to present, and I was very happy and excited I got to, because my team and I put so many hours into this project.”

Gorman and her peers worked with mentor and sponsor Dr. Marvin Slepian to refine a device that measures the stiffness of blood platelets. This device, the compact and cost-effective CytoMech, is intended to inform clinicians’ assessments of patients’ risk for blood clotting. It could also potentially influence designs of future implantable devices.

Gorman’s team and a second University of Arizona group, Team 22054, each placed in the top 7 for the competition. Team 22054, which created a prototype renal measurement device and phone app to improve treatment of kidney disease, also presented a poster at this summer’s national Capstone Design Conference. They were joined in Dallas by Team 22069, which designed and built a sensor network disguised as rocks.

Students don’t always know about opportunities like these to extend the lives of their projects, said Kaitlyn Ammann, a postdoctoral researcher who works in Slepian’s lab.

“Projects don’t need to stop when the capstone ends. Sometimes people don’t realize what they’re creating is very useful and could be used in a broader context,” said Ammann, who earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering at the UA.

In some cases, a project continues through multiple years of work by Interdisciplinary Capstone teams. Some that are sponsored by Slepian’s lab, the Arizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation, are part of grant-funded research that will advance with the help of additional students.

The teams that presented at the ASAIO conference will have abstracts published in ASAIO Journal. For the first time, their abstracts will include Digital Object Identifiers, or DOIs, making their work easy for other researchers to find and cite. Four additional capstone teams will also have abstracts published.

Continuing Involvement and Growth

ASAIO offers additional development opportunities for students and graduates and maintains a strong UA connection. ASAIO Journal published 18 abstracts from UA authors this year, with contributions from 28 students. UA doctoral graduate in biomedical engineering Alice Sweedo is president of ASAIO FYI (For Young Investigators). Amman has attended the organization’s conferences for the past several years and won an award for presenting the best COVID abstract at the society’s June conference.

Slepian, who previously served as the society’s president, urges the students he works with to take advantage of what the organization offers.

“It is so important to have students become involved in real-world and professional science and engineering early in their careers,” said Slepian, an associate department head for biomedical engineering clinical and industrial affairs. He is also a Regents Professor of medicine, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and materials science, as well as a member of the BIO5 Institute.

“This allows them to see the impact of their work, gives them an additional perspective beyond the academy, and boosts their presentation, critical thinking and networking skills – all important for an impactful career.”

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