Stevens Senior Wins Best Research Presentation

5/5/2014

Stevens senior mechanical engineering major, Liem Nguyen, recently attended the Independent College Fund of New Jersey (ICFNJ) Undergraduate Research Symposium. Among 33 students and 14 member institutions, he won Best Research Presentation with his research this past year on an "Electromechanical Device for Bone Fusion/Osteointegration Enhancement."

ICFNJ grants were awarded last summer to fund Nguyen’s research during the academic year, under the supervision of Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Robert Chang. The motivation for Nguyen’s research was to identify a novel rational approach to fixating metal implants for patients requiring knee joint replacement surgery, a problem that affects more than 700,000 patients per year.

"Bioactive material coatings such as bone morphogenetic protein or hydroxyapatite are routinely used to coat the bone-implant interface and enhance the process of osteointegration," says Professor Chang.

As an alternative, Nguyen cleverly explored electrical stimulation as a controlled process to enhance osteointegration and thereby promotes bone ingrowth and provides joint stability at the bone-implant interface. Specifically, Nguyen examined the electro-mechanical properties of piezoelectric materials as a transducer to provide an electrical stimulus to enhance osteointegration in response to the natural motion from the patient recovering from surgery.

"Implementing COMSOL Multiphysics modeling software, I was able to model a piezoelectric material with a defined geometry and predict the model electrical response to various stresses of stimulated bone by conducting parametric studies to evaluate materials, dimensional constraints, and loading conditions," says Nguyen.

According to Professor Chang, the next logical step is to validate Nguyen’s simulation model by engineering an experimental model amenable for testing in the laboratory. He also believes that these types of experiments could be done with various bone cell sources including stem cells seeded onto the conventional petri dish or in a 3D microenvironment.

“Nguyen has nicely provided the groundwork for these type of studies," says Professor Chang.

Overall, Nguyen found the ICFNJ Undergraduate Research Symposium experience to be a "unique opportunity to present my research findings and interact with representatives from industry and academia as well as my undergraduate research peers, further instilling confidence towards a career in biomedical science and engineering research."    

The Independent College Fund of New Jersey (ICFNJ) is a cooperative effort between business and academic leaders who recognize the important role the independent higher education sector plays in growing New Jersey’s economy. ICFNJ helps its 14-member institutions partner with the corporate community to fulfill the goal of educating students who contribute to the economic, ethical and intellectual aspirations of the State of New Jersey.

Additional support for Nguyen’s project was provided by a scholarship from the Steven's Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI).