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Herff Headlines May-June 2013 Features

UofM’s Society for Biomaterials Student Chapter Places in Inaugural National Student Design Challenge

The Society for Biomaterials Education and Professional Development Committee unveiled an exciting new education initiative at the fall 2013 SFB conference – the “Biomaterials Education Challenge”. This was a student design competition, in which SFB student chapters around the country were encouraged to develop innovative and practical approaches to biomaterials education. In particular, SFB student chapters were challenged to develop hands-on educational modules designed for a 45 minute middle school (6th-8th grade) science class period.

Each educational module was designed to:

  • Demonstrate a fundamental biomaterials concept;
  • Describe scientific principles understandable to a middle-school audience;
  • Feature hands-on components easily incorporated to typical middle school science courses; and
  • Use materials easily obtained.

BME ChallengeThe University of Memphis/UT Health Science Center SFB student club entry was called “What makes your braces smart?”. Under the leadership of Ashley Parker and Heather Doty, with support from BME students TK Phung, Elizabeth Duncan, Alex Hoban and from Dr. Amber Jennings, the team’s module was based on shape memory alloy (NiTi) and other biomaterials used in braces. The team worked also with a local 8th grade science teacher to make sure the activity corresponded and would integrate into the metrics for the middle school science curriculum. The completion involved a poster presentation and a brief demonstration of the module.

The inaugural competition included 11 entries from 9 SFB student chapters, and entries were judged during a special poster session during the final day of the 2013 SFB conference in Boston. The competition’s judges represented a cross-section of biomaterials educators, including innovative high school teachers, junior faculty, and senior faculty at multiple universities. The judges were asked to identify winners based on their potential for educational impact, with an emphasis on innovation, practicality, and likelihood of widespread adoption in middle school classrooms. The competition’s entries were uniformly outstanding, with clear educational goals and direct involvement of middle school educators as project “consultants”.

BME Challenge


After a very difficult selection process, the winning teams were identified as:

  • First prize ($2500 for the SFB student chapter): Case Western Reserve University, “Using Jell-O as a teaching tool in middle school for biomaterials design and testing”. Student team: Christa Modery-Pawlowski, Julia Samorezov, Amy Wen, Sarah Gleeson. Advisors: Nicholas Ziats, Nicole Trombetta.
  • Second prize ($1500): Texas A&M University: “Medicine-delivering hydrogels”. Student team: Mary Beth Browning, Robert Moglia, Bagrat Grigoryan, Ruochong Fei. Advisors: Elizabeth Cosgriff-Hernandez, Maryam Ahmed.
  • Third prize ($750): Columbia University, “Biomaterials design for tissue engineering through hydrogels”. Student team: Jon Bernhard, Maggie Boushell, Philip Chuang, Dovina Qu, Nina Sinatra. Advisors: Lauren Prentiss, Helen H. Lu.
  • Fourth prize ($500): University of Memphis: “What makes your braces smart?”. Student team: Ashley Parker, Heather Doty, Thien-Khoi Phung, Alex Hoban, Elizabeth Duncan. Advisors: Joel Bumgardner, Jessica Amber Jennings.


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Bobby Wharton

Bobby Wharton (BSET '75) defines what it means to be a True Blue Tiger. he has given to Professorships in the University of Memphis Herff College of Engineering for almost ten years. Read more ...

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