This summer I worked in The Laboratory for Structural NMR Imaging in the radiology department at HUP. Under the guidance of my PI, Dr. Rajapakse, I was involved in several different projects and acquired many skills such as reading an MRI, using a Scanning electron microscope, cutting bones, performing MRI scans on bones, 3D printing bones and analyzing MRI, PET and CT scans.
I worked on many different projects in my lab like the effect of age on bone, effect of diabetes on bone, and cancer research. One of our ultimate goals in the lab is to be able to 3D print a bone-on-a-chip. To accomplish this goal we have to approach the project from many different directions and therefore there are many smaller projects within the larger one that we worked on. One of these projects was developing a new way to 3D print from medical images by directly converting 3D image information into G-Code. This reduces the time it takes to 3D print and therefore reduces the time between a scan of a patient and a 3D print from their images. This program also has many positive implications on bio printing for medical purposes. I also worked in the Nanotech building where I used the scanning electron microscope to analyze the prints from the two methods of printing (the conventionally used method and our novel method) to determine if the quality of the print was the same and to understand their structure and scaffolding. I was also tasked with cutting cadaver tibias and examining (fixed) thin cross sections of the tibia under the SEM to analyze its structure and scaffolding. We ultimately want to do stem cell engraftment on the bone, and so we did this to determine the effect of the microstructure on the stem cell proliferation and growth and what other factors, like seeding density, could affect this. These are just some of projects that I have had the privilege of working on during my time at the lab.
Working in this lab has and will continue to have a huge impact on my educational experience at Penn. Through this lab I have had the opportunity to work on cutting edge research and see a project through from start to finish. I have learned how to write publications and have already seen my name on published works. I have acquired so many unique skills and had so much exposure to the medical field and to researchers. I have had the opportunity to truly understand and explore parts of the musculoskeletal system, a system that I previously learned about in my biology classes. This lab had opened my eyes to a totally new field and a different and very rewarding way of learning. Lastly, I have gained a mentor in my PI and friends in my lab and hope to continue working there for the remainder of my time at Penn.