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College of Engineering Whitaker Fellowship Winners Continue Research Overseas

Two College of Engineering biomedical engineering students, Connor Verheyen ’17 and Nicholas Nolan ’17, are continuing their research overseas after receiving fellowships from the Whitaker International Program last spring.

The prestigious Whitaker International Fellowship Grant sent both students abroad to conduct research for nine to 12 months.

Nolan is working with a team of researchers, led by Director of Technology Klaus Ehrmann and Chief Technologist Arthur Ho, at the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Sydney, Australia. The team is working on developing a novel liquid jet aesthesiometer.

“The goal of this project is to improve upon existing aethesiometers, making them reliable, durable, and precise,” Nolan said. “Such a device would allow the diagnosis and monitoring of certain disorders of the eye, yielding a better overall understanding of recovery and treatment.”

Nolan’s role has been to modify, design, machine and integrate electrical components.

“This project draws on all of the skills I learned at the College of Engineering and labs at UM, including microelectronics, machining, programming, concept generation, and most of all problem solving,” Nolan said.

Nolan was mentored by Jean-Marie Parel, director of the Ophthalmic Biophysics Center of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and Fabrice Manns, co-director of the Ophthalmic Biophysics Center of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and professor of biomedical engineering.

Verheyen moved to Switzerland to join Professor Philippe Renaud’s Microsystems Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), where he is part of the Volumina Medical startup project. The project focuses on tissue engineered solutions for soft tissue reconstruction and combines a variety of fields – ranging from polymer chemistry to soft matter physics to reconstructive surgery.

“The ultimate goal is to translate our technology into the clinic where it can make a difference in the lives of patients,” Verheyen said.

He has been specifically focusing on strategies to refine and characterize the biomaterial technology at each step of the production process.

Verheyen was closely mentored by Alice Tomei, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

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