Biomedical Research Series: Dr. Gary Walker

Within the Department of Biological Sciences at Youngstown State University there are many areas of research being explored by faculty and students alike. In a new monthly series, we will highlight faculty research that covers various aspects of biomedical efforts from DNA to bacteria, fungi, and more.

Dr. Gary Walker is a professor and chairperson of Biological Sciences at YSU. He obtained a PhD in Biological Sciences from the Wayne State University of Michigan. He began graduate school with an interest in becoming a developmental biologist with focus on cell division and later in stem cells.

His interest in biomedical research began decades ago but recently changed direction when he collaborated with a local neurologist, Dr. Carl Ansevin. They wrote several papers together and heavily researched muscle proteins. Now he is mainly focusing on the basic molecular programming of muscle tissue with anticipation that he can eventually engineer a functional muscle.

Dr. Walker is currently studying the growth of muscle cell cultures to advance the fundamental understanding of muscle development and function. In addition, he is interested in tissue engineering, specifically 3D-printed structures, which will be used primarily for therapy purposes.

Given his research background, one of his goals is to create functional muscles. To create a 3D-printed tissue structure, Dr. Walker grows myoblasts in cell cultures that are then mixed with a bio gel. The bio gel aides in the suspension of the cells and maintains the 3D structure throughout the printing process. A computerized 3D fluid printer is then used to create a specific geometric structure allowing the “tissues” to transfer to culture vessels so that the myoblasts can grow.

“As you can see, these myofibers form in all sorts of directions,” said Dr. Walker. “So you can’t make a functional muscle because in a functional muscle all these fibers have to be aligned parallel.”

In the end, once the cells are understood and a live tissue is formed, Dr. Walker wants to tinker with the geometry of the tissue, making it more like a standard muscle tissue.

Once the structure is fit for usage in medical procedures, his personal hope for the 3D-printed muscle tissue is to benefit trauma patients and those who experience muscle diseases. This research project has tied together his love of growing cells and researching how functional tissues are formed. The project is also a great way to show the transition between basic and applied knowledge.

There is great potential for this research and Dr. Walker could be an important part of this advancement of biomedical technology.

Faculty Faction: Dr. Eric MacDonald

Eric MacDonald
photo credit: YSU News Center

Dr. Eric MacDonald is a professor of electrical engineering and YSU’s Friedman Chair in Engineering. He holds a BS, MS, and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

He worked as a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso for 15 years after leaving industry as a chip designer. He created microprocessors for products including computers and game systems and he worked for companies like IBM and Motorola.

In 2003, Dr. MacDonald teamed up with a mechanical engineer at UTEP to experiment with the mixing of 3D printing and electronics, which was almost unheard of at that time.

“So you could make a ball that’s a circuit board for instance, or you could make a prosthetic hand,” said Dr. MacDonald. “We ended up getting a lot of interest from NASA and the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the intelligence community even.”

He had strong ties to Youngstown before he even considered coming here to teach.

“In 2011, President Obama in his State of the Union address basically said that he was going to invest in manufacturing by setting up institutes, the first of which was additive manufacturing… and it came to Youngstown,” said Dr. MacDonald.

A grant from this institute based in Youngstown brought him and Dr. Brett Conner together for collaboration.

Dr. MacDonald was very interested in coming to Youngstown through a recent endowment. He is now the first Morris and Phyllis Friedman Chair in Engineering at Youngstown State University.

He plans to continue his hands-on research with 3D printing and electronics while also incorporating Youngstown’s history of metal manufacturing.

Last semester, Dr. MacDonald published a paper in the journal Science along with former colleague Ryan Wicker of UTEP. Science is a highly prestigious magazine and it is very difficult to be accepted for publication.

A frequent traveler, Dr. MacDonald has been to many different countries all over the world. Even so, he still thinks Ohio is a beautiful place to live.

3D Printed Models Showcase NASA Missions

As part of our 50th anniversary celebration, the Ward Beecher Planetarium is proud to partner with YSU’s Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing (CIAM) for the new display “NASA Missions to the Solar System” outside the Planetarium on the 2nd floor of Ward Beecher Hall.

With last year’s flyby of Pluto, NASA has had robotic spacecraft visit nearly every major body in the solar system since the dawn of the space age almost 60 years ago. These missions have radically changed our understanding of astronomy, and have captured our imagination with spectacular imagery.

This display lists NASA missions to prominent members of our solar system and features eight 3D printed models to highlight some of the most influential spacecraft.

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Special thanks go to Jay Wargacki and his students, Mechanical Engineering majors Ryan Betts, Mike Manginelli, and Dean Jaric, in the CIAM for converting and printing the models from CAD model plans available from NASA.

If you have any questions about the display, please contact either Curt Spivey at x7278, or Tiffany Wolbrecht at x3619.

Students Help Dog Walk with 3D Printing Technology

Shelby is a direct answer to prayer for owner Laurie Wittkugle, who while visiting family in Florida, fatefully met her. Shelby was rescued from an abusive home in Florida at four months old and made the two day trip to Ohio with Laurie in September 2003.

Shelby had always been an extremely active outdoor-loving companion, even though her back and legs would bother her if over exerted. Her condition gradually worsened over the years. In 2010, at six years of age, Shelby had limited mobility. An MRI revealed dehydrated spinal discs and compressed nerves in her lower back, creating a great deal of pain. Shelby now has rheumatoid arthritis in all her legs, with the front left being the most knotted, and the paw flattened and twisted. The rheumatoid arthritis has also settled in several portions of her spine, pushing on internal organs. Further compromising her health is an enlarged liver due to years of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Dr. Luke Lukasko and his fabulous team at Newton Falls Animal Hospital have done wonderful things for Shelby since 2011 with acupuncture and medication. Shelby had been barely walking in 2011 when first becoming a patient of Dr. Luke’s, and has had many years of walking and swimming since that time.

As Shelby’s condition worsens over time, adjustments at home must be made including ramps indoors and out, non-slip flooring, and elevated dishes. Meal times have also been adjusted to accommodate medication schedules. For outdoor activities, Shelby has a stroller and enjoys riding through the parks.

Shelby’s latest big endeavor has been that of being a research project at Youngstown State University. Laurie saw a video of a dog with deformed front legs utilizing 3-D printed prosthetic legs, and presented the idea to YSU’s Additive Manufacturing Director, Brett Conner by simply volunteering Shelby should they ever desire to undertake such an endeavor. Within two weeks, Shelby had a team of ten together.

“The number-crunching administrators at YSU are often unaware of all that their faculty and staff are doing with our talented students,” says Laurie Wittkugle. “Simple suggestions are sometimes all that is needed to spark great things within the students, with committed faculty to fuel those sparks. The six students who have worked with Shelby are amazing! They are talented, resourceful, professional, committed and compassionate. They have been a joy to work with on this project.”

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TEAM SHELBY consists of:

Students who graduated in May: Abdullah Alsairafi, Jason Doll, Craig Householder, Jennifer McAnallen

Students continuing in Fall 2016: Jared Clark, Karen Schilling

Faculty: Guha Manogharan, Brett Conner

Veterinarian: Luke Lukasko, Newton Falls Animal Hospital

Shelby’s Owner/Caregiver: Laurie Wittkugle (also YSU Staff Member)

You can view the TV interview from WKBN here.

Staff Spotlight: Jay Wargacki

Jay WargackiJay Wargacki manages the Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing, which is primarily a 3D printing research lab in Moser Hall (room 1470).

He earned his bachelor’s degree in general studies and his associate degree in industrial trades technology, both from Kent State University. He also earned his tool and die maker journeyman’s card after completing his apprenticeship.

Jay started working at YSU in the fall of 2015 after working in the industry for a while, primarily with Delphi Automotive as a toolmaker, process engineer and tool engineer. He said that he wanted to combine his areas of interest in this new position.

“Being a tool and die maker, I like to build; I like to create,” said Jay. “I minored in psychology and studio art, so I have a little bit of a diverse background. My whole career has been the industrial side of things, but I like bringing it all together.”

He said that the manufacturing lab, as he calls it, is a great resource for research and student projects—but many students don’t know what kind of technology is available.

“A lot of students don’t even know it exists,” said Jay. “It’s slowly growing—we’re getting more and more machines as we get more student involvement and interest.”

Whether for research or out of interest, check out the lab and talk to the lab assistants to learn what kinds of things STEM offers. Stop in to talk to Jay about his great collection of action figures too.

“I am one hundred percent geek through and through,” said Jay. “I’m the guy who doesn’t know anything about sports.”

When he’s not on the job, he breaks out the action figures with his kids and works with local historical societies.

Exploring the Unknown: YSU Students Create 3D Printed Dog Brace

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There’s a new face in the STEM College, brought here through an exciting new research project which could have far-reaching impact on current and future directions for YSU.

A team of six mechanical engineering students is taking advantage of advanced digital manufacturing technologies to develop a reverse-engineered 3D model and to custom fabricate prosthetics for mobility assistance and improved quality of life for Shelby, a 12-year-old small border collie.

Although Shelby became crippled when she was 6-years-old due to dehydrated spinal discs, compressed nerves, and progressive rheumatoid arthritis, she has been a trooper!

The ultimate goal of this project is to custom 3D print a brace of suitable material to offer support and increased mobility of her most deformed leg.

YSU’s mechanical engineering undergraduates Abdullah Alsairafi, Jared Clark, Jason Doll, Craig Householder, Jennifer McAnallen and Karen Schilling are working under the guidance of Guha Manogharan and in consultation with Luke Lukasko, DVM, and Shelby’s owner Laurie Wittkugle throughout this project.

“We began with getting a form fit of Shelby’s leg through a non-exothermal casting process, which we used to get a digital model through scanning methods. This enabled our students to work with computational modeling tools to design and develop a custom-fit brace specifically designed for Shelby,” Guha said.

The team is currently evaluating different combinations of both materials and 3D printing methods to develop a brace that is both soft and flexible on the inside, like memory-foam, and hard-texture to give Shelby traction in the Ohio winter.

This project is a perfect example of YSU’s College of STEM students collaborating and employing all they have learned prior to Senior Design to take on a challenge that would solve a real problem.

The talent and passion of this team may only be surpassed by their dedication and concern for Shelby, who is taking all the fuss in stride.

Interim Dean Gregg Sturrus anticipates many new opportunities for YSU STEM students as these fields of research expand.

Making a Difference: Ashley Martof named STEM Exemplar

Photo by Justin Wier/The Jambar.

Last year Ashley Martof was named STEM’s Intern of the Year. This year, she has been working hard and has been named a Believe in Ohio STEM Exemplar.

The Ohio Academy of Sciences named 58 students as STEM Exemplars this year. A STEM Exemplar is someone who serves as a role model for students to pursue STEM careers and innovative thinking.

She said she was excited and felt blessed when she found out she was named an exemplar.

It is such a great feeling to go around and promote STEM education.”

Students named as exemplars had to apply or be nominated for the title. Martof said that her professor Guha Manogharan encouraged her to apply.

Of course I applied because this is a wonderful opportunity to express my love of teaching children by educating kids in STEM,” Martof said.

When Martof was named STEM Intern of the Year, she had interned with America Makes, where she was able to show her passions for advanced manufacturing and education. One of her first projects at America Makes was develop an additive manufacturing curriculum for teachers.

Other projects Martof completed at America Makes include developing a 3D printing student camp, where she took children from 2D to 3D basics to designing and printing their own products in five days. All of these projects have led to her being named and exemplar.

I have hosted STEM camps, mostly related to additive manufacturing,” Martof said. “I am currently holding a 3D printing club two days a week at the Lewis School in Youngstown. I am also a part of the [Center for Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing] at YSU; this allows me to give tours and work on the 3D printing equipment at YSU. I also help out with any STEM related camps [or] sessions at YSU or in the community.”

Martof is working on her master’s in Industrial and Systems Engineering. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.

Martof still has a few years left in her degree, but she said she knows additive manufacturing will definitely be in her future.

My love for additive manufacturing continues to grow each day. I plan to look for a career in additive manufacturing,” she said. “I am not sure if I will pursue a career in the actual manufacturing companies or fall towards the educational side. Either way, I will be happy!”

Faculty Faction: Guha Manogharan

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Mr. Guha Manogharan

Youngstown State University and the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are always looking for the best and brightest to teach our best and brightest. This last semester, the STEM College has been breaking in a new professor and researcher, Mr. Guha Manogharan.

Guha is an assistant professor with the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and is also a part of the new Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing (CIAM). In fact, CIAM and the many opportunities that the Valley brings for 3D printing and additive manufacturing, like America Makes and our budding program, are what brought Guha to the area.  Continue reading “Faculty Faction: Guha Manogharan”