Four BME students selected as University Scholars for 2019-2020

Congratulations to Jonathan Charles, Maximillian Diaz, Tran Ngo and Alexia Poulos who were recently selected as Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering University Scholars for 2019-2020! 

The University Scholars Program introduces undergraduate students at the University of Florida to the exciting world of academic research. In the program, students work one-on-one with UF faculty on selected research projects. Through this initiative, students will take away an understanding of and appreciation for the scholarly method. The program will consist of undertaking a full research project during the fall and spring semesters of the academic year, under the guidance of a faculty member. The University Scholars Program serves as an exceptional capstone to the academic careers of UF students.

The Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering selected its best students and we are proud to have the following BME awardees:

Jonathan Charles
Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Nichols 
Research project description: To use ultrasound imaging and subsequent analysis to accurately create scalable models of the human wrist that can assess the functionality of a post-operative hand and wrist in a patient.


Maximillian Diaz
Mentor: Dr. Ruogu Fang
Research project description: To utilize retinal imaging to diagnosis Parkinson's disease. I will be obtaining retinal fundus images from Parkinson's subjects at the UF Movement Disorders Center and then apply a machine learning network to detect any potential biomarkers to diagnosis Parkinson's disease. The hope is that retina images are cheaper than current scans utilized to detect Parkinson's and that retina images could be taken during regular ophthalmology visits.


Tran Ngo
Mentor: Dr. Christine E. Schmidt
Research project description: Peripheral nerve injuries often result in longstanding disability with loss of sensory and/or motor function. 3D bioprinting of natural extracellular matrix-based bioinks such as hyaluronic acid (HA) and collagen can be used to build custom scaffolds for long-gap nerve regeneration. In this project, Ngo has focused on fabrication and characterization of HA-based hydrogel scaffolds as a potential bioink for 3D bioprinting that has been mechanically matched to native peripheral nerve tissue. She will also 3D bio-print Schwann cells with the optimized HA-collagen hydrogel to mimic the microenvironment of native tissue and embed microarchitecture into the scaffolds to support axonal elongation and nerve regeneration.


Alexia Poulos
Mentor: Dr. Cherie Stabler
Research project description: Type I Diabetes (TID) is an autoimmune disease that targets the insulin-producing β-cells of the pancreas. Our aim is to engineer a compatible biomaterial for use in encapsulating islet cells and allowing for transport of insulin, oxygen, and important cellular nutrients, while also protecting the islets from immune rejection. In a broad overview of the encapsulation process, we use a layer by layer (LbL) approach to encapsulate the islets in functionalized polymers, such as alginate. We have been working to combine these coatings with cerium oxide nanoparticles (CONP), which have been studied for their antioxidant properties. The goal of this research is to formulate and optimize these nanoscale coatings of alginate/CONP to mitigate oxidative stress and provide better protection from the foreign body response.