By: Gabriella Cipriano, Student Written Communication Specialist, UConn School of Engineering
Over the past two decades, tissue engineering has emerged as an exciting new area in biomedical engineering. For all BME undergraduate concentrations at UConn, there were corresponding lab components to provide hands-on experience to supplement the classroom instruction, except for tissue engineering. Syam Nukavarapu, associate professor of biomedical engineering — who is also a joint faculty member of Materials Science & Engineering and UConn Health — was recently tasked with developing a tissue engineering laboratory, which has started running this semester.
Tissue engineering is an interdisciplinary area where biology, engineering, and medicine come together. It aims to develop tissue substitutes and body parts utilizing engineering principles and building blocks such as biomaterials, cells, and bioactive molecules.
Nukavarapu is an experienced biomaterials and tissue engineering scientist and established his Tissue Engineering Science and Technology Laboratory (TEST Lab) at UConn using an initial set of new experiments he developed to provide students the basics and practice of tissue engineering.
“The course is organized into seven modules with each module scheduled for two weeks. At the end of this lab, the students are expected to learn basic tissue engineering lab techniques related to the development and evaluation of tissue engineering products,” Nukavarapu said.
Senior biomedical engineering student Maisha Azam is interested in tissue engineering because she likes the idea of organ regeneration, considering it prevents the need for an organ donor. Since organ donations require long waits, and can be rejected by the body, developing synthetic organs/body parts eliminates these issues, “which would take out a lot of stress, money, and a lot of issues the families have,” according to Azam.
The new undergraduate tissue engineering lab provides BME juniors and seniors with hands-on experience that is beneficial when applying for jobs or graduate school.
According to David Kaputa, assistant professor-in-residence and director of undergraduate programs for the BME Department, “The skills learned in this course will be used in their future careers, whether it’s in industry or academia.”
“This directly contributes to the biomedical workforce development, because BME students in this particular track are interested in starting careers in the field of tissue engineering,” explained by Nukavarapu. The lab is currently offered to only 12 students (one session) with the goal of providing effective hands on learning experience to each student in the course. However, this could be opened to other interested students in the future by doing multiple lab sessions.
It seems like the lab has been a success so far, especially for Azam. “This is the first time I felt excited to be in the lab working with my hands, working with actual cells, seeing actual results that I created.”