Student innovation in low cost diagnostics

My brother is amazing. For his senior design project as a biomedical engineer, he is developing an inexpensive platform for the diagnosis of infectious diseases (covered by the News & Observer). Pavak sought out technical and business development experts, put together a great team of students, and spent countless hours building an imaging cytometer – a device which can count cells in an automated fashion. By labeling cells of interest with a specific dye, its possible to detect and measure the presence of a specific organism. They are starting with an assay to detect tuberculosis, but the next step may be a malaria test. To be fair, the technology isn’t appropriate for all situations and there are many hurdles before the idea can even make it to the field. But for a group of undergraduate students its a tour de force demonstrating initiative, creativity, and engineering ability.

An addendum: how do we create the right environments to encourage and support students to take such risks?


2 Responses to “Student innovation in low cost diagnostics”

  1. 1 Pavak April 8, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Haha, thanks Naman. As per your ending question, I think there’s really two key pieces that makes it possible: money and infrastructure. I think in 90% of cases students have some really amazing ideas but they have neither their own resources nor the right mentorship in finding resources to pursue the work they’re interested in. I think one of the biggest services experienced students and faculty can give their students is to make them aware of and help them in seeking all of the myriads of funding opportunities out there. Technical advising is important, business advising is important, but without access to funding, workshops or lab space, students don’t feel they actually might be able to pursue the projects they’re interested in. This is something that I’ve been pushing heavily in the BME department at NCSU: setting up an open workshop. Have an electronics lab, a wetlab and a machine shop that is stocked with supplies and equipment that students get trained on and have (reasonably) unlimited access to. Give them the basic tools they need to play around, build proofs-of-concepts and learn with their hands. I think they’re starting to contemplate the idea now that the department has a full-time lab manager that might be able to set up something like this when the department moves into the new space on Centennial Campus in a year or two.

  2. 2 Aman May 18, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Great stuff. I couldn’t open the News and Observer link, any chance you can get him to do a detailed post on his project and where it is going next?

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