Besides always getting asked, “When are you graduating?” and “What is a PhD?”, I frequently get the question, “What do you actually do?” Today I will try and explain the research that I do. As scientists, engineers, etc, it is very important that you can explain what you do to anyone.
My lab group at Drexel University (http://www.biomed.drexel.edu/implantcenter/), analyzes retrieved implants, which are implants that are collected after being removed from someone’s body. Our mission statement is the following:
“To foster, enhance, and protect a unified, multi-institutional collection of retrieved orthopedic, spine, and cardiovascular implants and peri-implant tissue as a resource for academic research. To pursue clinically and societally relevant studies related to implant performance through an international, collaborative, and educational exchange incorporating engineering, biology, and clinical science.”
What it really means is that we look at failed medical devices (joint replacements, cardio implants, tissue near retrieved implants, etc) removed from patients with their permission. These devices were going to be removed anyway, so it does not affect the patient. We are sent the devices and patient data and it is all done under IRB-approved protocols. What that means is that a review board at each hospital approves our research.
At Drexel, we keep all the devices and we have numerous protocols on how we analyze them. In addition to our lab, we work with other researchers in the US and even abroad. Currently, I am in the Netherlands working with one of our collaborators. For my specific research, I am looking at how the patient’s bone grows into a porous (like a sponge) metal implant. I have to embed these implants in plastic, cut them into thin slices and image them using a microscope. Here is a link to my first publication on this research (http://www.smbs.buffalo.edu/ortho/residency/uosjournal/61713f.pdf). I planning to submit more publications in the coming month.
While in the Netherlands, I am developing models on the computer to further investigate these implants. The Orthopaedic Research Lab (http://orthopaedicresearchlab.nl/) is a world leader in creating computer models of orthopaedic implants.