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Biomedical engineering students assist professor with life-changing research in prosthetics.

At Widener University, students studying biomedical engineering have the chance to assist faculty with meaningful, hands-on learning experiences as early as their freshman year. Students in the School of Engineering often get published, attend professional conferences, and participate on major research projects before they graduate.

Biomedical engineering student Andrew Saylor, ’19, has been working with Dr. Jonathan Akins, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, on a prosthesis alignment device since his first year at Widener. In his research, Saylor uses a magnet implanted in the joint of a prosthetic limb in conjunction with sensors to measure the intensity changes.

This is just one of the research projects that Akins is overseeing. Akins recently secured grant funding of nearly $140,000 for research that will benefit military service members and veterans who live with limb loss and use prosthetics.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for students at Widener and myself to have the ability to make an impact on a product that likely has the potential to reduce injuries among prosthetics users,” Akins said.

The funding, awarded by the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity and managed by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, is a collaboration with faculty at the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Akins and his students will conduct a clinical trial to examine the use of prosthesis liners in patients who have been affected by secondary conditions such as pressure sores and accidental falls due to overheating and sweating.

"These individuals cannot use their prosthetics until their wounds are healed, and thus their livelihood is affected,” Akins said. “We want to help these individuals by preventing this type of injury and encourage them to wear their prosthesis for a longer period of time to help improve their quality of life.”

“I’ve greatly enjoyed working with Dr. Akins on projects like this,” Saylor said. “He lets us command a great deal of the research study, without sacrificing his idea of quality. He also provides the opportunity to get our names on published papers and present our research at symposiums.”