Summer research on using biologically-inspired models to fight water pollution

By Brian Tarnai ’20

The opportunity to participate in summer research as a freshman was incredible. This research gave me my first real glance into how the scientific community really works. In my project I was working with both Hampden-Sydney and Virginia Tech professors to create a bioinspired, 3D printed prototype that would collect trash in rivers.  The results of this work will be integrated into a National Science Foundation proposal that would enable undergraduates from across the nation to engage in projects that combine techniques in biology and engineering to ethically solve world challenges like water pollution.

3D-printed mangrove roots as a potential model for trapping and clearing of water waste

3D-printed mangrove roots as a potential model for trapping and clearing of water waste

During this project I stepped out of my comfort zone and developed valuable insight into many aspects of professional science that I was unaware of. I learned how to communicate with professors from different institutions to effectively accomplish a goal, write and submit research protocol, learn and master new technology,  obtain permission to use live animals in an experiment, and how to correctly address adversity in a professional manner. This research has taught me that I have the ability to think big and also possess the practical means that will allow me to reach any goal I set. The lessons and skills that I’ve developed this summer will be extraordinarily beneficial on my path to medical school and into the world beyond.

By testing biological models like this spider web at small scale, we can learn more about how effective they may be at fighting water pollution in a true environmental situation

By testing biological models like this spider web at small scale, we can learn more about how effective they may be at fighting water pollution in a true environmental situation

The author hard at work generating models from the 3D printer

The author hard at work generating models from the 3D printer

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