Grandmother’s experience inspires student to study prosthetics
Grandmother’s experience inspires student to study prostheticsMarch 03, 2001Jonathan Hayjhay@syr.edu
While many students discover their research interests at some point during their collegiate career, Stacy-Ann Collins’ interest in the field of bioengineering began before she ever arrived at Syracuse University. Collins, a senior bioengineering student in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), became interested in the study of prosthetics when her grandmother lost her legs due to diabetes. “I went with her to the hospital and was there when she was fitted for prosthetics,” Collins says. “That’s when I became interested in bioengineering and doing something that has some relevance to my family.” In her junior year at SU, Collins began working with Jeremy Gilbert, professor of bioengineering, on research involving the corrosion of hip implants. Collins recently presented her research at the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Undergraduate Studies in Technical Research (USTR) regional competition, and her presentation on “Fretting Corrosion of Modular Acetabular Hip Implants” won first place. Collins and the other students at the competition were only given an hour to set up their research presentations and were asked questions following the presentation. Collins said she was nervous when she heard other presenters being grilled, but when the judges got to her presentation they didn’t have much to ask.
“I told Stacy-Ann that the lack of questions either meant the research was over their heads or she had done such a thorough job that there was nothing to question her about,” Gilbert says. “Knowing how well Stacy-Ann understands her research and how hard she worked on the presentation, I’m sure it’s the second option.” Hip replacements consist of two pieces that fit into each other; one piece is located in the hip, the other in the femur. Where the pieces meet, an artificial joint is formed that is subjected to constant force. When a person with a hip replacement is standing on one leg, the force on the artificial joint is three times the body weight. Collins’ research focused on three areas to help understand why the devices fail. First, Collins studied the effect that load (pressure) had on corrosion of the implant. Next, she looked at how the design of the implant affects corrosion. Finally, she studied how building the implant with different materials affects corrosion of the implant. She found that load has a significant effect on corrosion, while design and materials have a much smaller impact on corrosion. “It’s a very complicated interaction of things going on with the implant, and Stacy-Ann picks up the concepts quickly,” Gilbert says. “I think she has a great future in this area.” Collins says she plans to continue working in the research area at the graduate level. The immediate future, though, includes a trip to NSBE’s national convention in Indianapolis March 14-18. She will compete against the regional convention winners from around the country with a $1,000 prize awarded to the first-place winner.