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Kara Spiller

Kara Spiller

Fulbright Student Scholar to Portugal 2010-11
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow (GRFP) 2007-10
NSF International Research Experiences (IRES) and Doctoral Dissertation Enhancement Project (DDEP) 2009

Biomedical Engineering PhD, 2010


Fulbright: As a Fulbright scholar in Portugal, I will conduct research in tissue engineering from October 2010 to May 2011 in the Biomaterials, Biodegradables, and Biomimetics Research Group and the Headquarters of the European Institute of Excellence on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, under the guidance of Dr. Rui Reis, in the Dept. of Polymer Engineering at the University of Minho. The grant will also support my work in developing international education initiatives in biomedical engineering. I am really excited about this opportunity to work on cutting-edge projects in a world-renown tissue engineering laboratory while forming new collaborations and learning about international education exchanges.

Watch or Download Kara's interview on her Fulbright application experience.

NSF GRFP & NSF IRES: The NSF IRES & DDEP grant funds my trip to Shanghai this fall (3 months) to work in the Shanghai Key Tissue Engineering Laboratory under Yilin Cao and Wei Liu. The title of the project is "Engineering Smart Biomaterials for Cartilage Tissue Engineering: A Drexel University and Shanghai Jiao Tong Training Partnership." This project is the capstone study of my dissertation, the controlled release of growth factors from hydrogels to enhance articular cartilage repair.

In the Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Lab in the Chemical Engineering Department, I am designing a hydrogel to replace damaged cartilage in the knee. The material has appropriate mechanical properties to take over physiological loading, but is bioactive in order to encourage cellular ingrowth, resulting in a hybrid cartilage-biomaterial construct. I have examined how the properties of the material, such as porosity, stiffness, and degradability, affect the behavior of cells.

The NSF-GRFP has not only allowed me to take classes solely for the sake of learning and to attend conferences to cultivate collaborations, but has given me some credibility in the academic community. I'm very grateful to have received this fellowship; it took away a lot of the stress involved in getting a PhD.

Update: Kara talks about her amazing experience in Portugal and shares some tips on the Fulbright blog.