Drexel in China

Research in China It’s common for Drexel Students to spend time overseas while they’re still in school. Many students study abroad, some have co-op opportunities outside of the country, and a lucky few receive Fulbright Scholarships.

But it isn’t often that students are offered the chance to travel specifically to present research they’ve conducted as an undergraduate. Genymphas Higgs, a senior and Biomedical Engineering Major, is one of Drexel’s most dedicated students and one of the few to travel overseas to do just that. In June, Genymphas presented the research he conducted under the advisement of Dr. Steven Kurtz at Drexel’s Implant Research Center, at the 9th World Biomaterials Congress (WBC) in Chengdu, China.

“One of my projects [at Drexel] has focused on understanding the behavior of polyetheretherketone (PEEK) devices used for posterior stabilization of the lumbar spine,” says Higgs of his research. The research with PEEK will hopefully lead to an alternative to the metal rods used in orthopedic surgeries, such as spinal fusions. After applying to present this research at the WBC and being accepted, he turned to the Undergraduate Research Office to apply for a “Travel Grant to Present Research.”

After working with the Undergraduate Research Office, Genymphas received funding for the trip and was able to present in China. Along with over 3,000 scientists, engineers, clinicians, and representatives from 57 different countries, Genymphas gave his oral presentation “Characterization of in vivo change and histological response of retrieved PEEK rod systems for posterior lumbar stabilization and fusion,” as part of a “Smart PEEK biomaterials” symposium at the WBC.

“The conference itself was truly enlightening — I learned so much from the various sessions, and with such an extensive grouping of research topics, I got a useful overview of today’s advances in the field of biomaterials,” says Higgs. “It also gave me a greater appreciation of how the Biomedical Engineering education here at Drexel is preparing its students to be at the forefront of those advancements.”

While visiting China, Genymphas also got the chance to visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the largest giant and red panda reserve in the world. He was also able to visit Beijing and Shanghai, see the Great Wall, and the Forbidden Kingdom. While in Shanghai, he was even able to meet with Drexel student Amanda Pentecost, who is currently on co-op at the Shanghai Advance Research Institute.

Now starting his final year at Drexel, Genymphas knows he’d like to continue orthopedic research after graduation. “I have found orthopedic material research utterly fascinating, so I intend to continue conducting such work after graduation,” says Higgs.