This summer I had the opportunity to continue my research in the Becker Lab for Functional Biomaterials through the Duke University Chemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and SPIRE. Starting in January I shadowed and worked in the Becker lab, but had not yet been able to begin an official independent study or spend extended time in the facility. Dr. Becker offered for me to continue working with him and begin my own research project but was not able to provide a paid position. Through application guidance from SPIRE, though, I was able to receive funding both through the chemistry department and additional financial support through SPIRE, which together allowed me to continue living in Durham this summer.
Over the course of ten weeks I was able to begin and make significant progress on my new, personal project creating resorbable, 3D-printable, and biocompatible PEG-Poly(propylene fumarate) ABA triblock hydrogels. Previous work had successfully synthesized a form of this material, but the lab had not yet been able to recreate it. I began with the former procedure, added and adjusted based off of similar syntheses I had learned during the previous semester, and then created six new ratios of PEG-PPF.
Due to the progress accomplished over the summer I will be able to continue this project in independent study. Ultimately, there are three goals of the project. First, the creation of the six new hydrogels, which is now completed. Second, in vitro testing to determine tensile strength, degradation time, confirm nontoxicity, and investigate broader mechanical properties. Lastly, in vivo testing where prints will be placed in animal subjects to determine whether the results of in vitro testing are still present in practice. This fall I plan to complete the second step and hope to begin in vivo testing by the spring. Without the ability to work intensively on this research over the summer as provided by SPIRE and the chemistry department, I would not be able to see such success in this research project nor have the opportunity to extend it beyond so far in the coming year.