Lehigh students participating in the 2019 Lehigh Expo on April 6 presented their semesters-long projects to the Lehigh community and families attending this year’s Candidates’ Day for students admitted to the Class of 2023. The university-wide Expo, held in Building C on the Mountaintop Campus, featured 150 student projects and involved more than 280 student presenters.
The projects that were showcased grew out of work in English, engineering and other classes, biology labs, capstone design projects and other pursuits.
Mariel Weigel ’20 was part of a team that worked on a capstone project with 3D printing implants company Additive Orthopedics in New Jersey. The students set out to create an implant for people with arthritis in their thumb joint to help reduce their pain and improve their mobility. Weigel said one benefit of 3D printing is that implants can be individualized in size.
Weigel and her team laid out several prototypes so that attendees could observe the intricate lattice designs and sizes. They had printed prototypes using polymer of the actual size and six times the size.
Weigel said the team observed arthritis as a growing problem as people constantly use their thumbs to text or play video games.
“We have had adults come by and say they can relate to the research, so it is very applicable,” she said. “And I think a lot of students are drawn to that and see how at school you can get real-world experience.”
Team member Mairead Manning ’20 said the Expo was a great way for current and potential students to learn about the opportunities available at Lehigh.
“It is also cool for students who want to attend Lehigh be able to see what every major actually does,” Manning said. “Even us [students], usually we’re studying or interacting with people in our major, so the Expo is really a good opportunity to see the diversity of work at Lehigh.”
A few tables away, Kyleigh Abraham ’20 and her team worked on a capstone design project sponsored by TRuCapSol, a company at Ben Franklin Tech Ventures in Bethlehem that develops biodegradable products. The company examines ways to make Polylactic acid biodegradable by reducing the time and temperature it takes to break down a product for it to be composted.
Abraham said the team was tasked with conducting marketing research to find a product that would reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills. To do so, the team researched the issue and developed products that would hopefully be 100 percent biodegradable and can break down in two months to 20 months.
Students in the biology department also showcased their work.
Alecia Rokes ’19 was part of a team that studied a virus found in household yeast known as killer yeast, a toxin that can kill other yeast cells. The goal was to learn what conditions would create the most-killer mutants. The work was part of research in The Lang Lab, run by assistant professor of biological sciences Gregory Lang and that focuses on the molecular basis of evolution.
“Our main result was that it is actually very difficult to create mutants in the killer virus. It is very robust and doesn’t want to be mutated,” Rokes said, but she added that the team found certain conditions created the most mutants.
In the Lehigh in the S.E.A. lab, students examined phage genomics. A phage is a virus that infects bacteria and creates small holes. The students create phages and examine their different genes to determine their function.
Longhui Gao ’21 and Brianna Gipson ’21 both said the team enjoyed introducing potential students to biology research at Lehigh. Gipson said one of the benefits of the biology labs is working on hands-on projects.
“Lehigh has a pretty great biology department,” Gao said. “We have a lot of research opportunities that you can get into if you are interested in research or other opportunities [at] nearby hospitals....”
Story and photo by Madison Hoff