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Bioengineering students impress at bioethics essay, poster competitions

Back row, from left: Andrew Sliger, Mark Messler. Front row, from left: Chris Glover, Caroline Green, Samantha Huddleston. Not pictured: Nicholas Roberts.

It was a clean sweep for the University of Missouri in the 2015 Institute of Biological Engineering Bioethics Essay Competition, as well as a Students’ Choice Award in the poster competition. Back row, from left: Andrew Sligar, Mark Messler. Front row, from left: Chris Glover, Caroline Green, Samantha Huddleston. Not pictured: Nicholas Roberts.

It was a clean sweep for the University of Missouri in the 2015 Institute of Biological Engineering Bioethics Essay Competition, as well as a Students’ Choice Award in the poster competition.

The awards were handed out at the IBE Awards Banquet in St. Louis recently. The students submitted papers as an optional extra-credit opportunity in Professor Sheila Grant’s biomaterials class, and Grant said five of the 15 students who turned in essays were selected to present at the conference, with all five earning top marks. The award winners and essay titles are as follows:

  • First place: Andrew Sligar, “A Review of Ethics: From A to Xenotransplantation”
  • Second place: Mark Messler, “Possibilities and Consequences of Neutral Engineering”
  • Third place: Caroline Green, “Unnatural Enhancement”
  • Honorable mention: Samantha Huddleston, “Pay for Printed Organs”
  • Honorable mention: Nicholas Roberts, “Preparing for the Future Biotechnology: Look to the Future”

In addition, Chris Glover was lead investigator alongside bioengineering graduate student Sarah Smith, Grant and Bioengineering research engineer Dave Grant for research featured on a poster titled “Characterization of acellular porcine diaphragm construct conjugated with bioactive gold nanoparticles.” The poster earned top marks in the Students’ Choice Award category.

The students said they decided on their topics mainly by going deeper into areas that had already captured their interest, as well as taking the present state of bioethics into account.

“I looked at stuff that was current issues and other really relevant things, and I kind of made it more futuristic and ‘what if?’” Green said.

But that wasn’t the only approach.

“I pulled from science fiction, specifically from Philip K. Dick,” Huddleston said. “And I’m also getting into bioprinting research.”

Coursework had touched on ethical issues immediately before students tackled the projects, Sligar said.

“We all had some basics of what bioethics is, but that helped,” he said.

Dave Grant also is the adviser for the MU student IBE chapter. He said that a handful of schools dominated this particular contest about a decade ago and was happy to see the balance of power shift Mizzou’s way.

As a whole, the students were proud they brought most of the top awards from an international essay and poster competition back to MU, adding that it reflected well on their well-rounded education that their writing earned top marks alongside their research.

“It definitely reflects well on the department, the fact that we all swept it,” Messler said.