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Bioengineering students clean up at IBE essay competition

IBE award quartet poses with their certificates.

Jonathan Gootee, Mitchell Hanson, Savannah Pounds and Alexis Planells bioethics essays ranked among the nation’s best at the 2016 annual meeting of the Institute of Biological Engineering (IBE) held April 7-9, 2016 in Greenville, SC.

For the second straight year, a crew of MU bioengineering students’ bioethics essays ranked among the nation’s best at the 2016 annual meeting of the Institute of Biological Engineering (IBE) held April 7-9, 2016 in Greenville, SC.

Students were asked to submit a 1000- to 1200-word original essay on a topic of their choice dealing with a current ethical issue in biological engineering to the competition. Four of the five semifinalists were Mizzou students, all of whom were invited to read their essays at the meeting.

Mitchell Hanson, a senior who will graduate next December, took second place in the competition. His paper, “The Ethical Implications of CRISPR in Biological Engineering,” looked at a rapidly developing genome editing technology.

“The topic allowed me to explore some of the difficult ethical questions that the technology posed,” he said. He attributes his success to the increasing popularity of the technology and the analogies he used to describe the dangers of its unregulated usage.

Bioengineering senior Savannah Pounds placed third in the bioethics competition. She said she chose her topic, “Ethical Considerations of Genetic Modification,” because she wanted to learn more about genetic modification.

“Through research on the topic, I was able to better inform myself and formulate an opinion,” she said.

Honorable mentions went to bioengineering seniors Alexis Planells and Jonathan Gootee. Plannels said her paper was on the topic of the permissibility of 3D-bioprinted organs.

“Many people would think that printing organs can only be beneficial, but there are several ethical and moral issues that people have not thought about,” Planells said.

Gootee’s topic concerned the understandability of scientific papers with an emphasis on making the papers easier to read.

“Genetic engineering is an important topic today with recent major advances in the field. Most of the scientific papers today are not understood by the general public, thus creating a big disconnect between scientists and the general population,” Gootee said. “I have experienced the disconnect when talking to my friends and family about scientific topics, and this was my inspiration to discuss options to better present research.”

Gootee also was selected to share his research at a podium presentation.

“I presented research in materials engineering to create a more biocompatible implant for tissue engineering,” he said. “I have worked on this project since my sophomore year. It has been a very interesting project and has ignited my desire to continue research and education in the field of material engineering.

“[Bioengineering Professor] Dr. Sheila Grant has been an inspirational mentor and has challenged me to learn more and broaden my horizons beyond biological engineering.”