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Presenting: Positive PCL possibilities

Gordon sits behind a table adorned with free Mizzou swag.

Allison Gordon, a senior in Bioengineering, recently gave an oral presentation at the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting in Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Allison Gordon.

Allison Gordon initially thought she’d be one of several posters at a large group presentation. As it turns out, she was selected for something more prestigious at her industry’s biggest annual conference.

Gordon, a senior in Bioengineering, recently gave an oral presentation at the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting in Phoenix. Her presentation was titled “Biomechanical Comparison of Three Posterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Techniques.”

“I didn’t realize the difference between the oral presentation and the poster, and I forwarded the email to Dr. (Ferris) Pfeiffer (a Bioengineering Professor), and he had this huge reaction,” Gordon recalled. “I went back and read it and saw that, wow, this is an actual presentation and not just a poster.”

Gordon spent the previous year working in Pfeiffer’s lab, and one of his key research projects has been an ongoing collaboration dealing with ligament and joint health with James Cook, MU’s William & Kathryn Allen Distinguished Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery. Gordon’s abstract was a branch of that work, looking at three different repair techniques using grafts and different tibial fixation methods for the PCL, the ligament which keeps the knee from bending too far backwards.

“We tested an intact PCL (in a cadaver), then went in and cut the PCL and tested again,” the Grain Valley, Mo., native said. “Then we repaired it with three different techniques, and we tested it again.

“The first technique used a bicortical screw to fix the graft on the tibia. The second is a suspension technique where each end is tied with suture material and suspended where it needs to be, and the third one is same suspension technique with a bigger graft. The thick graft with suspension technique was the one that tested really well, at least in stiffness. The end result for all angles we tested at was almost what it was before was even cut.”

Gordon’s interest in bioengineering stemmed from an early engineering exposure program she participated in during high school. While her section didn’t offer bioengineering, she saw it listed among possible courses, and suddenly, she knew how to merge her love of biology with engineering. And it also provided her a way to touch on an area that hit close to home.

“My mom has a heart problem to where they can’t put a stent in, so that kind of piqued my interest in bioengineering, as well,” she said.

She had the opportunity to do a job shadowing program with Hanger, Inc., a leading orthotic and prosthetics company, during her freshman year at Mizzou, and it sold her on prosthetics and orthotics as a career path. Gordon then spent the year with Pfeiffer before accepting an internship for this year with Nanova, Inc., a company founded in part by MU Engineering faculty members Hao Li and Qingsong Yu.

As for her presentation, Gordon saw it as an opportunity to perfect another area of her craft — public speaking. It’s something she knows she’ll need to be good at once she enters the workforce, and she said she was grateful for the opportunity to get much needed feedback at such a prestigious event.

“I think the thing I’m looking forward to most is presenting,” she said. “I hope a lot of people show up so I get practice talking to a large group, and I can go around and get constructive criticism and answer people’s questions.”