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Student research thrives at the Center for Advanced Technical Studies

CHAPIN – Students in the biomedical science program at the Center for Advanced Technical Studies are given the unique opportunity to conduct their own scientific research. As the capstone project of the two-year program, students develop, design and test an idea, ranging from a product to a methodology. Teacher Julie Krusen says for the past two years her students have received patents for their ideas and more are following the same path this year.

“Every year students keep taking it to the next level,” explained Krusen. “I am constantly amazed at what they come up with and how far they push themselves. I have a general idea about each project but within a few weeks, they know more about it than I do.”

One such project was created by student Brogan Brown of Spring Hill High School. She designed a bra for women who are undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer and are suffering from radiation dermatitis, or radiation burns. Over 90% of women undergoing radiation treatment have this painful skin reaction, which limits the ability to wear a bra.

“I was inspired by my mother who had trouble when she underwent radiation treatment finding a bra,” said Brown. “That was my initial inspiration and then as I looked out and talked to more people, I found that it was more of a common problem than I had initially thought it was.”

Brown won first place in the District Five Science Fair in the engineering, math and computer science category for her bra design, and went on to place third in the engineering category at the Region 2 Science Fair. She also placed first in the engineering category for oral research presentations at the South Carolina Junior Academy of Science.

Brown is attending the College of Charleston in the fall majoring in biochemistry and minoring in entrepreneurship. She hopes to continue on with her project and get it patented.

Another project inspired by family members was created by students Katie Dzoba and Emily Richardson of Chapin High School. They designed a bandage that incorporates a natural substance to help blood clot faster than a regular bandage. A key aspect to their design is a quick release method inside the bandage that helps release the coagulant onto the wound.

Richardson said, “We aimed this towards people who are on blood thinners because we both have parents or grandparents who are on blood thinners. A problem that is very common is if you get a minor scrape or a cut, you tend to bleed at a larger volume and it’s really hard to stop the bleeding because of the thin blood.”

The pair placed first in the earth, environmental, life and physical science category at the District Five Science Fair, and went on to place first in the engineering category at the Region 2 Science Fair where they also received the Grand Award Team Division. At the South Carolina Junior Academy of Science, their bandage project earned second place in the physiology and health category for oral research presentations.

Dzoba said, “It definitely is a step ahead, being able to work at the Center for Advanced Technical Studies and having the time that we’re given to research. You can find what you are interested in by being given that freedom to discover what you want.”

Both Richardson and Dzoba will be attending Clemson University next year majoring in biological sciences. They hope to test their bandage on a larger group of people and patent it.

Student Hillary Melton of Spring Hill High School was able to test her project with the help of professors and students at the University of South Carolina. She looked to evaluate the efficiency of mass casualty decontamination procedures and tested three scenarios: emergency decontamination, sheltered decontamination and disrobing decontamination.

For her final drill, she worked with two professors at USC who provided nursing students as test subjects. The Columbia Fire Department provided emergency responders, fire engines and resources needed to perform the test decontaminations. She used a mock contaminate, “Glo Germ”, for the trials.

“Already I can see the benefits of completing research,” said Melton. “It’s really helped me to be more open to collaborating with other people and networking, and to have a greater understanding of its importance.”

Melton placed first in her room at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium and qualified for nationals as a semifinalist. She placed first at USC’s ASBMB Science Fair and earned third place in the general science category at the Region 2 Science Fair. At the South Carolina Junior Academy of Science, she placed first for her oral research presentation and fourth for her written paper in the physiology and health category.

Melton will be attending the University of Alabama in the fall majoring in chemical and biological engineering. She hopes to publish her project as a resource for fire departments and first responders across the nation so they can reform their decontamination methods and be prepared in the event of a chemical or biological incident.

The biological science program gives students an opportunity to familiarize themselves to a laboratory setting, see independent research from start to finish, build their resume for college applications and investigate a topic they are passionate about.

“It’s great to see students not only learning but also enjoying it,” said Krusen. “You can see how much they really love what they’ve done. They are truly proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

Biomedical science students in front of their projects on display at the Center for Advanced Technical Studies. Left to right: Emily Richardson, Katie Dzoba, teacher Julie Krusen, Hillary Melton and Brogan Brown.

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