On Thursday April 26, the 11th grade Engineering and Physics class visited the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the number one opthalmic center in the country. The 14 students attended two brief presentations about some of the institute’s projects and toured the impressive complex.
“I met these two guys who worked there, one of them gave us that speech, Anddre, I met them at a social function, and they told me that they work in bio-engineering, and I set it up,” said engineering teacher Mrs. Edwards.
Dr. Adrien Eshraghi detailed the science and history behind cochlear implants, which allow the deaf to hear, whether they lost their hearing or were born without the sense of hearing. The long, string-like implant is placed in the cochlea surgically, and a hearing apparatus placed on the outside of the ear sends signals straight to the brain through a magnet.
One student, Noah Dobin (11th), said “It’s very cool and interesting to see the combination of science and technology in so many ways and how it can improve lives.”
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. The researchers at Bascom Palmer, including speaker and tour guide Anddre Valdivia, are delving into the disease to determine what causes the onset of blindness. Valdivia, a PhD student at University of Miami, is currently leading research into a lipid that can possibly regenerate damaged optic nerves.
“We’re testing out some lipids, and we want to do some clinical trials, but it takes a lot of time before we can get the permission for it,” Anddre Valdivia said. “We haven’t filed anything yet, but right now we’re still finding out and validating the lipids that we’re finding out.”
The Engineering and Physics class spent the second half of the field trip touring the Bascom Palmer facilities. Some of the highlights were an engineering lab that produced 45 patents for ophthalmic machines and a million dollar mass spectrometer that analyzes each and every molecule within a sample of tissue.
“It was very informative and interesting to learn about how the eye and ear work and what doctors are doing to fix problems related to both of those things,” Moshe Goldring (11th) said.
All students enjoyed the opportunity to view real-world applications of engineering in the field of medicine.
“I’m happy that we got to see some of the bio-engineering things, especially with the implants, which I thought were really interesting, and especially the way they worked through the design process, I thought, kind of mirrored what we’re learning about in engineering in terms of trying to fix something that doesn’t work the first time, and then you have to go back and fix it,” said Mrs. Edwards. “They were dealing with really mundane issues, such as the cord breaking and infections, so it was interesting, because they build something, it’s so cool, but they have to go back and fix it.”
The Bascom Palmer staff had words of encouragement for the prospective engineers in the group.
“I’m actually very happy to see everybody that’s interested in pursuing a career in science,” said Valdivia. “I think we definitely need a lot more people in science to figure out what really causes these diseases… I think if we can a lot more people interested in pursuing a career in science, it’s going to be beneficial for the rest of the population.”
By: Jack Benveniste-Plitt (11th Grade)