FORT WORTH, Texas (March 25, 2016) Attendees to Tarrant County College’s first Converge Conference & Expo learned about cutting-edge research in tissue engineering/bioprinting Friday because luncheon speaker Wake Forest scientist Mathew Varkey, Ph.D., believes researchers have a moral responsibility to share their research with the general public.
“We do a lot of work with different tissues and bioprinting techniques. Ultimately what we do will be in common use, so people need to be aware of what we are doing,” said Varkey, a research fellow in the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerating Medicine Research. “It is equally important to share what we do with the public to inspire the next generation.”
Varkey is part of a team using a combination of living cells and a special gel to print out living human body parts. The research at Wake Forest, often featured in the national news, could one-day result in an alternate organ source for more than 121,000 Americans on the waiting list for an organ, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
“An Inside Look at Tissue Engineering—The World of Bioprinting” is what he discussed to an audience that included students from the Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences (TABS), a partnership among TCC, Fort Worth ISD, the University of North Texas and the UNT Health Science Center.
Saying that his current work was not part of his career path, Varkey said, he would encourage students to learn as much as they can. “You need not know where you plan to, but make sure you get the basic fundamentals right and be open minded to explore,” he said. “My career was not a conscious choice, but my training and experience ultimately led me to it.”
His career decisions that eventually led him to the biomedical work he is doing now also were influenced by his personal experience of a traumatic brain injury received in a car accident when he was an 18-year-old student in India, said Varkey, who earned both of his graduate degrees at the University of Alberta, Canada. His college career was delayed about a year while he recuperated from a broken nose and overcome partial frontal brain injuries involving blood clots and memory lost.
“The experience caused me to want to be involved in a career that could improve quality of life for those who have experienced trauma,” Varkey said.
TCC’s conference and expo, “Exploring the Fusion of Science, Art and Technology in a 3-D World,” also focused on discussions on economic development and how it relates to additive manufacturing. Industry leaders were on hand with exhibits that provided firsthand looks at technology currently available that will play a role in the process in software technologies and printing included 3dDigital, Fanuc, LabResources Renishaw, Stratasys, and TechLabs.
Joint conference planner William Kucera, Ph.D., TCC chemistry professor, said the conference and expo allowed TCC to address the major shortfall the United States faces in producing engineers/scientists with skills that support manufacturing and product development.
“Students in science & engineering need exposure to industry and manufacturing. Talking with leading engineering and scientific technology companies will do wonders to open their minds to the range of career possibilities,” Kucera said. “The key to awakening students about potential careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is to expose them to cutting edge research and developments that reaches beyond the normal topics of today’s classroom,”
The conference is a launching point as TCC takes the first steps this spring focusing on the creation of a series of courses involving additive manufacturing that includes materials for 3-D printing, prototyping and 3-D technology. The new course at Northeast Campus will enhance existing manufacturing technology programs at South Campus. Introduction to Solid Modeling & 3D Printing will meet April 18 to May 4 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
“These new courses will start as stackable credentials for professional development and non-credit workforce programs,” said Fred Schmidt, conference joint planner and manger of Community & Industry Education Program Development for the District. “These will create the foundation to build out a comprehensive program in the future.”
More information about TCC’s introductory 3D course is available from the Northeast Campus Office of Community & Industry Education at 817-515-6502. Registration is available online through WebAdvisor at waj.tccd.edu.