For the past six weeks, 14 undergraduates from Swansea University in Wales, United Kingdom, have been immersed in the INSTINCT Summer Innovation Program—an intensive Biodesign program run by the Department of Surgery Incubator at Baylor College of Medicine.
“What they come up with in six weeks is amazing. There is nothing better than the untapped, non-indoctrinated mind of the youth,” said Stuart J. Corr, Ph.D., an electronics engineer who holds multiple adjunct positions at the University of Houston, Rice University, and Swansea University, in addition to serving as director of Surgical Innovation and Technology Development at Baylor College of Medicine. “It is pure imagination and pure innovation.”
INSTINCT participants include first-year or second-year students at Swansea studying applied medical sciences, engineering students from Rice University and one student from the DeBakey High School for Health Professions, located on the Texas Medical Center (TMC) campus.
“We ask the students to come up with an idea—it can be about anything—and then we ask them to get prototypes made,” Corr said. “That is why we included engineers this year. It is all about getting an idea, getting it ready and showing us how it works.”
In its second year on the TMC campus, the program has grown from 10 students to 22.
Maanasy Nadarajah, a second-year student at Swansea, returned to INSTINCT this year to continue her work on Settress—a mattress designed to pre-empt pressure ulcers in hospital patients.
“I was part of a competition last year to find a way to combat pressure ulcers,” Nadarajah said. “We were thinking, rather than combatting ulcers, we decided to aim for preventing pressure ulcers from happening in the first place.”
Nadarajah and her team tied for first place at last year’s INSTINCT summer program with their innovative design. Compared to standard mattresses in hospital rooms, the Settress can sense pressure, absorb moisture and redistribute pressure. This year, she came back to hone the product.
“I worked with the engineers this summer,” she explained. “We are trying to get a proper concept out to see if the pressure redistribution mechanism actually works and then the next step will be working with hospitals.”
Nadarajah, who hopes to acquire a patent for Settress, plans to attend INSTINCT again next summer and use the work as the basis for her dissertation at Swansea.
“It is very unique what we are doing here in the Texas Medical Center,” Corr said. “We have already had amazing ideas come out of the program. Once we get a win—when the work here is taken to the clinic and can save lives—that’s when the storm gates open and everything will flood in.”
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