Undergrad Advances Research on the Mechanical Function of the Lung

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Katie Accomando, an undergraduate student, is the expert operator of a plethysmograph, a complex piece of equipment designed to help measure the volume of the air in a mouse's lungs. How did Accomando start to care about the air volume of a mouse's lungs?

As a sophomore mechanical engineering major in the UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS), Accomando wanted hands-on experience in a bio-engineering lab. She contacted Jason Bates, a research professor of medicine and molecular physiology and biophysics in the College of Medicine seeking such an opportunity. Bates, recently appointed Interim Director of the CEMS School of Engineering (SoE), splits his time between these two positions.

After meeting the young engineer, Bates offered her the opportunity to operate a prototype piece of equipment in his lab. "I saw in Katie a bright, young student with engineering quantitative experience, which is exactly what I wanted," Bates says.

Bates researches lung function and the quantitative evaluation of lung mechanics. "Mice are the main species that are used in biomedical research in all disease areas," Bates says, "including lung disease, which is our specialty here."

Accomando admits the work has been challenging. She credits her engineering coursework for giving her the perseverance needed when troubleshooting problems in the lab. "The lab experience is a hands-on opportunity to put equations and theories to work, a crucial step for any engineer," says Accomando. "I've learned just about as much working in the lab as I have in my classes."

Currently a senior in mechanical engineering with a biomedical concentration, Accomando, is working on her thesis on ventilator-induced lung injury and Bates serves as her adviser. It has been a fruitful collaboration for both individuals.