ANU engineering student helps to diagnose coeliac disease at Harvard

Friday 28 October 2016

An engineering undergraduate from the Australian National University (ANU) helped to design a capsule to enable more reliable and affordable diagnosis of coeliac disease at the 2016 Health Sciences and Technology (HST) Summer Institute at Harvard-MIT in Boston.

The HST Summer Institute is a unique eight week program for outstanding undergraduate students to participate in hands on experiments in biomedical engineering and medical science.

Mechanical and materials systems engineering student Emily Campbell worked with the Tearney Laboratory, part of the Harvard Medical School, in adapting their capsule design to optimise the visualisation of villi, which are damaged by coeliac disease.

“Detecting variations in villi morphology is important in the diagnosis of coeliac disease, so it is essential that the images obtained by the capsule are detailed and true representations of the villi,” Emily said.

“While I was there, I collaborated with other research groups who had access to advanced 3D printing technology that we used to create moulds for models of the small intestine, and I also worked on testing the behaviour of swine tissue and different capsule design ideas.”

After winning the $10,000 ANU Health Science and Technology Scholarship, Emily lived in Boston for two months where she carried out the research.

“I loved Boston, there was so much to do over there! On the weekends I would go to concerts, festivals and museums with other students participating in the program.”  

“The highlight of the experience for me was meeting and working with students and researchers from all over the world. I’ve made lifelong friends and connections, through working in very international labs.”  

Another highlight for Emily was learning what the university experience is like for students across the globe.

“I met students from all over the world, from South Korea to Puerto Rico. I also had the opportunity to undertake a tour of Olin College – a small, progressive engineering College just outside of Boston that places an emphasis on projects and engineering education.”

Emily recently presented her project at the annual Young Engineers Australia Undergraduate Project Presentation (UPP) night, where she won the $500 first prize. 

Read more about Emily and her experience studying engineering on her student profile, or in her student blog

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