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Biomedical Junior Takes First Place at Cardiovascular Research Day

December 21, 2021

David Alexander won First Place for Outstanding Undergraduate Poster Award at the 23rd Gill Heart and Vascular Institute Cardiovascular Research Day.

David transferred to UK his sophomore year for its new Biomedical Engineering (BME) undergraduate program and has been involved with research to aid in improving medical practices for ill people ever since. His poster presentation at Cardiovascular Research Day focused on developing a biosensor to detect various cortisol concentrations. This research has been in BME faculty member Dr. Guigen Zhang's lab and under the mentorship of BM graduate student Lauren Bell and College of Medicine faculty member Dr. Xiangan Li.

“I am incredibly passionate and adamant about helping other people," David says. "In July 2016, my grandma was diagnosed with ALS, and from then until February 2017 I watched and aided her as she declined. On the night she passed, I was the only one in the room with her and held her hand as she took her last breath. I am especially inspired to follow this path to become a biomedical engineer because no person or family member should have to experience this kind of pain.”

“In my freshman year of college, I attended Arizona State to study Biomedical Engineering. I learned quickly that I was just another number to them, instead of a student. When I heard about UK’s BME undergraduate program, which was still under development, I reached out to Dr. Guigen Zhang, BME Chair, and arranged a visit during my fall break in 2019. I came back for a second visit with my Mom during spring break in 2020. From these visits I learned that UK’s Bachelor of Science program in BME powered by design-thinking puts the emphasis and focus on understanding the patient's needs when developing a device. Professors challenge students to look at a problem from every angle to understand each need that must be met. Additionally, UK has a top-notch medical school. The campus atmosphere here is extremely warm and welcoming. It makes me feel that I could be a part of a big family where everyone wants to help each other succeed, and this type of university is one I want to be a part of.” 

In addition to Dr. Zhang's lab, David also works on a research team in conjunction with NASA engineers. That research is focused on developing a human-powered ventilator that can be used for upcoming space missions as well as in economically disadvantaged areas of the world that do not have access to electrical ventilators. David has been tasked with designing the 2nd generation of this device. It’s intended use would be in popular public spaces, such as a shopping mall, aquatic center, or fitness center.

David was also accepted into the 2021 University of Kentucky Bioactive Interfaces Summer REU Program for the Summer of 2022.

“These valuable research experiences and receiving this prestigious recognition as an undergraduate student would not have been possible without the university’s vast opportunities and Dr. Zhang’s assistance," David says. "The department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Kentucky provides exceptional course work that prepares students with necessary skills and knowledge to be successful in the future, while providing opportunities for students to expand their experience through a variety of projects.”