I am often asked by prospective students if Harvey Mudd supports individual student research projects. I would typically respond to this by talking about the extensive amount of research opportunities that are open to all of our students during the academic year and over the summer, which surely eliminates the desire to want to do an individual research project (right???). While that may be true for some, in all honesty that was my response because I was unaware of any institutional support for individual student research projects. I knew that students tinkered a lot on campus (they have 24 hour access to all of our academic facilities) but I didn’t know they could potentially get funding for their ideas until I recently heard about the Shanahan Student-Directed Project Fund.
I learned about the Shanahan fund at a presentation during our Admitted Student Program. The project featured during the presentation was done by a student I know, Demetri Monovoukas (’15). I was able to catch up with him to learn more about the process of getting funded and the experience of completing a Shanahan Student-Directed Project:
How did you learn about the Shanahan fund? Do you feel like a lot of Mudders know about this fund?
Dimetri: Originally, I heard about the fund last year when a friend of mine (Eric Kiss ’15) got funding for his project. He was very enthusiastic and motivated with his project and inspired me to apply for funding the next year. I do not feel like a lot of students know about this fund but they really should.
How did the application process work and was it a difficult process?
Dimetri: To secure funding, I had to submit a four-page proposal that explained what my idea was, why it deserved funding, how much funding I needed and who my advisor was going to be. I did not find it difficult at all and actually enjoyed writing the proposal.
Describe the idea for your project.
Dimetri: My idea was to create a wound-measuring device that calculates the area and perimeter of a wound by tracing. Ideally, it would be a pen or stylus with a removable, sterile tip, ON/OFF and READ buttons, and a liquid crystal display. The user would turn the device on, position the sterile tip at the edge of the wound, click the READ button, trace the perimeter of the wound returning to the starting point and click the READ button again to display the area and perimeter of the wound on the LCD.
Did you have to adjust your original concept to fit in with any rules or guidelines that came with the funding?
Dimetri: I did not have to change my original idea to fit in with the rules/guidelines. I had initially asked for some funding to secure patents but was only given funding to develop the product.
Where did the idea for this come from?
Dimetri: When I was younger I thought that I wanted to become a doctor, so that’s where my interest in health sciences came from. As I grew older I realized that I was more interested in the engineering behind it. I was exposed to the field of medical devices at a young age as my mom, dad and uncle all work in the industry. My uncle specialized more on the science side. One summer I shadowed him at his tissue engineering company and I learned about wound therapy and assessment. After doing some research on my own, I realized that the wound measuring industry was largely untapped as they were using rather rudimentary devices. One thing led to another and I came up with the WoundStylus.
Why is the measurement of a wound important?
Dimetri: Measuring a wound is very helpful in determining the healing process. Nurses measure the area and perimeter of their patient’s wounds every time they treat them. By knowing the growth rate of the wound, the doctor can determine if the treatment they are currently using is working or if they need to change treatment.
Did your project turn out the way you had conceived? Did you encounter any unexpected issues?
Dimetri: For the most part, my project turned out the way that I conceived. I could not shrink down the electronics of the design to incorporate the LCD in the stylus itself. There were plenty of issues and setbacks in my design process but that is to be expected with a project that I was really making up as I went. Luckily, most of these issues were with the electronics and could be easily addressed by the amazing resources we have at HMC.
Was the Shanahan fund committee happy with the final outcome of the project? I see you were required to do a presentation for the campus community, how was that received?
Dimetri: I think that the Shanahan Fund committee was happy with the final outcome of the project. Throughout the whole process I kept them updated and they seemed to enjoy hearing the progress of the project. I made a 15-minute presentation to around 30 students and faculty members. I really enjoyed making the presentation and felt that the audience thoroughly enjoyed the project.
Is the project complete? If not, will you seek more funding to continue it?
Dimetri: I will be continuing the project over the summer and extending my funding as well. The majority of my work will be concerned with shrinking and housing the electronics in the stylus to produce a sleek, self-contained prototype. I plan to continue working on and refining the device for as long as I can and am so grateful to be given this opportunity
Do you have any advice for students (present or future) looking to do an individual research project at Mudd?
Dimetri: I would encourage them to absolutely apply for the Shanahan fund. This project has been one of the most rewarding and valuable experiences that I have had at Harvey Mudd thus far. I think the most important thing to realize about the Shanahan fund is that it gives students the freedom, flexibility and courage to tackle any innovation that they can imagine. I probably would have never pursued this idea if it weren’t for the Shanahan fund.
See the WoundStylus in action