A Record Year for TMP Presentations
From rare childhood diseases to next-generation medical devices to biofuels, the 2011-2012 Team Master's Project Presentations were the most varied and numerous in KGI's history. Perhaps the most distinguishing aspect of the KGI experience, the TMP program gives students the rare opportunity to learn firsthand what it's like to meet the needs of some of the world's leading companies, such as Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Amylin, among others. On May 2, a record 19 projects were presented in two parallel sessions with 11 from returning sponsors, eight of those sponsoring in consecutive years.
"This was the most impressive TMP season we've ever had at KGI," said Craig Adams, director of the Team Master's Project. "Several teams were involved in developing algorithms to help guide strategic R & D activities toward targeted diseases, while other teams carried out marketing research on highly technical products and provided sponsors with reports and databases that will be used as they develop their next-generation products. But, regardless of the subject matter, the quality of each team's output was truly stunning."
Under the direction of their faculty advisors, small groups of KGI students work to identify and meet a need addressed by their corporate liaison. Abbot Medical Optics (AMO) tasked students Josh Miller, Gloria Lin, John Weaver and Joy Wong with developing a working prototype of a next-generation remote control device used in intraocular lens replacement surgery. When creating the prototype, the group focused on the human factors required for optimal functioning of the device and actively sought feedback from current users of the device.
"AMO executives actually took our prototype design to countries such as India and China and let the OR nurses handle it," Miller said. "We found that there was definitely a difference in usage in developed and developing countries. Here in the U.S. the device probably will sit on a tray and not move much, but in developing countries it's more likely to get moved around and dropped, so it has to be able to stand up to all that."
The team's efforts paid off and they expect to begin validation testing on their device here at KGI shortly. "I learned so much during the TMP process. I learned how to manage a team and how to work within a team, not just of fellow students but of industry professionals," Miller said. "And, in the end, I was surprised at how gratifying it was to actually see the physical device that we had made."
Focusing on economics, the Sigma-Tau group took on the complex challenge of examining the direct, indirect and intangible costs associated with Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating gastrointestinal disease that primarily affects prematurely born newborns. The group utilized social media to evaluate the intangible costs which include the emotional and social impact that NEC has on survivors, family members and caregivers.
"Our outreach and communications with NEC families was an amazing component of this project and will be an unforgettable experience for me," said Sigma-Tau team member Lauren Breslin. "We spoke with mothers who had experienced many parents' worst fear, watching your baby fight for his/her life. The trauma and devastation of this experience has motivated many of these families to fight for research and promote awareness, and because of that they were willing and excited to speak with us."
Reaching outside of the medical and pharmaceutical industries, the group sponsored by Clear Springs Land Company analyzed the feasibility of building an open-pond algae farm on 18,000 acres of land the company owns in Bartow, Florida. The biofuels industry is a potentially huge market, but one that requires hundreds of millions in investment in unproven technology to compete with commodity oil prices. The KGI team's final report evaluated the commercialization potential of these byproducts and provided recommendations for the most profitable options.
"The scope of our Team Master's Projects expands every year as our corporate partners continue to realize the creative insights and level of professionalism that our students bring to the table." President Sheldon Schuster said. "Along with commencement, it's one of the proudest days on the KGI campus."