Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering

 

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Benjamin Igo

"Investigating problems in ways that nobody has considered before makes engineering research worthwhile. It develops critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills that are important towards growing as an innovative researcher and making impactful contributions to society. "

Benjamin Igo
 
Current Research - Defining the Mechanical Properties of Pediatric Cranial Bone
Advisors: Matt Panzer, Patrick Cottler, Jonathan Black

It is known that the pediatric skull grows rapidly during the early stages of life and that it differs drastically from the adult skull in terms of composition, rigidity, and structure.  However, despite this knowledge, and due to the limitations in both the availability of existing experimental data and the understanding of cranial growth mechanisms, current surgical methodologies and materials used for the pediatric population are adapted from those used for adults, resulting in potentially undesired consequences.  The overall goal of my research is to improve our understanding of the pediatric skull in order to improve future surgical outcomes for pediatric patients.  

To do this, my research has two primary goals.  The first goal of my research is to define the microstructural and mechanical properties of pediatric skull bone.  To do this, I am first using micro-CT imaging techniques and developing analysis algorithms to assess the internal structure of pediatric cranial bone to understand its microstructural characteristics.  Then, I am conducting experimental tests on pediatric cranial bone samples and leveraging microstructural information to more accurately quantify mechanical properties of samples to better understand how pediatric skull bone differs from adult skull bone.  The second goal of my research is to develop a computational model to predict the patterns of pediatric cranial growth and development.  To do this, I am growing a finite element model of the pediatric skull through simulations and updating that model based on the loading patterns seen throughout the model to better understand the factors contributing to pediatric skull growth.

By enhancing our knowledge of both pediatric skull mechanical properties and the factors that contribute to skull growth, this research can hopefully be used to improve the efficacy of pediatric skull surgical hardware and to better inform surgical planning and development of treatment methodologies moving forward.

What made you choose UVA Engineering?

After visiting UVA and the Center for Applied Biomechanics and having the opportunity to appreciate the historical architecture and visit lab facilities, I chose UVA MAE because of the interest that I had in the research being conducted here, the passion that the people here have for what they do, and the ability to make a positive impact on the lives of others through my work.

What drew you to Mechanical Engineering?

I have always been an innately curious individual and, from a young age, I was always interested in how things work and how they were made.  In high school, I found that my courses in math and science allowed to satisfy these interests, and I decided to pursue engineering as a path where I could directly focus my efforts towards developing these types of understandings.

My undergraduate degree is in Biomedical Engineering, and I was initially drawn to that field because of my interest in projects that explore a field that has such great potential to improve quality of life.  During my studies as an undergraduate, my courses in Mechanical Engineering and specifically Biomechanics allowed me to tangibly connect Mechanical Engineering to applications that positively impact the lives of others in ways that are truly meaningful and engaging to me.  The ability to do this on a daily basis through my work led me to Mechanical Engineering.

What do you plan to do with your degree?

After graduating, I hope to work at a company or institution where I am able to work on designing and developing innovative technologies and products that will improve quality of life.  The background in Mechanical Engineering and research experiences afforded by UVA have certainly deepened my fundamental understanding of mechanical technologies and systems which will help to equip me with the essential skills to succeed in what lies ahead.