Student Funding Spotlight: ASU Graduate College Travel Award

In response to travel restrictions due to COVID-19, the Graduate College shifted our "Travel Awards" to provide funding for remote/online opportunities for graduate students to continue their professional development in spite of the current pandemic. We continue to be amazed at the resiliency of our scholars to find ways to persevere and succeed in these challenging times. We are pleased to offer a few "Student Spotlights" to share the ways that graduate students are using these awards to enhance their research, studies, and experience at ASU.

Travel Award Student Spotlight: Mark Sprowls

Hometown: Chandler, AZ

ASU Degree Program: Chemical Engineering PhD

Year in program: 3rd Year

Faculty Chair/Mentor: Dr. Erica Forzani

Tell us briefly about the research you are conducting here at ASU:

I am working on building the first-ever portable and contact-free metabolic assessment device (if FDA approved), referred to as the SmartPad, which offers immense advantages over current technologies used in clinical practice for obesity treatment. In the treatment of obesity, it is important to know with good accuracy exactly the number of calories burned per day. Typically, this is done in clinical practice using estimating equations (e.g. Mifflin St. Joer), however, this method is highly erroneous, with error percentages typically ranging from 30-50% in terms of metabolic rate error for many subjects. The device I am currently engineering for my dissertation research would replace these inaccurate estimating equations with a device that is able to measure the EE of every person seen in an obesity clinician's attending room in a given day, without requiring any wearable or intrusive devices. The end goal of this project is to develop a spin-off company to develop and manufacture the device so that it may be used in clinical care for the treatment of obesity. We hope that my dissertation research will lay the groundwork for a successful FDA clearance of this medical device. 

Tell us about the conference/event you are attending, what you will do at the event, and what you are hoping to achieve:

I will be attending the Biomedical Engineering Society annual conference (BMES 2020), which is hosted by the most highly regarded professional society for biomedical engineers. I hope to talk to both researchers and industry professionals about the next steps in the development of this medical device. I hope to receive important criticism and realistic opinions from other engineers on how they believe our methodologies could be improved to achieve the highest analytical accuracy. I also hope to talk to industry professionals about the successful commercialization of this medical device and the best way to approach the FDA clearance process. The PI and I would like to connect to a business to acquire this technology at some point. Additionally, I hope to discuss the best ways to implement market, and design this technology with medical doctors for optimal use. 

Explain how this event specifically this brings value to your education/research/professional development:

This event brings massive value to my professional development in terms of networking. I will be able to make professional connections that I could potentially leverage later on in my career, I will gain contact with potential future employees, potential business partners, and potential employers. Educationally this event provides massive value in the sense that I will gain exposure to all of the groundbreaking medical devices on the market. I hope this will give me insight into new engineering approaches that can be used to improve the analytical accuracy of a given medical device. Additionally, this conference will help me stay up to date on key medical device regulatory statutes issued by the FDA (which are subject to constant change). From a research perspective, this conference is also great in the sense that it will give me exposure to the top medical device journals in academia. I am looking to publish a first author work focused on a medical device validation study I recently performed in conjunction with Mayo Clinic Scottsdale and am looking for the right academic journal to maximize this work's exposure. 

Let us know how you used Graduate College funding for this event and how this funding impacted your studies/research/development:

The graduate college's generous stipend was used to pay for conference registration. I must also give special thanks to the graduate college and the Fulton school of engineering for the generous stipend (Dean's fellowship) that has given me the financial security to pursue my PhD.