UF engineering students win $10,000 as finalists in national competition
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A team of three University of Florida doctoral engineering students received $10,000 as one of 10 finalists in the Prize for Primary Health Care competition.
This is the first UF submission into the competition, which is held by the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology in Boston, said Brian Sorg, assistant professor of biomedical engineering who is working with the students. The team will present its finished project in the final competition on June 3 for the chance to win up to $150,000.
BME students Ray Kozikowski and Jennifer Lee with mechanical engineering student Sara Smith placed alongside students from Johns Hopkins, MIT, Brown, Yale, Boston University as finalists last month. Sorg said the students have created a new device to identify cancerous oral tissue by using light, a process known as spectroscopy.
“There’s a lot of value added as far as treating and being able to beat cancer if you can detect it earlier,” said Kozikowski, a fourth-year biomedical engineering doctoral student. The new technique would allow doctors to better diagnose cancer because it would concentrate more on differences in healthy and cancerous tissue, he said. Variables such as skin color or an inflammatory disease affect the diagnosis of cancerous tissues.
With the $10,000, the students will build a more compact and portable laser spectroscopy instrument to be used in clinics. Kozikowski is preparing to present the new device to UF’s Institutional Review Board and to the Food and Drug Administration for approval to use the device on people. The students have proposed the device to detect oral cancers, but due to its flexibility, it should eventually be able to diagnose other problems, he said.
The team had already been working on the project, which originated in mechanical engineering professor David Hahn’s lab, when they submitted their proposal.
The competition’s goal is to stimulate and sponsor the development of truly innovative technology to serve the needs of the frontlines of health care. Final proposals will be judged on innovation, impact and implementation.