De la Fuente is a synthetic biologist who incorporates a computational approach into his work, attempting to engineer biological systems that can transform medical tools and therapies. His lab studies naturally occurring proteins and uses their discoveries to design artificial antibiotics and living medicines.
by Aime Bienfait Igiraneza (Computer Science, ’20)
We started the morning at the Golden Tulip Hotel. tThere we meet a group of civil engineers from KNUST (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology). Once we were all together we sat down to enjoy some traditional west African breakfast foods like Hausa Koko, a spicy porridge.
After breakfast was finished we left the hotel for the market. At the market the KNUST students were nice enough to show us around while we looked for Kente cloth. The brightly-colored and intricately designed Kente was purchased so that it can be made into clothing for us to wear when we meet the Ashanti king.
Once we were finished at the market we all boarded the bus to spend the rest of the day at the lake. The lake we traveled to, Lake Bosumtwi, the only natural lake in Ghana, sits within an ancient impact crater. A little outside the city Kumasi the lake served as a nice break from the busy city. At the lake we enjoyed more food, games, and a beautiful view to end the day.
We started off our day with another visit to Suntreso Hospital to observe the treatment and handling of their HIV/AIDS patients. We spoke to the resident pharmacist who showed us the different types of ARV’s the hospital keeps in stock. We also met with an HIV/AIDS treatment counselor who allowed some of us to observe a counseling session with a newly diagnosed patient after receiving their consent.
We found that many patients suffering from communicable diseases often go undiagnosed and untreated for extended periods of time. This is due to the effort it takes to make a hospital visit in addition to the lack or underdevelopment of referral systems for patients found to be exhibiting symptoms of other ailments after screening. We learned that patients also tend to commute large distances from other regions to seek treatment in areas where they are less likely to be recognized by friends, family or co-workers. We learned that this is usually done to avoid the implications of stigma surrounding many diseases, especially HIV/AIDS.
We then went to the Ghana National Cultural Museum where we were introduced to just a few of the many facets of Ghanaian culture that we had time for. We were told what each of our day names meant and learned about a host of traditional practices and items such as the talking drum, traditional dress, and stories about the fight against colonial rule. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the museum.
After a day inspired by Ghanaian culture we stopped for a meal at Ike’s Café. This restaurant is near the museum and we very quickly found ourselves enjoying a night full of Ghanaian delicacies to match the history we’d learned about as well as some breathtaking live music. We shared a host of local dishes which included fufu, banku, jollof, plantain, rice balls, and more.
The live band gave us a shout-out midway through their performance. A particular saxophonist managed to capture the attention of some of our team members. All-in-all we had an educational and relaxing day.
Jason Burdick, Professor in Bioengineering, will give the annual Heilmeier lecture tomorrow — Tuesday, April 10, 2018 — after having been been named the recipient of the 2017–18 George H. Heilmeier Faculty Award for Excellence in Research for “pioneering contributions to designing and developing polymers for applications in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.”
The Heilmeier Award honors a Penn Engineering faculty member whose work is scientifically meritorious and has high technological impact and visibility. It is named for George H. Heilmeier, a Penn Engineering alumnus and overseer whose technological contributions include the development of liquid crystal displays and whose honors include the National Medal of Science and Kyoto Prize.
Burdick’s research interests include developing degradable polymeric biomaterials that can be used for tissue engineering, drug delivery, and fundamental polymer studies. The platform polymer technology involves the development of modified biopolymers that react or assemble into networks and are processed using techniques such as photopatterning, electrospinning, and 3D printing. Specific targets of his research include: scaffolding for cell and growth factor delivery in the regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues; controlling stem cell differentiation through material cues; and injectable hydrogels for the repair of cardiac tissue.