Of mice and 3D printers

High school seniors Evrim Ozcan and Itamar Fiorino display their research after spending three weeks working in Israeli labs. Photo by Samantha Cooper

Russell Lubin, a senior at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, spent three weeks in Israel over the summer assisting in a research lab. The researchers were putting human ears on mice.

Hairless mice.

The project, Russell said, involved prosthetic ears created on a 3D printer and human cells.

“Very simply put, we would print an ear and then we would we fill it with cells. The cells were grown in what’s essentially a petri dish. And from there, they were ready. But we’re not allowed to do human trials yet,” he said.


So the mice are the current recipients. The prosthetic is to be purely aesthetic, given to children born with missing or deformed ears.

Russell was one of 12 students from the Washington area who participated in the SciTech Summer Technology Camp at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa. Students from around the world assisted in experiments that ran the gamut from biomedical engineering to rocket science to robotics.

“Basically, we could have chosen where we could go, but I said wherever is fine with me,” said Nathan Slotnick, a senior at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac. “It could expose you to something [you] never thought you would be interested in.”
Nathan worked in a lab creating hydrogels, which can help treat people with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Brandon Hill, a freshman at University of Maryland who was working on research related to cell phone data speeds, made close friends with his partner.

“My favorite part was probably the days when I was in the lab itself, because I met someone named Itai over there. I made very good friends with him and he lives in Israel. We were working at computers simulations trying to do the same thing with different methods. It was such a great thing to talk to someone with a very different background who is just so different from me but we could just still talk to each other.”

Though many of the students won’t be going on to study in the fields they worked in, they’re planning on studying the sciences and math when they attend college, and want to bring their experiences with them.

“[College work] is not similar at all. I worked in electrical engineering and my classes are more geared toward mechanical engineering. So we haven’t covered this stuff yet,” Brandon said, “[But] I do like the idea of being nearly independent [in Israel.] Like having your own space, doing your own laundry, basic life stuff as well as getting to do some high-end research and use very cutting edge facilities. The program has definitely prepared me for college so far.”

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Twitter: @SamScoopCooper

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