Jeff Anker, a chemistry and bioengineering professor at Clemson University, has received a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program grant to conduct research and teach in Finland.
Anker will travel to Tampere University in July. During his 6-month stay, Anker will continue his research on sensors that can be attached to orthopedic implants to monitor bone healing and detect infection.
He’ll work with two professors at Tampere University’s Centre of Excellence in Body on-Chip Research. Both have Clemson ties. Jonathan Massera, who earned his Ph.D. in glass science from Clemson, focuses his research on bone scaffolds. Bone scaffolds are 3D biomaterial structures that support bone healing. Laeticia Petit, who was a research assistant professor at Clemson for three years, specializes in biophotonics and making fiber-based sensors.
“My goal while I am there is to interface some of my sensors with their scaffolds,” Anker said. “I understand a lot about sensors — how the hardware works, how the sensors work. But I’d like to add something to my repertoire about bone reconstruction. Conversely, my expertise in sensing is going to be really useful for what they’re doing, so it’s going to be a great collaboration.”
A program of the U.S. State Department, the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program provides more than 800 teaching and research fellowships to U.S. college and university faculty and artists and professionals from a wide range of fields. Appointments are available in more than 135 countries. Besides research and teaching, Fulbright U.S. Scholars share knowledge and foster meaningful connections with communities in their host countries.
Martine LaBerge, chair of the Department of Bioengineering, said the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program is the flagship international education program sponsored by the U.S. government.
“Securing a spot in the program is highly competitive,” LaBerge said. “Dr. Anker’s selection as a Fulbright scholar is a testament to his leadership and the high level of scholarship he brings to Clemson. His participation not only helps promote international cooperation but also raises Clemson University’s international profile.”
William Pennington, chair of the Department of Chemistry, applauded Anker for his selection.
“We congratulate Dr. Anker. This award identifies his work as being meritorious and impactful,” he said. “One of the College of Science’s goals is to strengthen the national and international prominence of our scientific discovery and Dr. Anker’s selection does that.”
Anker has focused on developing sensors that are attached to plates used to repair an unstable bone fracture. These sensors track healing and detect infection. Plates are like internal splints that hold the broken pieces of bone together while they heal. But if the fracture is too severe, bone scaffolds are used to fill the defect and provide something to which new bone can attach.
When an injury is traumatic enough that hardware or scaffolds are required, there’s a significant risk of infection. The bacteria can produce biofilm on devices that is highly resistant to antibiotics and is difficult to eradicate. The device often needs to be removed when that happens, which is costly and subjects the patient to multiple surgeries.
“We would love to put sensors in there to understand what’s going on and how to or if we can detect it early when there are more conservative treatment possibilities,” Anker said. “We’d also love to put in therapies in the scaffolds that we can monitor, such as nitric oxide or vancomycin, which kill bacteria, to find out how they are released in the scaffold in vivo.”
Anker said he hopes to form collaborations that will help other Clemson researchers, especially those working with tissue engineering.
According to the Office of Global Engagement, Clemson has had 79 Fulbright Scholars since 1950. The University has hosted 107 Fulbright scholars since 1992.
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