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3D Implants in 3 Minutes: OU Engineering Student Recognized for Thesis Video Presentation

3D Implants in 3 Minutes: OU Engineering Student Recognized for Thesis Video Presentation

Ali Rassi poses with a 3d printer and printed part

With just three minutes to present his research on 3D printed implants, University of Oklahoma graduate student Ali Rassi has risen to the occasion.

Rassi, a master’s student in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, was recently named the overall winner of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools’ regional Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition for his video presentation on 3D printed implants – a technique that may ultimately help those with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or other joint health issues. Rassi’s video also was one of three videos that was selected to be aired publicly at the competition.

In February, his presentation, “From Bench-Top to the Operating Rooms: 3D Printed Implants,” won OU’s fifth annual Three Minute Thesis (OU 3MT®) competition, setting him up to represent the university at the association’s annual meeting in March, which took place virtually. Rassi received a $2,000 scholarship for his first-place win. He also won the People’s Choice Award, for another $1,000 scholarship. The runner-up in the OU competition was Puthynan Bin, from the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science.

In his research endeavors, Rassi investigates improved design and fabrication strategies for implants of TMJ in the jaw. He has become an expert in 3D printing and continues to explore the potential applications of modern materials and processes in the field of personalized regenerative medicine.

“It is deeply rewarding to see the breadth and quality of graduate work represented in the OU 3MT® competition. And this year, Ali Rassi’s presentation was the embodiment of why we do this event,” said Randall S. Hewes, Ph.D., dean of the OU Graduate College and professor of biology. “In just three short minutes, he drew the audience in with an engaging and compelling explanation of why he is doing this thesis research and how his work has the potential to improve people’s lives. His success at MAGS is a great credit to him and to OU.”

“In the first few months of my journey as an assistant professor, I was often reminded by my mentors that the ‘first graduate student that I recruit is also the most important one.’ Ali was the first one – and now, having spent nearly two years enjoying the privilege of working with him, I can say that I hit the nail on the head when I invited him to pursue his degree at OU,” said Pedro Huebner, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering and Rassi’s adviser.

The TMJ project is truly a team effort, from funding to execution, Huebner said. Other team members include Michael Detamore, director of the School of Biomedical Engineering, and biomedical engineering graduate students David Nedrelow and Boushra Ajeeb.

“He is what I like to call an ‘ISE superstar,’ bringing incredible value to my research program and the School of ISE as a whole,” Huebner added. “He demonstrates a hard-to-find level of motivation to go beyond the basics and succeed at every challenge he encounters. Ali has a bright future ahead.”

Ali Rassi and his adviser, ISE assistant professor Pedro Huebner, stand in front of the BioAssemblyBot

Ali Rassi and his adviser, ISE assistant professor Pedro Huebner, stand in front of the BioAssemblyBot, a top-of-the-line bioprinter that will be used to 3D print the cartilage component of the temporomandibular implant Rassi mentions in his 3MT presentation.

Noting that he has been involved in the TMJ project at OU from its conception, Rassi said, “I have seen other applications of 3D printing in health care, mostly in dentistry or visual aids for practice surgeries, so printing a full-size implant was quite a big and exciting project for me.

“I found my interest in CAD during my bachelor’s degree work and worked with several modeling software, such as SOLIDWORKS, CATIA and Fusion 360,” he recalled. “That interest was multiplied when I did my first rendering of a model I designed and saw it come to life. Naturally, the next step was to make the model I made, and that’s where my interest became my passion. Our department bought a 3D printer and I was the first person to do his project on that machine. I have been involved in 3D printing ever since, in one way or the other.

“Because of my background in extreme sports and history of injuries, I was hoping I could work on applications of 3D printing in health care, but no one in my major worked on my favorite areas. Well, almost no one,” he added. “As I was searching for the right program, I found Dr. Huebner and read some of his recent papers. At the time, I thought this might be the coolest area you can work on, and I still feel the same as I write this passage. So, I got in touch with him, and that’s how my OU journey began.”

Rassi further explained that his contributions to the TMJ project have been “mostly in design and manufacturing, where I use my knowledge of 3D modeling and 3D printing to fabricate the implant and the custom-made tools necessary for the evaluation of implant performance.”

As the winner of the MAGS regional event, Rassi is eligible to take part in the Council of Graduate Schools’ virtual 2021 3MT Showcase and People’s Choice Competition later this year.

View Rassi’s award-winning 3MT® presentation here.

By Jerri Culpepper

Article Published:  Wednesday, April 7, 2021