Dr. Stephanie Willerth is a Full Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Victoria and Chief Executive Officer of Axolotl Biosciences. She’s Our Lady in 3D Printing Guest #278!
Stephanie, can you briefly tell us about your background and your journey in additive manufacturing?
I am Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Victoria where I run an internationally recognized research group that investigates new ways of engineering tissues using stem cells.
We are using a variety of bioprinters in conjunction with our novel bioink to generate human tissue models from stem cells.
Our work in additive manufacturing began in collaboration with Aspect Biosystems – a Vancouver-based bioprinting company – in 2016. Since then, our work in this area has really advanced as our team has made significant progress in bioprinting human neural tissue models for medicine. Screening.
Our collaboration with Aspect Biosystems was awarded the University of Victoria’s Reach Award for Excellence in Research Partnership in 2020.
Can you share more details about the Center for Biomedical Research and Biomedical Engineering Program?
I currently direct our undergraduate Biomedical Engineering program here at the University of Victoria. I was also the founding director of the program when it started in 2012.
The Center for Biomedical Research fosters health-related research at the University of Victoria – we hosted events such as the Victoria Health Hackathon, where community health authorities and Café Scientific will come together to address challenges from the chain – where scientists and engineers lead Editions about his interactions with the general public.
To date, what would you say is your biggest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
My team has made amazing progress in the bioprinting of functional neural tissues from human stem cells. Our tissues replicate some of the functionality observed in vivo, making them a potential tool for drug screening.
Do you have any (fun or not) stories about your career to share with us?
Starting a spin-off company (Axolotl Biosciences) has been an exciting journey.
My co-founders (Laura de la Vega and Layla Abelseth) are amazing, and our entire team is dedicated to making 3D bioprinting human tissues accessible to a wide variety of users. It’s also been a lot of fun running my research lab over the past 10 years and being able to mentor so many students who have gone on to great things.
Have you faced any challenges ranging from being a woman 3D printing?
The 3D printing community, in particular bioprinting, has been welcoming. There are still some systemic barriers that come with being a woman in engineering, especially in academic and leadership positions.
What’s the most impressive or impressive use of 3D printing you’ve ever seen?
I think Carbon3D is doing some really interesting work using its 3D printing technologies for a variety of applications.
What advice do you have for women looking to start 3D printing?
I would suggest getting a 3D printer or finding a local makerspace that has 3D printers. There is also a lot of great free software out there to download and lots of tutorials to help beginners learn how to do computer-aided design.
In your opinion, how can we encourage more women to get into additive manufacturing?
I think events like the TIPE conference held in January, which showcases women working in the field, show potential careers in the field of additive manufacturing.