These devices are often used by pharmaceutical companies in the discovery of new drugs. Other applications include stem cell growth and cancer research.
The tubes in the devices are so small, they can process each cell individually. When dealing with cancerous blood cells, for example. a researcher could test a new drug on individual cancer cells without affecting the healthy cells in the blood.
According to Maddala, the current method for designing these devices is painstaking and inefficient.
"Optimization is impossible," Maddala said. "The devices are so complex, the only way to come up with a design that suits its purpose is going through a long trial and error process with physical mockups."
Maddala's idea takes the process digital. He created an algorithm for software that can test different models of microfluidic devices, taking the best parts of each test and incorporating them into the next attempt. Eventually, several optimized models suiting a particular need will be discovered. A 3-D printer can then be used to create physical renderings of the devices.
Maddala decided to seek funding for his project after developing a prototype. He said he was interested in commercializing his idea, because it could create jobs in the industry and help people.
Maddala and his professor,
"Jeevan's story is a great example of the great success graduate students can have when they take initiative," said
Reber said his office typically works with faculty members looking to license intellectual property, but is making an effort to work with more graduate students, as they are often heavily involved in the research process.
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