College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Two ME students selected to share research with policymakers on a national stage

A young woman and young man pose together and smile for the camera
Caroline Crisp and Clayton Burkhalter

Two mechanical engineering (ME) students will have their opportunity to share their heart valve research on a national stage at this year’s Posters on the Hill event.

Caroline Crisp, senior, and Clayton Burkhalter, junior, are the lone students from Iowa State University selected to participate in this annual event, hosted by the nonprofit Council on Undergraduate Research. The event will take place virtually from 3 to 5 p.m. CDT on April 26th and 27th.

Crisp and Burkhalter work in the lab of Ming-Chen Hsu, associate professor of ME at Iowa State. They have been using computational modeling and analysis to study the effectiveness of prosthetic heart valve devices used to treat heart disease. Crisp and Burkhalter have built upon previous work done by Hsu and Emily Johnson, a former student of Hsu who completed her Ph.D. in 2021, in collaboration with Chung-Hao Lee’s team at the University of Oklahoma, to improve the framework for parametric modeling of the native tricuspid valve and the transcatheter aortic valve replacement, also known as TAVR.

“This framework allows us to examine the impact of different geometric characteristics on the performance of the respective heart valve through advanced, high-fidelity simulations, and the results can provide essential information that significantly advance knowledge about the cardiac system and evoke an innovative approach for future medical devices,” Crisp said.

The researchers said courses such as M E 160: Mechanical Engineering Problem Solving with Computer Applications and M E 170: Engineering Graphics and Introductory Design provided them with a solid foundation in computational modeling which they have applied to their research. Additionally, M E 335: Fluid Flow helped them to understand the impact of blood flow under physiological conditions.

Crisp and Burkhalter are among 88 students nationwide invited to participate, and they are the only two representing a college or university in the state of Iowa. Their work has already been recognized by IEEE-USA, the United States division of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, for their “Excellence in Engineering” distinction, one of two just projects nationwide to receive this honor. Crisp, who is from New Orleans, La., said she hopes the opportunity might influence legislators to impact policy on the national level.

“This conference gives me the opportunity to connect with senators and house representatives, highlighting the importance of government funding for research and the beneficial impacts that research has, for example, in the medical community,” she said.

For Burkhalter, who is from Mahomet, Ill., this undergraduate research experience has given him a better sense of the applicability of his ME skills and knowledge.

“My experience in undergraduate research has really opened up my eyes to the opportunities for mechanical engineers in the job field as well as research opportunities,” he said.

Crisp will graduate at the end of this semester, while Burkhalter plans to complete his degree in Fall 2023. In addition to Hsu and Johnson, the duo also recognizes the helped they received from Manoj R. Rajanna, a Ph.D. student in ME who also works in Hsu’s lab, and acknowledges funding from the National Institutes of Health (R01HL142504) and the Presbyterian Health Foundation (C5122401)