Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Protein-Based Bioplastics for Additive Manufacturing

Faculty PI:

Alshakim Nelson, Ph.D.

Immediate Mentor/Supervisor:

Gokce Altin

Project or Start-Up Company Name:

Protein-Based Bioplastics for Additive Manufacturing

Lab/Project Website:

Work Location:

Chemistry Building (CHB)

Work Hours (include recurring team meetings, special events, etc.):

40 hours per week

Overall Program Goal:

The objective of this work is to develop protein formulations for vat photopolymerization to produce degradable biomedical devices. There are a limited number of commercial resins available today for 3D printing that are biodegradable. We discovered that bovine serum albumin can be 3D printed into bioplastic constructs with mechanical properties that are comparable to thermoplastic materials like poly(caprolactone). As a consequence of the high protein content of these constructs, the printed constructs can be enzymatically degraded. Furthermore, we have demonstrated a range of 3D printed designs and showed that the printed constructs exhibit shape memory behavior. Thus, these materials can be ideal for 3D printing biomedical devices for minimal invasive surgeries. We have several patent applications and publications which cover the materials developed by our laboratory. Our current aims include materials for continuous drug production and delivery, and the development of new devices for testing in consultation with clinicians at UW Medicine.

Intern Project Description and Responsibilities:

The intern will develop and test new resin formulations with improved mechanical properties, and also test new designs for stents and other devices. Thus, the intern will learn to optimize resin formulations based on viscosity and photo-curing rate (using a rheometer), operate a vat photopolymerization 3D printer, and perform experiments on a loadframe to quantify mechanical properties.


No specific experience is required, but student must have taken organic chemistry and must be eager to learn new techniques and skills. Our group is highly interdisciplinary, and we welcome students from any discipline not limited to chemistry, biology, biochemistry, physics, and the different fields of engineering.

Level of Independence:

Project will be structured by the mentor who will guide the student over the project period.

Learning Opportunities:

Student will learn to perform research related to 3D printing, practice and refine presentation skills, and develop teamwork and collaboration skills.