Updated: Oct 26, 2021
I always had a fascination for the human body, especially the brain, and exploring that through tactility: dissections and lab experiments. However, because of the pandemic, online learning became my way of life. I missed being in the lab, performing experiments and dissections. Being stuck in a virtual world forced me to think outside the box on how to create a fulfilling hands-on experience in the field of biology.
I was taking an online summer course at Brown where I learned anatomy and physiology, as well as practicing to diagnose patients and conducting medical interviews. One of the final projects for this course was to do research on a part of the brain of my choosing: I selected the occipital lobe. At the same time, I was also learning about X-rays and MRI scans: how they work and how to use them to identify certain diseases.
I was working on these assignments in my dad's office in Secaucus just for a change of scenery and to get out of the house. His office houses a robotic 3D printer that his company, AI SpaceFactory, is developing.
The printer was going through a software issue and was stuck in a loop. I watched as the hot extruding plastic fell on the floor, tangled and piling up on the concrete floor.
Looks like a brain, I thought.
Interested as to what was wrong with the robot, I asked my father about it. As he explaining to me how this giant 3D printer worked, I noticed a similarity between MRI's and 3D printers.
A 3D printer takes slices of an image and layers them to make a physical object. MRIs work in the reverse, deconstructing a three dimensional object into 2D layers.
That's when the idea came to me to 3D print a brain, using MRI scans from an actual brain.
To see if this was even achievable, I had to do a lot of research. I found a lot of software applications that helped me make this idea possible.
While this project idea came to life as just a fun thing to learn, through research, I have learned about the importance 3D printing could have in the future — especially in medicine. I hope that this piece can spread awareness of its potential.