Novel 3D Agent-Based Model of Skeletal Muscle Cell Infiltration of MAP Hydrogel Scaffold; Design-Incorporated User Assumptions and Sanitary Pads: A User Configuration Analysis

Roloson, Emily, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Griffin, Donald, EN-Biomed Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Laugelli, Benjamin, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

My technical work and my STS research are connected through the idea of developing a medical device or product to best suit an actual or perceived user. The process of designing technology to have the best outcome for the patient is central to both my technical and my research projects. However, the two works differ in the stage the product is in and the application of their products. My technical work focuses on the creation of an agent-based model to optimize a material currently being developed for use in regenerating muscle in order to get the best outcome for the patient, while my STS research explores the assumptions designers of the sanitary pad made about users when creating their product and how these assumptions are hindering the use of sanitary pads in Nepal today. Thus, while my technical work and STS research are concerned with vastly different products, the theme of designing a product for a user is consistent across both projects.

My technical work explores the idea of designing a better material to facilitate the most effective skeletal muscle regeneration for patients. I developed a three-dimensional agent-based model of skeletal muscle cell infiltration into the material to examine cell behavior in response to any modifications made to the wound microenvironment, including changes to the material. This model allowed me to suggest an optimal material that should lead to the best treatment, or the most muscle regeneration, for a patient suffering significant muscle loss. The suggested optimal material can now be tested in animal models to determine if it will help patients in the desired way.

My STS research also examines the idea of designing a product for a user but focuses on the assumptions designers made about users of the sanitary pad and why these assumptions are not always correct. My claim is that in creating the sanitary pad, designers made assumptions about their user’s identity and values that were consciously and unconsciously incorporated into the subsequent design. In addition, I discuss how these design-incorporated assumptions are hindering the use of sanitary pads in Nepal. The goal of my research is to educate people, especially current sanitary pad designers, about the assumptions made in designing these products and the harm they can cause. This understanding can then hopefully bring about the design of future menstrual hygiene products that could be more widely adopted.

Working on these two projects simultaneously significantly aided in my understanding and appreciation of both projects. My technical work gave me experience within the decision-making process designers of products undergo when creating their devices, which helped me to better comprehend how the designers of the sanitary pad could have made the assumptions they did about users of their product. Similarly, the research I conducted for my STS paper helped me see the importance of considering users from multiple demographics when designing your product in order to reach the broadest population possible and therefore help the most people. This made me reflect upon the design of my product in my technical project, the material used to facilitate muscle regeneration, and how I could better design and manufacture it to reach and help the most patients possible. In summary, working on both my technical project and my STS research paper in tandem has allowed me to examine user-focused design in many ways, and both works contributed to the understanding of the other.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
volumetric muscle loss, MAP gel, agent-based model, sanitary pad, user configuration

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Donald Griffin
STS Advisor: Benjamin Laugelli

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