Katelin Cherry’s prowess in distance events won her a track scholarship to the University of Arkansas and fueled her interest in biomedical engineering. “I want to help people be healthy and enjoy their life as much as possible,” she said. She’s made major strides towards that goal in her research for her honors thesis. As part of a team led by Dr. Jeffrey Wolchok, she is growing extracellular matrix, a part of animal tissue that she has derived from skeletal cells in the lab. Once implanted in the body, the extracellular matrix provides a scaffold for rebuilding skeletal muscle, then dissolves, lessening the chance of immune system reaction. "This new material could potentially help trauma patients, like a soldier who’s lost part of a limb,” Katelin said. “It’s easy to get a skin graft, but to have function in an arm or leg, you have to regrow muscle."
During her years at the university, Katelin has participated in an algae study, sports biomechanics testing, and a project to develop a bicycle-powered anemia test for low resource areas. She traveled to Belize to help fine-tune a water filtration system designed and built by U of A engineering students, and assisted nurses in the emergency room at the local veteran’s hospital, where she saw injuries that someday, she may help repair. “I’m really thankful that I have this time to figure things out, because I have a lot of interests, and I’m not sure what I want to specialize in just yet,” she said. She is certain, though, that the U of A has afforded her valuable lessons in teamwork. "My research experience has been really good. I learned how to work in a lab with other people, all working towards a common goal."