Saket Bikmal


Michael Joseph


Josh Bradley


Kian Maranon


Johanna Huarachi

UX/UI Developer

Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) Conference 2021

Knowledge is Power: Linking augmented reality with 3D printed internal organs to Improve Medical education and increase patient involvement in clinical studies

Virtual & Augmented Reality Organ Systems (VAROS)

Our innovation is the use of augmented reality in clinical care to improve patient health literacy, and thus enrollment and adherence to clinical studies. To test for VAROS’ effect on patient health literacy, we hypothesize that if VAROS is used in comparison to the industry standard to inform patients on the quantity, size, severity, and location of their colonic polyp status post colonoscopy, then the patients using VAROS will demonstrate a greater understanding of their diagnosis due to the engagement of more senses while learning. If VAROS shows a significant improvement compared to industry standards of patient-physician conversation and 2D graphic visual representation, then VAROS will be used in a further study to determine whether patient enrollment and adherence to clinical studies is significantly different through the use of VAROS. We hypothesize that VAROS' ability to captivate patient attention while engaging multiple senses will lead to improved patient health literacy and, therefore, improved enrollment and adherence to clinical studies compared to industry standards.

Our first step was finding students with specialized skills related to our device. We have built a team of Ph.D., graduate, and undergraduate students with expertise in 3D modeling and design, augmented and virtual reality, computer science, biomedical engineering, finance, and law. I am serving as a GI clinic’s clinical research coordinator with pharmaceutical companies willing to get this product up and running, initially planned for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and eosinophilic esophagitis studies.

The next steps of VAROS include incorporating the beta version of the customizable colonic polyp quantity, severity, size, and location designs into the VAROS mobile application and begin collecting physician feedback at the Colon, Stomach, and Liver (CSL) Center in Lansdowne, VA. After spotting and handling bugs in the software, I will submit for central institutional review board review before beginning the data collection phase of our study. Depending on the results of our data analysis, we will begin data collection for phase II of our study. Following more data analysis, we will compile our results onto an ePoster for the 2022 American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) Global InterGrowth Conference Presentation. Afterwards, we will begin to market ourselves to pharmaceutical companies interested in using VAROS' product to enhance patient enrollment and adherence to their clinical studies.

Polyp Visualization

Virginia Tech's Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology

Working as a clinical research coordinator, I have noticed countless numbers of patients who lacked a true understanding of their diagnoses.

With diagnoses like eosinophilic esophagitis and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, can you blame them?

Of course not, but what we could do was improve the tools used to educate patients.

Better patient education = Better adherence to treatments = Healthier population

With this goal, we got to work with designing a visualization that we believe is far superior over the 2D poster board representations serving as the industry standard.

Then, we created the software capable of hosting the designs.

Dr. Alexander Leonessa

Primary Investigator

Dr. Garret Burks

Postdoctoral Researcher

Cameron Ardani

Undergraduate Researcher


Design of an Active Voice Box Prosthesis with Embedded Actuation

Virginia Tech Biomechanical Engineering

My interest in synthetic larynx repair brought me to Virginia Tech’s mechanical engineering department. Dr. Alexander Leonessa and his Ph.D. student, Garret Burks’, work aligned with my interest. At the time, Dr. Leonessa was preoccupied with other projects, but Garret had extra time and wanted to help. Together, Garret and I mapped out a plan to move forward.

The first step was to review the current understanding of synthetic biology’s application in laryngectomies. After understanding similar work in the field, Garret and I created vocal fold designs. Modeled first on paper, I began to learn computer-aided design to three-dimensionally (3D) design and print our vocal folds. Combining my anatomical knowledge with Garret’s analytical engineering mindset, we were able to create variations of common mammalian vocal folds to 3D print. Having prepared a list of possible materials to use, designs to print, and experiments to run with the products, I was learning every day and progressing towards my goals.

Unfortunately, over our winter break, Garret defended his thesis, earned his Ph.D., and was offered a job a few states away. Excited for my mentor, but saddened by my loss of accessibility to necessary labs and equipment, the end of our research had come sooner than anticipated.

Fortunately, I had documented our progress and kept upcoming experimental plans. Come the summer of 2020, Dr. Leonessa compiled our work into an abstract and submitted it to the National Science Foundation (NSF). For the division of chemical, bioengineering, environmental, and transport systems organization of the NSF, I was recognized as a supported project contributor for the “Design of an Active Voice Box Prosthesis with Embedded Actuation” which awarded $127,000 for the mechanical engineering department of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

My favorite part of this research experience was collaborating with an interdisciplinary team and progressing at our own pace. Working with engineers to apply scientific knowledge to real-world problems helped me grow as both a learner and a researcher.