John Guest Phillips Memorial Travelling Scholarship 2009
By David Waugh
My Ph.D. research involves the use of various lasers to surface treat the surfaces of both nylon 6,6 and PMMA in order to enhance
osteoblast cell response in vitro aiming to link the response to the wettability of these materials. The link between wettability and
cell response is believed by many throughout the industry and academic community to be a driving force in the ability to predict
how a material is going to react in a specific biological environment. As there are a large number of materials and biological cells
which can be experimented with, it is imperative that a global collaboration is sought for the exchange of ideas and results to be
made. Through this, generic parameters can be determined and hopefully will lead to quantification for cell response owed to
In regards to this trip, the itinerary included the The International Congress on Applications of Lasers & Electro-Optics (ICALEO)
conference to begin with which ran between Sunday 1st November 2009 and Thursday 5th November 2009. Then in the following
week a visit to 3I Implants, West Palm Beach, was carried out on Wednesday 11 th and Thursday 12th November 2009.
ICALEO 2009 at the Hilton at Disney World Resort, Florida, was the 28th conference which continued a tradition which began 27
years ago allowing the latest advances in the field of lasers and laser applications to be presented. It also offered old and new
colleagues from across the globe to meet in order to exchange results and ideas on numerous different topics. As in previous years,
ICALEO offered attendees a number of benefits, such as giving the opportunity to forge international collaboration between
academics and industrialists, as well as the opportunity to bridge the gap between academia, governments and industry – all of
whom share a common goal of advancing the technology of lasers and their almost limitless applications.
Furthermore, to add considerably more relevance to this trip, the visit to 3I Implants, West Palm Beach, offered a unique
opportunity to meet with those who work within the area I am researching. This allowed my thoughts and ideas to be discussed in a
more practical manner to identify that my research was in line with those throughout the biomedical industry. In addition to this,
the visit opened new doors for me in terms of learning about new or alternative experimental techniques which would enhance
both my knowledge and quality of work. Finally, it allowed me to realize the intended direction of those within the industry which
involved the advancement of stem cell research.
For me this trip was going to allow me to further my skills and confidence in my Ph.D. subject area. In addition, the trip would give
me invaluable experience in presenting my work on a worldwide stage and in turn, would furnish me with invaluable feedback that
would benefit both my research and increase the quality of both my resulting journal papers and Ph.D. thesis. The successful
application for the John Guest Phillips award provided me with the travelling costs to attend ICALEO ‘09 and visit 3I Implants.
Use of the Award
The conference commenced on Sunday November 1st 2009 with an informal welcome celebration. This afforded a great opportunity
for everyone to socialize and interact whilst enjoying the live entertainment provided by the Beer’s Law Band with lead singer Dr.
Ronald Schaeffer of Photomachining Inc. - one of my collaborators. The welcome celebration allowed me to meet with two of my
collaborators, Dr. Schaeffer and Dr. Neil Ball of Directed Light Inc. who are both based in the USA, to discuss both my past and future
research. Furthermore, I was able to meet and discuss my work at length with Prof. Bill O’Neil of the University of Cambridge and Dr.
Paul Hilton of TWI Ltd., both of whom are very big names within the laser industry.
On the following morning there was a Session Chair and Speaker Appreciation Breakfast which seated every presenter by session
and allowed me to meet my session chair and the other presenters in my first session. At the breakfast audio-visual tips where given
along with last minute updates and an overview of the week to come. Directly following the breakfast a plenary session took place
which featured topics such as Green Energy Technology, Photovoltaics and Laser-assissted Carbon Processing. After lunch I was
privileged to be given the first presentation of my session, entitled Surface Modification I, Chaired by Prof. Larry Dosser of the
Mound Laser & Photonics Center.
This presentation focussed on the long term effects of surface degradation and atmospheric pressure on the wettability of nylon 6,6.
It was very well received, prompting a question from Dr. Patrice Peyre of LALP, Paris regarding what was previously expected from
the change in atmospheric conditions prior to experimentation. This lead to suggestions of isolating parameters to determine which
of them was the most dominant driving force in terms of wettability and characteristic contact angle.
My other presentation given on Thursday was also very well received and prompted a good response from those in attendance. Dr.
Duncan Hand of Herriott Watt University seemed impressed with the speed of the surface treatment that we were able to achieve
with the Synrad CO2 laser system and lead him to ask for confirmation of this in comparison to other laser types. This lead the chair,
Prof. Xiayun Zeng from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China, to ask about other laser types I may have used and
suggested that the industry, as well as other academics, may be interested in what effects other laser types have on surface
treatment and cell response of polymeric biomaterials. This was followed by a question from Dr. Yijan Jiang of the Beijing University
of Technology about the possibility of using my process for other material types. A suggestion was then offered to also employ a
Wilhelmy Device for the study of wettability by allowing the real-time surface energies of each sample to be obtained. These
questions and suggestions where of great benefit to me as they have allowed me to identify other key areas for study to enhance
the quality of both my research and Ph.D. thesis. Furthermore, I can use the feedback required to more efficiently and effectively
convert my conference papers into journal papers resulting in my work having a larger impact on the academic world stage.
Following my final presentation I was approached by Dr. Duncan Hand of Herriott Watt University and questioned in more detail
regards my research and how I think it could be applied to industry. This included a more in depth conversation regarding using
different materials and how time of processing is imperative for industry to take up the technology due to cost effectiveness. On a
more general note, the possibility of carrying out a joint UK high power laser materials processing conference between
Loughborough and Herriott Watt was discussed and seemed to be a promising prospect for the future as it could conceivably lead to
further collaboration between the two institutions.
In the second week of my trip I travelled to West Palm Beach to meet Dr. David Bullock. and Mrs. Caitlin Walker of 3I Implants. My
visit included a meeting to discuss my research, a tour around the company facilities and further biological training. The meeting
allowed me to further identify how surface modification to enhance the cell response is necessary to optimize materials for their
intended biological application in order to reduce the failure rate as a result of foreign body rejection. Also the meeting, tour and
training allowed me to get a more in depth view of in vitro biological studies such as using simulated body fluids, carrying out protein
adsorption experiments and the potential further study of stem cells with laser surface treated polymeric materials such as the ones
I am investigating. Once my Ph.D. has been completed I am hoping that I can continue my research to study how stem cells can react
to the laser surface treated polymers.
During the week of my presentations at ICALEO I was contacted by Prof. Sabu Thomas, FRSC Conference Secretary and Hon.
Director of the Institute of Macromolecular Science and Engineering (IMSE), inviting me to present and attend a meeting at the
Second International Conference on Polymer Processing and Characterization, January 15th, 16th and 17th, 2010, Kottayam, Kerala,
India. This invitation has arisen as a direct result of my conference presentations and journal publications which have been
developed from my conference manuscripts.
I feel that after the trip I have developed a number of skills and have obtained valuable feedback regarding my research and how I
carry out the experimentation for both wettability and osteoblast cell response studies. The feedback I have received has definitely
allowed me to improve upon the conference papers which will contribute towards journal papers. In fact, as a result of the feedback,
I have already been able to amend one of the conference papers and have submitted it to the Optics and Lasers in Engineering
Journal and am awaiting referee comments. The John Guest Philips award has allowed me to increase the quality of both journal
papers and the final Ph.D. thesis. In addition, I feel that as a result of the trip I have gained valuable knowledge and experience
which will ultimately aid me in the future for my intended academic career.