2019 Scholarship Winner Feature – Hannah Spece

Drexel University Doctoral Student receives Philadelphia STLE Scholarship

L to R: Scholarship Committee Member William Tuszinski, Scholarship Awardee Hannah Spece, and Scholarship Committee Member Salvatore Rea

The Philadelphia Section of the STLE is pleased to award a scholarship to Hannah Spece, a doctoral student in Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University. Recent innovations in extrusion-based 3D printing (fused filament fabrication; FFF) have allowed for the manufacturing of high-temperature biopolymers such as polyetheretherketone (PEEK). Due to its low modulus of elasticity, high yield strength, wear resistance, and radiolucency, PEEK is an attractive biomaterial for implantable medical devices. This opens the door for in-hospital printing of patient-specific orthopaedic implants. However, due to its bio-inert nature, concerns exist about PEEK’s limited interaction with bone for implant fixation. As part of Hannah’s PhD thesis, she is working on modifying PEEK surfaces on a macro- and microscale by considering characteristics like pore size and geometry, overall porosity, wettability/permeability, and surface roughness to promote bone cell attachment and growth on the material. Hannah will also assess the effect of these parameters on mechanical properties as well as antibiotic uptake and release. A combination of macro-level alterations via 3D printing (such as introducing structured, interconnected porous networks) and micro surface modifications (such as sulfonation) is being used to achieve her goal of increasing the bioactive function of 3D printed PEEK for orthopaedic use.