VERMILLION, S.D. – University of South Dakota student Alexis Slack has created 3D printed models of vertebrate skulls, isolating and printing individual bones to use as puzzles for educational purposes.
Slack, a rising junior majoring in biology of human dynamics and neuroscience, used an existing micro-Computed Tomography (µCT) scan dataset to isolate each bone in the skull of a chameleon using Amira software. She tracked where each bone connects and learned how they come together to create the composite skull. For an easier assembly and enhanced teaching, Slack drilled magnets into the printed structures and dyed each bone. Slack’s models are ideal for classroom instruction as they are inexpensive and can be printed on demand.
“It is my hope that my research will advance a variety of scientific fields, leading to a progression in the biological, medical and medical education fields, and enhance the student experience across the world,” Slack said. “My research stands to advance pre-medical education through the creation of physical learning tools for anatomy classes, while also informing our understanding of the comparative skeletal anatomy of chameleons.”
Slack’s interest in 3D printing began in high school when she made 3D prints for friends and family. “I knew at the time I wanted to pursue something in the sciences, so I began brainstorming ways I could use 3D printing to help people in a medical technology field,” Slack said. “When I came to USD, I connected with Dr. Chris Anderson. After meeting with him, I started in his lab the following week.”
“Alexis is an extremely dedicated and hardworking student with incredible drive,” said Anderson, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology. “Since contacting me about research during the first week of her freshman year, Alexis has regularly pushed to learn new techniques, expand her project, take on leadership roles working with other students in the lab and enthusiastically asked if it was all right for her to work in the lab in the evenings or weekends."
Slack has received a Nolop Summer Research Scholarship, a UDiscover Summer Scholarship and a Dean’s Opportunity Fund award from the College of Arts & Sciences.