Spotlight on our Students: Zack Davis: Focus on the Capstone

Zack Davis during his time in Germany. 

“Be patient. Research will not go according to plan or follow a set schedule. Aspects are bound go wrong and the important thing is to not take it personally and to keep trying. “

In this edition of Spotlight on our Students, we spoke with Zachary Davis, a senior majoring in Material Science and Engineering from Goldsboro, NC. Zack talked with us about the amazing research he’s done on campus as a part of his University Honors Capstone project.


UHP: What is the focus of your Capstone project and what inspired you to select this topic? 

For my Capstone, I worked on a tissue engineering project where I designed and built a direct-write, near-field electrospinning system (DWNFE) for the fabrication of anatomically accurate fibrous tissue scaffolds. This project came together through a culmination of my prior research experiences both at NC State and with the DAAD RISE Germany internship. My research at NC State with Dr. Fisher consisted of electrospinning synthetic polymers and 3D printing models of orthopedic tissues. While at Stuttgart and Tübingen, I worked on a high-resolution imaging bioreactor and heard interesting discussions about electrospinning of natural polymers. When I returned from Germany I wanted to attempt this form of electrospinning and my professor wanted to build a DWNFE, so we compromised. This compromise, which was to build the system and after successfully printing with synthetic polymers attempt printing with natural ones, became my Capstone. I am currently continuing this work.


UHP: What do you hope to learn from your work on this project? 

I hoped to gain a better perspective on my research interests looking forward to graduate school. The Capstone project has helped me narrow down my school options and professors by providing both the experience and the opportunity to meet other faculty or at least hear about them. This networking and deliberation of my interests helped me pick which universities would be the best fit for me.


UHP: What other interests or hobbies do you have that helped shape this project?

I am a runner and as such have injured my knees on more occasions than I can count. This means that in the future my knees and other joints have a higher risk of forming osteoarthritis. My research can lead to more effective repairs of orthopedic tissues and thus be able to save mine and others knees in the future.


USP: How has your time in the UHP prepared you to delve into the Capstone?

Through the program, I was able to have my first exposure to research with the Phage Hunters Program. This gave me the confidence and experience to ask for the position with Dr. Fisher and begin my path towards the Capstone.


UHP: What do you want to tell other University Honors students about bringing together a successful Capstone project?

Be patient. Research will not go according to plan or follow a set schedule. Aspects are bound to go wrong and the important thing is to not take it personally and to keep trying. Also, work with your faculty member. They have the experience and can tell you when an idea is too complicated or too bold for a 2-semester project. When working with them try to combine ideas they have with your interests to create a feasible project for the time you’ll have.


UHP: What are some skills or ideas you learned in the Capstone process that you could later apply to other areas of your life, such as a future career or work in your current classes?

For me pretty much everything will translate to my future careers. Some major skills are the ability to analyze papers for answers to issues I run into. This was especially important when I was working on crosslinking the gelatin, a process no one in my lab had experience doing. My Capstone has helped to form the next step of my life, which is to continue pursuing tissue engineering and additive manufacturing techniques in graduate school.


UHP: What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever received?

Always be willing to try out new things even if you are unsure as to if you will like it. You may find your perfect niche without realizing it.