Lilley Fellows Share Research on Sustainable Fashion & Biosensors for Healthcare Monitoring

Two of this year's Lilley Fellows shared their research and findings with their peers and teachers on Thursday, Sept. 22, during presentations in the Carrafiell Family Theater. Watch here.

Ashley Kim '23 spent several months exploring sustainable fashion through the lens of industry, academia, and nonprofit organizations.

"Everything around us screams 'buy this!' and it's hard to say no when the sticker price is cheap and everyone around us is partaking," explained Ashley as she shared powerful fashion photos from Tik Tok, billboards, and store fronts. "Today's consumer culture is driven by the rapid turnover of trends and the affordability of fast fashion."

The industry generates trillions of dollars in profits. But what is the cost to the environment and the people making clothing overseas? "Exploring this intersection has been a richer and more interesting interdisciplinary experience than I could have ever imagined," shared Ashley as she set out to learn more about the impact of fast fashion.

Over the summer, Ashley met with leaders at All Together Now PA to learn about sustainable initiatives underway in the state. She harvested flax at a farm in Pottstown and learned about linen processing. Ashley is also part of a national youth conference at Drexel University that will draft and submit a global youth statement that will be submitted to the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Ashley also spent time with Timnit Kefela, an expert in microplastics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who studies environmental justice.

"My research has evolved from consumer psychology to material science to globalization and agriculture," said Ashley. "These ebbs and flows better informed my project, but mostly, they better informed me about who I am as a student, consumer, and activist and gave me confidence I had not had before."

Dr. Katalin Colyer is Ashley's fellowship advisor. She also worked with Upper School Science Teacher Cheryl Cossel.

For his Lilley Fellowship, Shawn Wang '23 explored biosensors and their role in democratizing and improving healthcare. Watch here.

"I researched 'skin-like' biosensors and their role in creating a more personalized diagnostic approach in healthcare," explained Shawn. "Biosensors are wearable devices that attach to the human body and monitor physiological data such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, respiratory rate, and glucose levels. They are particularly important because they not only give patients insight into the dynamics of their own health, but also enable remote patient monitoring, which makes diagnosis more autonomous and immediate."

Shawn pointed out that scientists have been working on behavioral trackers since 1788 when Thomas Jefferson developed the first pedometer. The world's first hearing aid was made in 1938, and Fitbit and the Apple Watch are as popular as ever. "However, the current technology is in the form of rigid electrode sensors that require chips mounted on bands or straps to be worn on the wrist. They are capable of activity tracking, but the data quality is still far from medical grade."

Shawn pointed out that these devices are often not comfortable to wear. His goal is to develop a more flexible sensor.

After meeting with biomedical experts Dr. Mack Ruffin at the Penn State Cancer Institute, Dr. Joe Kossowsky at Harvard University Medical School, and Professor Cesar de la Fuente at the University of Pennsylvania, Shawn begin experimenting with different materials in a Electronic Materials lab at Penn State.

"I decided to compose the sensor with liquid metals because of their low melting point, high electrical conductivity, low toxicity, and superior fluidity," said Shawn. "I also developed a wireless sensory system that could transmit strain signals and data to smartphones via Bluetooth."

While encouraged by his results, Shawn points out there is plenty more work ahead in this area. "The future is brimming with possibilities of improving the sensor's precision and expanding the applications to a broader range of settings," shared Shawn. "I look forward to spending more time in the lab, researching to realize these aspirations in my future career."

Cheryl Cossel also served as Shawn's fellowship advisor.

The three other Lilley Fellows will present their capstone projects in October.