Meet Our Students


Katherine R. Hixon


Advisor/Mentor: Scott Sell
Sponsor/Grant: Missouri Spinal Cord Injury Research Program
Program Start: Fall 2014



Katie Hixon is originally from Davenport, Iowa. She graduated from the University of Iowa in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering (minors in mathematics and human physiology) with both university honors and honors in biomedical engineering. She is currently a second year PhD student working under Dr. Scott Sell in his tissue engineering/scaffold fabrication lab. She is an engineering representative for the Graduate Student Association (GSA) here at SLU and a member of Alpha Eta Mu Beta, the national biomedical engineering honors society. Once Katie graduates from SLU, she hopes to complete a post doc doing translational research for cleft palate treatment with the long term goal of teaching and continuing her research at a university.


Bone is completely dynamic; osteoblasts create new bone tissue and osteoclasts break down damaged tissue. However, sometimes the body’s inherent ability to create new bone is compromised by something like a vehicular accident or military blast wound and a critical-sized defect is formed. Critical-sized defects are too large to naturally heal during the patient’s lifetime. Current treatment for a critical-sized defect involves the use of a bone graft which possesses inherent disadvantages including low availability and donor site morbidity. Katie’s project focuses on designing a scaffold to fill these defects and help to regrow bone. Cryogels are highly porous polymeric scaffolds which are formed at subzero temperatures. The resulting scaffold that is formed possesses a macroporous structure, increased mechanical stability, and a sponge-like consistency. She is working to create a cryogel that can clinically be used to promote cellular infiltration, mineralization, and overall bone regeneration at the site of injury.