Young researcher fills big role on breast implant research team


John Friess electrospins a fine, continuous polymer strand onto a collector plate. The end result, a fiber mat resembling a 4-inch-square paper towel, is one of hundreds Friess has created during his past three years as a member of University of Akron Austin Chemical Company Inc. Chair holder Dr. Judit E. Puskas’ breast implant research team. It’s impressive work for a research student, especially one still in high school.

Eighteen-year-old Friess, a senior at St. Vincent-St. Mary (SVSM) High School in Akron, assumes a critical role on Puskas’ research team, generating and analyzing promising new prototypes for Puskas’ breast implant coating.

John Friess at The University of Akron

John Friess electrospins a polymer strand onto a collector plate. He is a member of the Akron team that will receive funding through the GE Healthymagination Cancer Challenge.

Friess studies and records the materials’ physical properties using a scanning electron microscope. His samples are sent to pre-medical student Kyle Nedic, a member of Puskas’ research team working at the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences, in Professor James Baker’s laboratories. Nedic embeds the samples with medicine and studies them for drug-release capabilities.

“John is doing outstanding work. When he started working with us, just shy of 16, he was so quick in picking up both the theory and practice, he was unbelievable. He’s very polite, respectful and excellent as an emerging researcher and writer,” says Puskas, adding that she hopes Friess continues his work with her and her team as a college student.

“Even as a high school student working part time on this project, John has become an integral part of the team and has helped in the realization of many objectives of our research,” says post-doctoral researcher and lab manager Dr. Matthew Luebbers, a chemical and biomolecular engineer.

Friess pursued involvement in The UA-SVSM partnership program to obtain hands-on experience in research and to gain a deeper and practical understanding of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Since joining Puskas’ research team as a high school sophomore, Friess says his decision to study engineering in college is firm.

“It has taught me a lot about where I could go with an engineering degree. It’s been such a great experience,” says Friess, who spends five days each week after school and summers working on the prosthetic breast implant research.

Friess says his research experience has allowed him to not only realize his potential as a future engineer, but his contribution to humanity. “It’s great to know that a high school student has the potential to be beneficial to a great number of people,” Friess says. “Understanding the application of what you’re doing is so large and can be so profound.”

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or