Auburn Family

Auburn Student Working to Develop Medicine-Delivering Eye Contact Lens

Andrew Hightaian, a senior in chemical engineering, is one of many students doing undergraduate research at Auburn University.

Through Auburn, students are able to pursue research that interests them while hoping to help others. Auburn has a great deal of undergraduate research taking place in a variety of disciplines.  

Undergraduate Research

Hightaian's research addresses potential drug delivery systems. Specifically, Hightaian is exploring contact lenses that may release drugs directly to the eye over an extended period of time.  The research currently focuses on glaucoma.  Today, glaucoma has few options for treatment and contact lenses could be a viable method. 

"(We are) hoping to make (contact lenses) a more patient friendly therapy," said Hightaian. 

This project is the fourth research effort for Hightaian.  He has worked on two projects at other institutions and one at Auburn University. "I did drug delivery with cancer drugs which got me thinking, drug delivery has all these applications. So I looked around Auburn and Dr. Bryn…does a lot of the drug delivery with contact lenses and that really intrigued me," said Hightaian.  (Photo Right: Andrew Hightaian)

Developing Critical Thinking Ability

Hightaian's progress hasn't come without its challenges. "Research is inherently challenge-based," said Hightaian.  The research has taken a great deal of time to get it to its earliest stages.  It took them months before the results  were even usable.

However, this is what makes research what it is though, a series of trial and error.  "It really helps with your critical thinking ability.  You have to design an experiment, then run an experiment, then get the results.  It is just numbers you have to see from there," said Hightaian.  Then you have to take your results and compile it in a manner so that you can actually use the data, according to Hightaian.  Once it's all said and done you then have to decide where to move from there. (Image, left: Smart contacts via Google Non-commercial use search.)

Hightaian has worked on this project since the fall of his junior year at Auburn.  Although some undergraduate research counts as credit hours he has been working during his free time.  He will be graduating this spring, yet the research will continue even after he graduates.  He has worked with Carter Lloyd on the project for the past two years. Lloyd will be taking over completely once Hightaian graduates.  "We've been working well together for the past couple years so hopefully he'll be able to take the steps and maybe get it somewhere by the time he graduates," said Hightaian.

As for what he plans to do after graduation, Hightaian has a job offer from Exxon Mobile and will be starting sometime in the summer. 

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