Akira Sciences Astrid Ahlinder: Biodegradable Pliable Polymers

Astrid Ahlinder holds a Ph.D. in Polymer Technology from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. She trained as a Biomedical Engineer in Glasgow, UK, during her Ph.D. she looked into the effect of processing parameters when 3D printing degradable polymer for soft tissue engineering; the synergy between inherent material properties, processing parameters, and design of the final structures. She has taken part in starting up AKIRA Science, a spin-off from the research group at KTH looking to supply researchers and surgeons with degradable pliable polymers and 3D printed structures for tissue engineering. Her primary interest is the relationship between material science, processing, and tissue engineering. Astrid will be speaking at our upcoming event focusing on biomaterials for 3D printing.

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing?

Astrid: At first I heard about it at University, where it was this amazing new thing which could create complicated geometries for tissue engineering that before was not feasible. Then I started to hear about it in media and read about it in papers. When it was time for me to apply for PhDs a position came up where I could explore the usages of several techniques in the lab. In the research group we developed a material platform that could be used with simple desktop printers. 

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D printing?

Astrid: It was a documentary I saw with my father about how plastics could be used to replace bone. Then when applying for university I saw the opportunity to work with the technical aspects of medicine. I realized that I wanted to make something which could help others, but not do the treatments myself but solve problems that clinicians were facing.

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing?

Astrid: It was a professor at the University of Glasgow, Professor Liz Tanner. She was not directly working with 3D printers but the material science part. Together with her enthusiasm for cell-material interaction and that she saw that I liked experimental work it led me to apply for a position with Professor Anna Finne-Wistrand at KTH. She has let me roam free with a couple of printers and always believed that I could solve practical problems that arrives, even when I didn’t.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work? 

Astrid: Seeing real-world problems, and work towards them. Reading about the development within the field and realize that I can contribute. Hearing other people’s reactions and questions about my work also gives me great joy.

Jenny: What is the biggest obstacle in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions? 

Astrid: One of the biggest obstacles have been my impatience and self doubt, accepting that things takes time to learn and that we all learn from our mistakes. As one of my supervisors said, its only people who doesn’t work that don’t break things.

Jenny: What do you think is the biggest challenge in 3D Printing?

Astrid: I think the multidisciplinary within the field is its greatest advantage as well as challenge. There are so many amazing researchers within each of the fields which will benefit the development of chemistry, biology, tissue engineering and 3D printing. Its about finding the common denominators and work together. 

Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be? 

Astrid: Learn all languages fluently, get a photographic memory and the ability to control time, so that I could work both within AKIRA Science and do the research I want to explore. 

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore? 

Astrid: It’s easier to learn things that you are interested in. So focus on the things you are interested in, you might actually be able to do the things you never thought you could. Listen to yourself, there are so many ways to do things, so take the one that is possible for you.

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