Genuine, Professional & STEM Enthusiast - Austin Letcher

Austin Letcher's Bio:

Austin Letcher is transforming ideas into reality. He is inspired through his work, which he began at the local golf course as a cart technician . Before college, he dedicated time to a retirement community. This was where Austin experienced the effects of Alzheimer's first hand, serving as a cook, nurses aid and in working in maintenance. Since then he has worked in sales for the top men's store in Sioux Falls, SD and continued aspirations for research. He continues to be inspired by that which is not known.

Austin Letcher's Experience:

  • Senior Research Associate at The Coordination of Rare Diseases at Sanford

    I have the wonderful privilege to be involved with The Coordination of Rare Diseases at Sanford (CoRDS). Based at Sanford Research, a not-for-profit research institution, CoRDS is a centralized international patient registry for all rare diseases. The goal of the CoRDS registry is to connect as many patients and researchers as possible to help advance treatments and cures for rare diseases. The CoRDS registry is free for patients to enroll and for researchers to access. We work with patient advocacy groups, individuals, and researchers to coordinate the advancement of research into the 7,000 rare diseases. A few of my responsibilities include: Maintain essential documentation to adhere to department operations, in order to secure sensitive participant data to comply with HIPPA and Federal Regulations. Develop new SOPs to honor modifications to clinical protocols. Streamline data management methods via development of registry databases through clinical questionnaires/surveys. Analyze data for presentation of in graphical, written and oral formats. Report results of study recruitment for website and registry management. Procure comprehensive literature reviews for research reports/manuscripts/abstracts for conducting pilot study projects to implement new registry partners or products. Disseminate registry objective and mission to recruit new participants and partnering organizations.

  • Graduate Biomedical Engineering Researcher at The University of South Dakota Graduate Education and Applied Research (GEAR) Center

    I am currently engaged in the characterization of physicochemical properties of bacteria and biomaterials to study microbe adhesion, applying XDLVO Theory. The Extended Derjaguin-Landau-Verwey-Overbeek (XDLVO) Theory has been assembled with over a century of observations in particle theory and physicochemical properties. This research is an effort to simplify, apply and determine a relationship between the physics and chemistry of macroscopic particles within biological systems. In order to simplify and apply XDLVO Theory, this application relies on three main variables for the prediction of cellular adhesion. This includes the zeta potential, particle size and surface energy of the material and particle, in water. The relationship to identify is whether microbes such as Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and Escherichia coli (E. coli) may be treated as particles in solution. This case study uses titanium as the material substrate. The application is limited to the initial contact of these 'particles' with a given biomaterial and utilizes a semi-infinite plate and spherical particle interaction model.

  • Biomedical Engineering Researcher at USD GEAR Center

    I served as a liaison between the project leader and graduate researcher with insights in new developments available via current literature and on site testing. This research project was tasked with the development of a tissue engineering construct for the intervertebral disc. This required an extensive study of the anatomy and physiology of the intervertebral disc study as well as its cellular anatomy & physiology, mechanical & biomolecular properties. I performed experimental data collection and interpretation with biochemical assays and biomechanical testing. The work was funded by the Department of Defense in order to develop an injectable hydrogel to aid in the regeneration of the human intervertebral disc.

  • Laboratory Technician Assistant at Avera Health

    My work within the central processing unit of the laboratory, held me responsible for being the initial point of contact for each testing specimen. My responsibilities included registration, test order, cancellation, computer data entry, specimen processing and other pre-analytic duties. The job required significant test knowledge in order to locate specific information on each test, and order accordingly. Nearly 60,000 total lab requisitions (both electronic and paper) each month and about 5,000 tests each day. Handled each requisition and specimen with the utmost accuracy, quality and care.

  • Organic Chemistry Researcher - Ionic Liquids at Augustana College (SD)

    I worked with Dr. Gary Earl and Dr. Duane Weisshaar on synthesizing quaternary ammonia compounds (quats) for Dr. Mary Berry at USD, funded by NSF and NPURC. My laboratory experience required self driven discipline to produce results and involved literature review, process development, synthesis, work-up, and analysis. Designed several batches for nearly pure, commercial grade product with greater than 95% yield and 99% purity.

  • Image Consultant/Sales Associate at Halberstadt's

    My duties were primarily with sales and image consulting, managing inventory, networking, along with consulting with the owner and manager on new product and business strategies.

  • Student Leader at Gustavus Adolphus College

    Managed and trained student employees in a team environment to operate various sections of the cafeteria and conduct banquet events.

  • Neurology Intern at Sanford Health - Pain & Spine Clinic

    I shadowed Dr. Asfora, a neurosurgeon, through first hand observations in the OR via intrathecal spinal surgery, use of a Kinetra computer module, Medtronic's Activa system, implantation of the artificial disk and screws/cages within the spinal column, eVok potentials monitor, removal of a brain tumor (and craniectomy) among many other exciting procedures and unique equipment experiences.

  • Maintenance/Cook/Nurse's Aid at Bethany Meadows

    My time working at this retirement community planted the seed for my interests in healthcare and shaped the course of my professional career. It was at Bethany Meadows, where I witnessed the devastating effects Alzheimer's disease has on its victims and especially their families. This is where I decided I wanted to pursue a career which would allow me to help others in need. I began working in the kitchen, mainly prepping dinner for our residents. I always enjoyed speaking with the residents to gain insight into their wisdom. It was an amazing experience to witness the profound impact such small acts of kindness have on us. A few residents in particular liked there meals prepared in a rather particular way and you could watch their chins rise as I served their special order, or, when I would pull the chair out for my diners just as if they were at an exclusive restaurant. I was always amused on how the quickly the gossip traveled, as if at lightning speed, among the residents who could only move at at snail's pace at best. There was always work to do around the grounds, so I filled in wherever I could, whether it was helping them into bed, changing a light bulb or trimming the grass. Serving these residents was a truly gratifying experience.

Austin Letcher's Education:

  • The University of South Dakota

    Master of Science (M.S.)
    Concentration: Biomedical Engineering
    Activities: USD Student Chapter with the Society for Biomaterials, Biomaterials Day, Sanford Health's It's All About Science Day
  • Augustana College (SD)

    Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
    Concentration: Major in chemistry with a focus in biology
    Activities: Research, ACS, Local Science Fair
  • Gustavus Adolphus College

    Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
    Concentration: Major in physics, minor in neuroscience, focus in psychology

Austin Letcher's Interests & Activities:

Billiards, cycling, boating, automobiles, fishing, traveling, rugby, football, soccer, hands-on projects/DIY projects, computers, electronics, technology, gadgets, trouble-shooting, brainstorming, inventing, music, history, culture, dining, coffee, investments, reading, entrepreneurship, engineering, networking, business, neuroscience, psychology, environmental conservation, wildlife, resource development, astronomy, space exploration, research, experimentation, statistics, 3D printing, bioprinting, science in general as well as motivating and inspiring others