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Milligan Runs a Step Ahead in Prosthetics Research

Writing and Photography by Randall Brown.

Master’s degree student Ivy Milligan’s journey on the engineering path was sparked in the way of many a “born” engineer: Her favorite school subjects while growing up in Knoxville were science and math classes. She even laid a foundation early on for her chosen specialty.

“I was involved in some pre-health extracurriculars in high school and enjoyed learning about the medical field,” said Milligan. “I decided to pick a major that included all of my academic interests. I lucked out, because I have really enjoyed my education in biomedical engineering.”

Participation in both the Cook Grand Challenge Honors Program and the Chancellor’s Honors Program encouraged her take on the reward of more challenging classes—and to apply her Volunteer Spirit.

“I was influenced to give back to the community and volunteer 100 hours during my time as an undergraduate,” said Milligan. “The honors Engineering Fundamentals course provided a strong base for my engineering education by developing my critical thinking skills.”

Milligan served as vice president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, vice president and founder of Alpha Omega Epsilon (STEM sorority—which won Best New Student Organization in 2022), and as a member of the Society of Women Engineers.

“It has been really rewarding to help build a community of support in the field of engineering and science, especially among women,” she said.

Milligan strives to expand her knowledge base across multiple areas in biomedical engineering, spanning biomechanics, orthotics, and prosthetics.

“I am a non-thesis student, so I do not have a specific research project,” she explained. “Instead, I am taking a comprehensive exam at the end of March that will focus primarily on biomechanics.”

She has gained invaluable research experience in Assistant Professor Dustin Crouch’s prosthesis lab, and draws motivation from her own experience dealing with injury.

“I am an avid distance runner and marathoner, and I broke my fibula a couple years back,” said Milligan. “I was in my first biomechanics course at the time and the material often related to my injury and experience in running, which I found fascinating.”

In Crouch’s lab, Milligan collected and analyzed data and helped with outreach efforts aimed at introducing orthotics and prosthetics science to younger students.

“Although I have phased out of research this year, I am interested in picking it back up after I graduate and ultimately hope to break into the field of biomechanics research,” she said.

Milligan keeps the idea of a PhD pursuit and potential faculty roles on her plate, but hopes to first gain some research and development experience in industry—with an eye to connect her interests in injury prevention/rehabilitation and athletics to professional endeavors.

Milligan’s name may sound familiar to longtime faculty or alumni: Her grandfather is Mancil Milligan, former MABE department head and Professor Emeritus.

“I definitely feel a connection to my grandfather through my time in engineering at UT,” she said. “He has been very supportive.”

In classic terms of the UT Vol legacy, the torch is passed.

“His drive and motivation surrounding education has inspired me,” said Milligan. “I may eventually follow in his footsteps and pursue a faculty position.”