Jordan Miller, the brains behind the 3D printed vascular networks discovered earlier this year, is moving up in the world. He's the newest assistant bioengineering professor at Rice University and the founder of Rice's new Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute (AMRI) program.

Miller's movement to Rice University is a bit of a coup and his absence may be a real loss to the University of Pennsylvania where he formerly worked. "Jordan Miller is a rising star in tissue engineering research and is already known worldwide for his successful research and fabrication of novel biomimetic technologies that support blood vessel growth," said Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering and chair of the Department of Bioengineering. "His passion for engineering, science and education, as well as his sharp entrepreneurial spirit will be a great addition to our program and to Rice."

The 3D printed vascular networks Miller helped design and print were a groundbreaking discovery. Universities around the world are working to print transplantable organs like hearts and kidneys. Without a way to ensure blood flow throughout the printed organ however, the cells on the inside die from lack of nourishment. Miller used a RepRap 3D printer to create the needed blood vessel networks out of sugar; making them dissolvable once the rest of the organ gets printed and sets up. Blood can then be pumped freely through the organ, feeding the cells buried deep within the structure and getting scientists one step closer to that first 3D printed heart transplant.

Miller has big plans for his time at Rice and he's already invited a veritable who's who list of 3D printing gurus from around the country to attend his month long AMRI program. They are in the process of working on a four separate projects and brainstorming together to solve some of the toughest bioengineering problems facing researchers today. "I have found there are a lot of synergies – between academics, the maker (manufacturing) movement and bioengineering – and not a lot of collaboration," Miller said. "So, I saw an opportunity to bring these communities together."

The AMRI program is being sponsored by Rice University, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Ultimachine, Ultimaker, MakerGear, and SeeMeCNC. The 3D printer of choice for the program is the RepRap. "The idea this year is a soft launch (for the Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute)," Miller said. "I invited some people that I knew might benefit from it. The whole time we are learning new things, getting feedback (on 3D printing) from our sponsors and our mentors." The AMRI program is in session until the end of the month, so look for updates once they release the results of all four projects. Until then, if you'd like to know more about Miller's 3D printed vascular networks, you can check out the video below: