Lessons learned in Purdue Science help Wollnick make life less painful for breast cancer survivors
During the height of the pandemic, Purdue Science Alum, Amanda Wollnick was getting a lot of use out of her Kitchenaid mixer, but not for the reasons one might guess. In her home lab, she was mixing small batches of a silicone paste that she had been developing for several years in hopes of making breast prosthetics more comfortable for the wearer.
Wollnick received a Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry from Purdue’s College of Science in 2004 and her professional journey took her through several fields before landing her with American Breast Care (ABC) in 2011.
After joining ABC, Wollnick learned that after a mastectomy, everyone’s chest wall is different. But the smooth, uniform backing of the industry standard prosthetics didn’t fit every person the same. This becomes even more of an issue as the topography of the chest wall changes during healing. She knew something better was needed.
“When I realized the need for a more comfortable polymer to be used in the backing of our prosthetics, many lessons I had learned while working in other diverse fields came into play”, Wollnick explains. “While developing the product we would name Amandasil™, I went through over 100 formulations until I finally got it right. But even then, the work wasn’t done. I now had a scale it up so it could be used in production.”
The job now became a practical one, finding industrial size versions and processes that were also cost efficient enough to make a product that would be affordable to the end user. She was successful and Amandasil™ was patented.
Wollnick credits her Purdue education with teaching her the critical thinking skills needed to be flexible in her career. That foundation of persistence was essential on her path to becoming a scientist, engineer, and inventor.
“One can’t know it all, especially in the wide world of chemistry. But my classes gave me a great foundation on how to find information – anything from chemical journals, government regulations, to patent searches. My boss swears by my “google-fu” and being able to find information. There really is an art to searching for the right thing” says Wollnick.
During her career at ABC, Wollnick has had the opportunity to mentor college students and elementary students. She has especially enjoyed helping other women and girls to realize that chemistry and engineering are attainable career paths. She has even returned to the Purdue campus to speak to Women in Science Program (WISP) students, a program she also took part in while she was an undergrad student.