Pitt | Swanson Engineering

The Department of Bioengineering combines hands-on experience with the solid fundamentals that students need to advance themselves in research, medicine, and industry. The Department has a long-standing and unique relationship with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and other academic departments at the University of Pittsburgh as well as neighboring Carnegie Mellon University. Our faculty are shared with these organizations, offering our graduate and undergraduate students access to state-of-the-art facilities and a wide array of research opportunities. We currently have 187 graduate students who are advised by some 100 different faculty advisers, pursuing graduate research across 17 Departments and five Schools. Our undergraduate class-size of approximately 50 students per year ensures close student-faculty interactions in the classroom and the laboratory.

The main engineering building is located next to the Medical Center in Oakland, an elegant university neighborhood with museums, parks, and great restaurants. Beautiful new facilities have also been built, a short shuttle ride from the main campus, along the Monongahela River, replacing the steel mills that once were there. Our department is growing rapidly, both in numbers of students and faculty, and in the funding and diversity of our research. The Pittsburgh bioengineering community is a vibrant and stimulating alliance of diverse components for which our department forms an essential and central connection.


Lindsay Rodzwicz Receives Chancellor’s Staff Award for University Engagement


PITTSBURGH (December 15, 2017) … Lindsay Rodzwicz, Coulter Program Administrator in the Department of Bioengineering, was selected as a recipient of the 2017 Chancellor’s Staff Award in the University Engagement category.The University Engagement Award is presented to an employee who “extends their commitment to the University through exemplary participation in volunteer activities within the University, through service on committees, working on special projects, or volunteering to assist with events or programs (e.g., Commencement and/or Convocation) that are outside of the scope of their normal job duties.”Rodzwicz has an impressive volunteer record with a number of University groups and commits up to 10 hours of her personal time to volunteer activities each week. One of her more significant investments is the University of Pittsburgh Staff Council.Rodzwicz first started her involvement with the Staff Council after signing up to become a volunteer at one of their Brown Bag Lunch and Learn sessions. She quickly dove into the organization and was elected to a two-year term as vice president for public relations in 2013, followed by another election as executive vice president in 2015. She was also a voting member of the University of Pittsburgh Senate Council from 2014-2017, which is the official body for shared governance amongst students, faculty, staff, administrative officers, and the Board of Trustees.Being a part of the Staff Council and University Senate, along with sitting on Board of Trustees committees gave Rodzwicz a better perspective of university policy. As a leader of the organization, Rodzwicz played a role in the Staff Council working both with Human Resources to enact the new Paid Parental Leave policy, and raising funds to establish the Ronald W. Frisch Staff Development Award. Her understanding of policy and the funding challenges that the University faces helped her as an advocate at Pitt Day in Harrisburg. She participated in this day-long trek to the state’s capital in 2015 and 2016.In addition to her participation in University governance, Rodzwicz is also active with the Phi Beta Chapter of the Chi Omega Fraternity at Pitt. She mentors the chapter of over 100 undergraduate women, providing guidance on scholarship, community service, career and personal development, campus involvement, leadership, and recruitment. In her award letter from Chancellor Gallagher, Harvey Borovetz, distinguished professor of bioengineering, was quoted saying, “I cannot think of a better role model for women interested in a STEM career than Ms. Rodzwicz, and Lindsay’s service at the Phi Beta Chapter of Chi Omega insures that the 100 women being advised heard from a person who had studied hard, worked hard and achieved success.”Laura Dunn, Pitt alumna and Chi Omega regional director, was also quoted in the chancellor’s letter and echoed a similar sentiment about Rodzwicz. Ms. Dunn said, “She has an incredible talent for mentorship and cultivating strengths inside each of the students she worked with, in that she wasn’t afraid to challenge us when she didn’t agree and helped us to come to a more reasonable understanding.”Rodzwicz started her time in the Department of Bioengineering as part of the first undergraduate class. She left the University for several years, but because of  her “love of Pitt,” decided to accept a role with the Department of Bioengineering in 2012 as the Coulter Program Administrator.“I chose to volunteer my time outside of my normal job duties, because I believe that Pitt is a great place to work and that our greatest asset of the University is our people,” Rodzwicz said.  This is also why Rodzwicz volunteers with the United Way Day of Caring where University staff are able to give back in a small way to the local Oakland community. Rodzicz said, “I am deeply honored to be recognized with a Chancellor’s Award for my volunteer work within the University of Pittsburgh, and I am extremely grateful to those who nominated me and wrote letters of recommendation on my behalf.  Without the dedication of my colleagues on the Staff Council and my co-advisors to the Phi Beta Chapter of Chi Omega, I would not have been successful in my volunteer endeavors – it takes a great team!  I am proud to think that in a small way my volunteer efforts have made a difference for the students I’ve advised and had a positive impact to make Pitt an even better place to work for staff members!”Recipients of the award are published in the Pitt Chronicle, receive a $2,500 prize, and recognized at a special reception. Their names will be added to a plaque in the William Pitt Union which displays all recipients of the award.


Christopher Mahoney Wins the 2017 TERMIS-AM Student Scientist Award

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (December 13, 2017) … Christopher Mahoney, bioengineering PhD candidate, is one of the 2017 recipients of the TERMIS-AM Student Scientist award.The award is given to students who demonstrate passion and promise in their research, academics, and service. It provides financial assistance to undergraduate and graduate students who are presenting in the annual meeting. Mahoney’s research advisor, Kacey Marra, associate professor of plastic surgery and bioengineering, said, “This award is well-deserved as Chris has consistently excelled in all three areas: research, academics and service.”The TERMIS-AM annual conference was December 3-6, 2017 in Charlotte, NC. Mahoney  presented a poster on “Dual Method Verification of Adipogenesis in Cultures Containing an Adipose Derived Delivery System for Adipose Restoration.”About Christopher MahoneyMahoney works with Marra on biomaterials and drug delivery for adipose tissue reconstructive applications.In 2014, Mahoney received the Wes Pickard Academic Fellowship, which is awarded to students chosen by their department chair who are in good academic standing. In fall 2014, he became a trainee under the University of Pittsburgh’s CATER NIH NRSA Institutional Predoctoral Training Grant, giving Mahoney the funding and support to develop as a student researcher. In March 2017, he was awarded the highly competitive NIH NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to further his research and complete his doctoral degree.Mahoney participates in several other professional and community service activities. He serves on the University Senate Committee on Equality, Inclusion, and Diversity Advocacy and the Graduate and Professional Student Government Event Planning Committee. He is also former president of the Engineering Diversity Graduate Student Association and an active member of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization.


Pitt Team Receives NIH BRAIN Grant to Improve Prosthetics Through Sensory Feedback


PITTSBURGH (December 12, 2017)…Our tactile senses keep us aware of our environment and are essential for the execution of natural movement. Though there have been many advances in modern prosthetic devices, the loss of sensory feedback remains an issue, and many amputees struggle with everyday movement. Lack of sensory feedback in transtibial (below-knee) amputation means that the prosthesis user must rely on their residual limb for all motor skills. Patients suffer with problems in balance control, risk of falling, and severe phantom limb pain. A University of Pittsburgh group seeks to address this need for sensory feedback in prosthetic devices.Lee Fisher, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and Doug Weber, associate professor of bioengineering, were one of four University of Pittsburgh teams to receive a $5.3M National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN award. The NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative aims to advance understanding of the human brain. Fisher and Weber won an award in the “Next Generation Human Invasive Devices” category for their project titled “Spinal root stimulation for restoration of function in lower limb amputees.” “Evidence suggests that lack of sensory feedback contributes to phantom limb pain (PLP), a phenomenon where amputees feel pain from the missing limb, which can be long-lasting and severe,” Dr. Fisher said. “We’ll be investigating how electric stimulation may both counter PLP and improve movement and balance.”The team’s objectives are to 1) explore the effects of electrically stimulating the dorsal root ganglia and dorsal rootlets to generate sensations and reduce phantom limb pain, 2) characterize the responses to electrical stimulation in both the intact and amputated limbs to coordinate reflexes and improve movement, and 3) use electrical stimulation to decrease postural sway and increase gait stability.Fisher and his team will use an FDA-cleared spinal cord stimulator to send electrical pulses to the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and dorsal rootlets (DR) in hopes of reducing PLP. The stimulation creates sensations of pressure and movement in the amputated limb, thereby reducing PLP and improving prosthesis functionality.The group will use the same electrical stimulation to characterize reflexive responses. Electromyography will be used to measure reflex responses generated in the muscles of the leg.  Having bilaterally coordinated reflexes will help prosthetic users when responding to unexpected situations, such as slips or falls. Being able to precisely control the patterns of reflexive activity will also help with everyday standing and walking.The team will be using pressure sensitive insoles and joint angle sensors in the prosthetics. Fisher explains, “The insoles allow us to control stimulation. If we record increased pressure under the ball of the foot, we will increase stimulation for an electrode that generates a sensation at the ball of the foot. The goal is to make it feel like the sensations are coming from the prosthetic limb.” The study of these signals and modulation of sensory feedback through DRG/DR stimulation should improve movement by decreasing postural sway and increasing gait stability. According to Dr. Fisher, making improvements in the sensory feedback of prosthetic devices could drastically improve the quality of life for their users by reducing phantom limb pain, increasing balance control and confidence, and making the prosthetic limb feel more natural.


Davidson Lab Postdoc Position

Bioengineering, Open Positions

Positions are available to study the physical principles of morphogenesis in the Mechanics of Morphogenesis / Davidson Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Bioengineering. Our group focuses on studying the molecular, cellular, and tissue-scale processes that regulate mechanical properties and force-production during morphogenesis. Projects can involve quantitative cell biology, biophysics, bioengineering, and embryology. Postdoctoral candidates will have recently completed a PhD and have strong background in either bioengineering, biophysics, cell and developmental biology, or cell- and tissuemechanics. Candidates with expertise with biochemistry, quantitative microscopy, microrheology, microfabrication or computer simulation are preferred. The research environment at the University of Pittsburgh includes a dynamic community of bioengineers, developmental biologists, cell- and tissue-level biomechanics, and theoretical biologists. Nearby resources include the Peterson Institute of NanoScience and Engineering and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. Contemporary Pittsburgh is a diverse vibrant city undergoing a renaissance led by world class Universities and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The University of Pittsburgh is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply. Interested applicants should forward their CV, statement of research interests, and references to Lance Davidson via email at lad43@pitt.edu. The Department of Bioengineering is strongly committed to a diverse academic environment and places high priority on attracting female and underrepresented minority candidates. We strongly encourage candidates from these groups to apply for the position. The University of Pittsburgh is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

Davidson lab website

Undergraduate Research Student Profile: Medical Device Data Analytics with the FDA

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (December 6, 2017) Julie Constantinescu, a sophomore bioengineering student, spent this past summer at an internship with the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland under the mentorship of Pitt alumna, Jill Marion. Julie was hired through the FDA’s ORISE research fellowship program to work on the Medical Product Safety Network (MedSun) team within the Office of Surveillance and Biometrics. The MedSun program works with hospitals to identify and solve problems with the use of medical devices in their facilities.Julie answered a few questions about her experience in the program.Can you tell us more about the program and your research?My focus was on the research of medical device data analytics. The FDA is looking for ways to improve the way they deal with inconsistent hospital device data that is reported through MedSun, so my goal was to research and recommend possible analytics platforms to be integrated into their system to make the reporting system more accurate and efficient. I would have weekly meetings with my mentor for updates on my research and guidance, as well as biweekly meetings with the division to learn about any updates to include in my research. In between this research, I also worked with the survey team in the division to create questions to send to hospitals about the quality of their device reporting systems, such as CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System). I was basically working 9 am to 5 pm accumulating research from library sources like PubMed as well as notes from hospital phone calls that I conducted to get first-hand information about their current analytics platforms. After this research was done, I put it all together into a formal paper which I submitted at the end of my term and presented to the division. How did you get assigned to this research project?Although I wasn’t sure exactly which project I would be working on until I started, I was able to pick the department I wanted to work in. Since the FDA is very branched and includes a lot of different fields of expertise, I was able to choose to apply to a division that most closely aligned with my interests. This was the Center of Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), specifically in the Office of Surveillance and Biometrics (OSB).What was your favorite part about your summer research experience?I found the most rewarding part of this internship was gaining real “work” experience and seeing a first-hand, real-world application of bioengineering. About 80% of the people I worked with were bioengineers, so talking to them about their undergrad experiences and how they got to their current position was really helpful for me.Do you have any advice for those looking to work for the FDA?For those looking to work for the FDA, I would first recommend applying really early because the government takes forever to process paperwork. I would also recommend looking into the different offices and departments at the FDA and applying to a department that really interests you since your research will focus on the work they do in that specific department.

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Bioengineering By The Numbers


Number of Undergraduate Students enrolled for the 2017-2018 Academic Year


Number of PhD Candidates enrolled for the 2017-2018 Academic Year


Number of Masters Candidates enrolled for the 2017-2018 Academic Year


Number of PhD Degrees Awarded in 2016-2017 Academic Year


Number of MS Degrees Awarded in 2016-2017 Academic Year


Number of BS Degrees Awarded in 2016-2017 Academic Year


Number of Faculty Publications in 2016-2017 Academic Year


Number of Graduate Publications in 2016-2017 Academic Year


Number of Undergraduate Publications in 2016-2017 Academic Year