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 190 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.


American Health Council Names Bioengineeirng's Dr. William Federspiel to Education Board


AHC NEWS RELEASE - William Federspiel, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, has been selected to join the Education Board at the American Health Council. He will be sharing his knowledge and expertise in Healthcare Education, Workforce Development, Business, Leadership, Management, Chemistry, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, and Medical Devices. Dr. Federspiel has been active in the healthcare industry for the last 28 years. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1978 and his PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1983 from the University of Rochester. Inspired to pursue his profession by a desire to help people, Dr. Federspiel has now been a bioengineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh for 21 years. His day-to-day responsibilities include teaching and mentoring, administrative duties, and research grants. Dr. Federspiel attributes his success to hard work and dedication. He has been published in over 100 peer-reviewed journals and has held academic positions in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University and Boston University. Awards and honors he has received include Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), Certificate of Appreciation for Distinguished Service to the Rehabilitation Research and Development Service Scientific Merit Review Board from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and an Honorable Mention in the Start-Up Entrepreneur category of the 2014 Carnegie Science Awards. Dr. Federspiel is also a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering (AIMBE) and member of the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO). His long-term professional goals include helping his start-up company be successful and seeing his respiratory assist devices treating patients. Among his many achievements, Dr. Federspiel is most proud to be a founder of ALung Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based medical start-up company, for which he serves as the head of the scientific advisory board. ###
American Health Council

Pitt’s Coulter Program awards $650,000 to six teams developing novel biomedical technology


ul { line-height: 20px; margin-bottom:40px; } PITTSBURGH (August 7, 2017) …The University of Pittsburgh Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program awarded grants totaling $650,000 to six translational research teams through its most recent funding cycle. The new funded projects include a biomarker for identifying intracranial hemorrhage, a biosensor platform for detecting cardiac events, a drug delivery platform for preventing sexually transmitted infections, a device to improve viability of donor livers for transplantation, a novel peripheral IV placement catheter, and a significantly improved surgical retractor. “The six winning teams met our rigorous business oriented criteria and were among the best we have seen. They were also among the most diverse, as a result of a broader field of applicants,” said Max Fedor, Coulter Program Director. “In addition to direct funding for translational research, teams receive significant coaching from our experienced staff and from external business and clinical experts, who have partnered with us. We are extremely pleased with the success of this year’s program and look forward to expanding further funding collaborations across the University community in the upcoming competitive grant cycle this fall.” The Coulter Program, housed within Pitt’s Department of Bioengineering, is a partnership between the Swanson School of Engineering, the Schools of the Health Sciences and the Innovation Institute. The Program aims to identify, select, and develop promising late-stage biomedical projects that address significant unmet clinical needs and have the potential for positive clinical and economic impacts. The 2017 Coulter funding cycle was unique from previous years, in that applications were accepted in collaboration with the Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data and SciVelo, the Department of Dermatology, the Department of Plastic Surgery, the Magee-Womens Research Institute, the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and the Vascular Medicine Institute. Each partner agreed to provide financial support jointly with Coulter for winning projects within their category.  Details on the six funded technologies and their scientific and clinical teams include: Biomarkers for Infant Brain Injury Score (BIBIS): A serum biomarker panel for improving identification of intracranial hemorrhage in infants and young children. Rachel Berger, MD, MPH, Professor, Department of Pediatrics Brian Pak, PhD, Director of Assay Development and Paul Smith, President and CEO of Axela, Inc. CardioSense: A universal biosensor platform for detection and monitoring of congestive heart failure and myocardial infarction. Prashant Kumta, PhD, Professor, Swanson School of Engineering and School of Dental Medicine Robert Kormos, MD, Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Bioengineering Mitali Patil, MS, and PhD Candidate, Department of Bioengineering Prashanth Jampani Hanumantha, PhD, Department of Bioengineering HerShield: A quick dissolving vaginal film for on-demand drug delivery platform for protection against sexually transmitted infections. Lisa C. Rohan, PhD, Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Katherine Bunge, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences Sravan Kumar Patel, PhD, Post-Doctoral Associate, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences OrganEvac: A whole-organ sonothrombolysis device to increase the number of livers available for transplantation from donors after cardiac death Christopher Hughes, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery and Surgical Director, Liver Transplantation Paulo Fontes, MD, Professor of Surgery and Director, Machine Perfusion Program, Starzl Transplantation Institute ThreadRite IV: A novel resistance-sensing catheter with guidewire to expedite peripheral IV placement on the first attempt. William (Buddy) Clark, PhD, Professor Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Cameron Dezfulian, MD, Assistant Professor Adult & Pediatric Critical Care Medicine Ehsan Quaim, Graduate Student, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Dennis Wist, CEO Nicholas Krehel, Research Assistant, Critical Care Medicine Steeltown Retractor: A flexible arm surgical tool holder that gives surgeons unprecedented fast, precise tool positioning capabilities while minimizing operating room (OR) costs for the hospital Jeffrey Vipperman, PhD, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Pete Allen, MD, UPMC Mercy Dept. of General Surgery Garth Elias, MD, UPMC Mercy Dept. of General Surgery Joe Marcanio, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Innovation Institute Christopher Dumm, PhD Candidate, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science About the Coulter Translational Research Partners II ProgramThe Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program is a University based accelerator, designed to help faculty researchers translate their innovations to commercialization. By way of a competitive grant program, training processes, and collaborative services, our goal is to de-risk University technology and identify viable commercial pathways through the complex healthcare industry landscape. Further, we engage extensively with business partners, mentors and clinical experts to bring industry perspectives to translational research. In 6 years, the Coulter Program has attracted almost 200 applications, funded 31 projects leading to eight license agreements, four optioned technologies and eight start-up companies. ###


Bioengineering Faculty tenured/tenure-stream

Bioengineering, Open Positions

The Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering ( engineering.pitt.edu/bioengineering ) invites applications from accomplished individuals with an earned PhD or equivalent degree in bioengineering or closely related disciplines for a faculty position in Synthetic Biology or Systems Biology. This is a tenured/tenure-stream, open-rank position and we wish to recruit an individual with strong research accomplishments in synthetic or systems biology, with a focus on engineering of living systems and potential to complement our current strengths in biomechanics, neural engineering, tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, medical device engineering, and bioimaging. In addition, candidates must be committed to contributing to high quality education of a diverse student body at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Located in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh is a top-five institution in terms of NIH funding, and provides a rich environment for interdisciplinary research, strengthened through its affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The Department of Bioengineering, consistently ranked among the top programs in the country, has outstanding research and educational programs, offering undergraduate (~270 students, sophomore-to-senior years) and graduate (~150 PhD or MD/PhD and ~50 MS students) degrees. The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine ( mirm.pitt.edu ), the Vascular Medicine Institute ( vmi.pitt.edu ), the Brain Institute ( braininstitute.pitt.edu ), Center for Neuroscience ( neurobio.pitt.edu ), and the Drug Discovery Institute ( upddi.pitt.edu ) offer many collaborative research opportunities. The Coulter Translational Partnership II Program ( engineering.pitt.edu/coulter ) and the Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data ( healthdataalliance.com/university-of-pittsburgh ) provide biomedical innovation and translation opportunities. Interested individuals should send the following as a single, self-contained PDF attachment via email to bioeapp@pitt.edu ( include AY18 PITT BIOE POSITION in the subject line ): (1) cover letter, (2) complete CV (including funding record, if applicable), (3) research statement, (4) teaching statement, (5) three representative publications, and (6) names and complete contact information of at least four references. To ensure full consideration, applications must be received by November 30, 2017. However, applications will be reviewed as they are received. Early submission is highly encouraged. 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 affirms and actively promotes the rights of all individuals to equal opportunity in education and employment without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other protected class.


Sending the Right Signals


PITTSBURGH (August 3, 2017) … Through a process called cell signaling, cells collaborate on necessary functions such as responding to changes in the environment, fighting off threats to the body, or regulating the basic processes that keep the body alive. Cells work much like computers carrying out functions and use cell signaling over a vast network. Also much like computers, cells can be reprogrammed to change their behavior.Warren Ruder, assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is developing microparticles that carry engineered bacteria known as ‘smart biomaterials.’ As the basis of a study recently supported by the National Science Foundation, Dr. Ruder will use the biomaterials to reprogram mammalian cell signaling. The goal of the study is to use these hybrid, living-nonliving biomaterials to better understand how cell signaling works and influence cell behavior when a problem occurs.“Fundamentally, many diseases result from incorrect cell signaling,” explains Dr. Ruder, “which causes the body’s natural control systems to fail to maintain normal function, or homeostasis. New tools that allow cell signaling to be rewired therefore can affect many diseases. This project is geared toward developing new tools for exploring and rewiring cell signaling.”Dr. Ruder will serve as principal investigator of the project titled “Creating Smart Biomaterials Using Engineered Bacteria that Cooperatively Reprogram Mammalian Cells.” The research will focus on delivering synthetic genetic components to mammalian cells and reprogramming their calcium signaling processes, specifically. Calcium signaling occurs in many cells, and it controls both slow and fast cellular processes.“Calcium signaling is one of the most important cell signals,” Dr. Ruder says. “It is the signature of muscle contraction, relevant to many forms of cardiac or musculoskeletal disease, but also a master regulator of processes ranging from neuron firing and brain function to fertilization.” Once Dr. Ruder introduces the smart biomaterials, they will be able to collaborate and collectively determine when to transmit genetic components to mammalian cells. Dr. Ruder will then use mathematical modeling and computation simulation to explore the processes behind calcium signaling in mammalian cells and which genetic alterations will cause the most significant changes in cell signaling dynamics.“The bacteria will be genetically engineered to invade mammalian cells. Once inside, they will genetically engineer the mammalian cells in a process distinctly different from viral genetic delivery. We will engineer two different types of bacteria that will signal each other and thus work as a team to invade after they monitor the environment,” says Dr. Ruder.The project will receive $338,414 in NSF funding and will cover the award period from August 1, 2017 to July 31, 2020.About Dr. RuderDr. Ruder graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a BS in civil and environmental engineering in 2002. He completed his MS in mechanical engineering and his PhD in biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Dr. Ruder was also part of the inaugural “Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine” class, which is a joint program between Pitt and CMU that receives funding from the National Institutes of Health and aims to provide training in biomechanical engineering principles and biology to students pursuing doctoral degrees in bioengineering.His work focuses on merging biomechanical systems and the microscale and nanoscale with engineering living cells and smart material systems, the latter of which involves synthetic biology. Over the years his research has included: two years of research on mammalian cell signal transduction in the laboratory of Professor Aldebaran Hofer at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Surgery; one month in the field in Antarctica studying organismal biomechanics and responses to ice encapsulation (a field of ecological mechanics); and two and a half years as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Professor James Collins, at Boston University (now at MIT) and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.Dr. Ruder left his position as an assistant professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech to teach at Pitt as a Bioengineering Assistant Professor. For the past four years at Virginia Tech, he directed the “Engineered Living Systems Laboratory,” a group focused on merging synthetic biology with biomimetic systems. He has authored 23 archival papers in journals such as Science, PNAS, Lab-on-a-Chip and Scientific Reports, and his group’s work has been highlighted in Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and Wired (UK). The student honor society in his department at Virginia Tech selected Dr. Ruder as his department’s “Faculty Member of the Year” in 2014. While at Pitt, Dr. Ruder will be applying his work to medical technologies and cures for disease. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards three novel biomedical devices with $65,000 total Round-1 2017 Pilot Funding

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (July 26, 2017) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $65,000 to three research groups through its 2017 Round-1 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new technology for reducing risk of post-partum uterine hemorrhage, a thermal device for inducing nerve block in pain control, and a system to improve transplanted organ viability.CMI, a University Center housed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, supports applied technology projects in the early stages of development with “kickstart” funding toward the goal of transitioning the research to clinical adoption. Proposals are evaluated on the basis of scientific merit, technical and clinical relevance, potential health care impact and significance, experience of the investigators, and potential in obtaining further financial investment to translate the particular solution to healthcare.“This is our sixth year of pilot funding,” said Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, CMI Executive Director. “Since our inception, more than $1 million from external funding sources and from the Swanson School of Engineering has been invested in early stage medical technologies. Many of these technologies have the potential to significantly improve the delivery of health care and several new companies have resulted from the program, which has successfully partnered UPMC’s clinicians and surgeons with the Swanson School’s engineering faculty.”AWARD 1: Objective Postpartum Uterine Tone MonitoringFunds development of a new prototype uterine tone measurement device for eventual testing in the clinical setting. The device would evaluate intra-uterine muscle tone for detection of and control of postpartum bleeding.Gerhardt Konig, MDDepartment of Anesthesiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Jason Shoemaker, PhDAssistant Professor of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of EngineeringAWARD 2: Novel Thermal Block Technology to Block Nerve ConductionFor development and preclinical testing of a thermal nerve block device for anesthesia and pain control. Early research in mice shows that the effect can be useful in controlling production and communication of nerve impulses. The award will demonstrate proof of concept to attract additional funding from external competitive grants. Development of a small implantable, wireless controlled, wireless chargeable device to control the electrodes will be a primary goal. The prototype device will then test the pudendal nerve to confirm the nerve block effects. Changfeng Tai, PhD Associate Professor of Urology, University of Pittsburgh School of MedicineAssociate Professor of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering Christopher Chermansky, MDAssistant Professor of Urology, University of Pittsburgh School of MedicineAssistant Professor of Industrial Engineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering Bo Zeng, PhD Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering AWARD 3: OrganEvac/Whole Organ Sonothrombolysis DeviceThis award is an equal participation between the Center for Medical Innovation and the Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program at Pitt. The early stage seed grant will demonstrate proof of concept that sonothrombolysis technology can greatly enhance viability of transplanted liver tissue through evaluation of thromboemboli in excised, non-transplantable human liver tissue. Paulo Fontes, MDAssociate Professor of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of MedicineDirector of the Machine Perfusion Program, University of Pittsburgh Medical CenterJohn Pacella, MD, MSAssistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of Pittsburgh School of MedicineUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center Heart and Vascular InstituteFlordeliza Villaneuva, MDVice Chair for Pre-Clinical Research, Department of Medicine and Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of Pittsburgh School of MedicineDirector, Center for Ultrasound Molecular Imaging and Therapeutics, University of Pittsburgh Medical CenterAbout the Center for Medical InnovationThe Center for Medical Innovation at the Swanson School of Engineering is a collaboration among the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the Innovation Institute, and the Coulter Translational Research Partnership II (CTRP). Established in 2011, CMI promotes the application and development of innovative biomedical technologies to clinical problems; educates the next generation of innovators in cooperation with the schools of Engineering, Health Sciences, Business, and Law; and facilitates the translation of innovative biomedical technologies into marketable products and services. CMI has supported more than 50 early-stage projects through more than $1 million in funding since inception. ###

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Bioengineering By The Numbers


Number of Undergraduate Students enrolled for the 2015-2016 Academic Year


Number of PhD Candidates enrolled for the 2014-2015 Academic Year


Number of Masters Candidates enrolled for the 2015-2016 Academic Year



Number of PhD Degrees Awarded in Spring/Summer/Fall 2014 


Number of MS Degrees Awarded in 2013-2014 Academic Year 


Number of BS Degrees Awarded in 2013-2014 Academic Year 



 Number of Faculty Publications in 2013-2014 Academic Year 


 Number of Graduate Publications in 2013-2014 Academic Year 


Number of Undergraduate Publications in 2012-2013 Academic Year