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.


Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards four novel biomedical devices with $85,000 total Round-2 2015 Pilot Funding

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (February 1, 2016) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $85,000 to four research groups through its 2015 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a nanowire glaucoma drainage implant; an emergency lung intubation device; a timed-release microsphere drug for middle-ear infections; and bioactive hydrogels for bone regeneration. CMI, a University Center housed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE), 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 fourth year of pilot funding, and our leadership team could not be more excited with the breadth and depth of this round’s awardees,” said Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, CMI Executive Director. “This early-stage interdisciplinary research helps to develop highly specific biomedical technologies through a proven strategy of linking UPMC’s clinicians and surgeons with the Swanson School’s engineering faculty.” AWARD 1: Self-Cleaning Smart Antibacterial SurfacesAward to design, build and test a glaucoma drainage implants with antimicrobial properties based on nanowire technologyPaul W. Leu, PhD Assistant Professor, Industrial Engineering Graham Hatfull, PhD Professor, Department of Biological Sciences Robert M.Q. Shanks, PhDAssociate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology Nils Loewen, MD, PhD Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology AWARD 2: Esophocclude (Temporary Occlusion of the Esophagus in Patients Requiring Emergent Intubation)Award to develop a new lung intubation device which minimizes the risk of gastric aspiration in emergency care and in surgical applicationsPhilip Carullo, MDResident, Department of Anesthesiology Youngjae Chun, PhD Assistant Professor, Industrial Engineering AWARD 3: Controlled release, gel-based ear drops for treatment of otitis mediaAward to develop a novel timed release microsphere drug delivery system for treatment of middle ear infectionsMorgan Fedorchak, PhD Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering Cuneyt Alper, MD Professor, Department of Ophthalmology AWARD 4: RegenMatrix (Collagen-mimetic Bioactive Hydrogels for Bone Regeneration)Award to apply develop a bioactive hydrogels to guide bone mineralization in osteoporosis and in healing of fracturesShilpa Sant, PhD Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences Yadong Wang, PhD Professor, Bioengineering Sachin Velankar, PhD Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering Charles Sfeir, DDS, PhD Associate Professor, Department of Oral Biology About 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 Office of Technology Management (OTM), and the Coulter Translational Research Partnership II (CTRP). CMI was established in 2011 to promote the application and development of innovative biomedical technologies to clinical problems; to educate the next generation of innovators in cooperation with the schools of Engineering, Health Sciences, Business, and Law; and to facilitate the translation of innovative biomedical technologies into marketable products and services in cooperation with OTM and in partnership with CTRP. ###


Pitt's Tracy Cui and Steven Little to be inducted into AIMBE College of Fellows


WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 1, 2016) ... The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the pending induction of two faculty in the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering into its College of Fellows.  Steven R. Little, PhD, William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering; Professor of Bioengineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Immunology, Ophthalmology and The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine; University Honors College Faculty Fellow, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Little was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows "for exceptional contributions to the field of controlled release and the establishment of the nascent field of biomimetic drug delivery." Xinyan Tracy Cui, PhD, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Cui was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows "for outstanding contributions to the research and development of neural interface technology, drug delivery, and biosensors." The College of Fellows is comprised of the top two percent of medical and biological engineers in the country. The most accomplished and distinguished engineering and medical school chairs, research directors, professors, innovators, and successful entrepreneurs, comprise the College of Fellows.  AIMBE Fellows are regularly recognized for their contributions in teaching, research, and innovation. AIMBE Fellows have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Technology and Innovation and many also are members of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Sciences. A formal induction ceremony will be held during AIMBE’s 25th Annual Meeting at the National Academy of Sciences Great Hall in Washington, DC on April 4, 2016. Dr. Little will be inducted along with 160 colleagues who make up the AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2016. For more information about the AIMBE Annual Meet, please visit www.aimbe.org. AIMBE’s mission is to recognize excellence in, and advocate for, the fields of medical and biological engineering in order to advance society. Since 1991, AIMBE‘s College of Fellows has lead the way for technological growth and advancement in the fields of medical and biological engineering. Fellows have helped revolutionize medicine and related fields in order to enhance and extend the lives of people all over the world. They have also successfully advocated for public policies that have enabled researchers and business-makers to further the interests of engineers, teachers, scientists, clinical practitioners, and ultimately, patients.  More about Dr. Cui Dr. Tracy Cui is William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Neural Tissue/Electrode Interface and Neural Tissue Engineering Lab. She is also the Neural Engineering Track Coordinator for the Department of Bioengineering Graduate Committee and serves on the Leadership Team of the Center for Medical Innovation. Prior to Pitt, she was a Research Scientist at Unilever Research US in Edgewater, New Jersey. Dr. Cui earned her BE in Polymer Materials and Chemical Engineering and her MS in Biophysics at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. She went on to earn her PhD in Macromolecular Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.  In Dr. Cui’s lab, the primary research focus is on the interactions between neural tissue and smart biomaterials. Dr Cui’s research interests lie in neural engineering with special focuses on neural electrode-tissue interface, neural tissue engineering, central nervous system drug delivery, and biosensors. Specific projects include biomimetic surface coatings for neural microelectrode arrays to improve chronic neural recording and stimulation stability, reliability, and longevity; novel material and device development for implantable neural electrodes; micro-patterning of biochemical, surface chemical, and electrical cues on electrode arrays for neural network study; on demand drug delivery in the nervous system; implantable biosensors for cytokines and neurochemicals; control of neural stem cell growth and differentiation via surface and electrical cues; and smart coatings for magnesium-based implants. Dr. Cui has won numerous awards, including the Swanson School of Engineering William Kepler Whiteford Professor (2015); Peking University Engineering Globex Fellow (2013, 2014); Swanson School of Engineering Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow (2013); Carnegie Science Emerging Female Scientist Award (2013); Pitt Innovator Award (2009, 2011); National Science Foundation Career Award (2008); and the Wallace Coulter Foundation Translational Early Career Award (2005). She serves as a grant agency reviewer for the National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, Science Foundation of Ireland as well as the American Institute of Biological Sciences.  Dr. Cui holds one granted and three filed U.S. patents, and she is a reviewer for many prestigious journals, including Advanced Materials, Biomaterials, Journal of Controlled Release, Acta Biomaterialia, Biomedical Microdevices, Biosensors and Bioelectronics, Journal of Neural Engineering, and Nature Communication, among others.  Dr. Cui is the Associate Editor of the Journal of Materials Chemistry B. More About Dr. Little Dr. Steven Little is Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, Immunology, Ophthalmology and The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a University Honors College Faculty Fellow. Dr. Little received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT in 2005, with his thesis winning the American Association for Advancement of Science’s Excellence in Research Award. In May of 2012, Dr. Little was appointed as the 12th Chairman of the Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, one of the oldest Departments of its type in the world, dating back to 1910. In his first year on the Pitt faculty (2006), Dr. Little was appointed as a Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Engineering, the only Assistant Professor to hold this position. In 2007, he received career development awards from both the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health (K-Award). In 2008, Dr. Little was named as one of only 16 Beckman Young Investigators by the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation. Dr. Little is the only individual from the University of Pittsburgh to have ever received this award. In 2009, he was presented with the Board of Visitors Award that denotes the “single most outstanding faculty member in the School of Engineering.” In 2010, he received the Coulter Translational Research Award from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. In 2011, Dr. Little was named the recipient of the Society For Biomaterials' Young Investigator Award. In 2012, Dr. Little received the University of Pittsburgh's Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award, and by winning the 2013 Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award, Dr. Little stands as the only professor in School history to receive both the teaching and research awards. Dr. Little was also named as one of only 14 “Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars” by the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation in 2013 and also was named the recipient of the Carnegie Science Award for University Educators that year. In 2014, Dr. Little was named the winner of the Research to Prevent Blindness Innovative Ophthalmic Research Award, the recipient of a Phase II Coulter Translational Award, named one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s “40 under 40,” and highlighted as one of only five individuals in Pittsburgh who are “reshaping our world” by Pop City Media. In 2015, Dr. Little was named the winner of the Carnegie Science Award for Advanced Materials, a Fast Tracker (University Leader category) by the Pittsburgh Business Times, a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), and the winner of the 2015 Curtis W. McGraw Award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Dr. Little is also a Co-Founder of Qrono Inc., a Pittsburgh-based start-up company that provides custom designed controlled release formulations for pharmaceutical companies, agricultural industry, and academic laboratories.  ###  


Swanson School names bioengineering senior Nathan Smialek as Co-op Student of the Year

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (December 15, 2015) … In recognition of his accomplishments during a four-semester rotation at Philips Respironics, Nathan Smialek was selected to be the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering Co-op Student of the Year. Mr. Smialek, a native of Girard, Pa., will receive his bachelor’s degree in bioengineering in spring 2016. “Nathan’s mentor at Philips Respironics indicated that his mature demeanor and leadership skills set him above the average co-op participant, and his success there after four semesters was a tremendous accomplishment,” noted Maureen A. Barcic, co-op program director. “Additionally, he has maintained a strong academic and extra-curricular record, and mentored eight medical design project teams.”Among his activities, Mr. Smialek is University Innovation Fellow; a member of the U.S. delegation to Vice Premier Liu at Intel U.S.-China International Maker competition ceremony; and served as President of Engineers for Sustainable Medical Development (ESMD) for which his design team developed an optical coherence tomography (OCT) microscopy mount used in pediatric procedures. The device, for which they filed a provisional patent application, is a mechanical mounting system that allows a surgeon to utilize an OCT microscope while attempting surgery to restore sight in pediatric patients.  The device was used clinically in multiple surgeries. Mr. Smialek stated, “Working alongside industry professionals and actively participating in the development of medical products was the most valuable experience of my undergraduate career.  My time at Pitt has been defined by rigorous academics with the co-op program providing a complementary opportunity to extend my skills acquired as part of my education.”Finalists for the Student of the Year Award included Stephanie Lee (Mechanical Engineering, Eaton) and Morgan Skapik (Materials & Metallurgy Engineering, PCC Airfoils). Honorable Mention recipients were James Brucker (Industrial Engineering, FedEx Ground), Renee Corbett (Civil & Environmental Engineering, Langan Engineering), Alex Horn (Chemical Engineering, Air Products & Chemicals) John Pidgeon (Industrial Engineering, Connors Group), Andrew Pouleson (Computer Engineering, Rockwell Automation), Eric Walker (Electrical Engineering, Mine Safety Appliances), and Sheridan Zivanovich (Computer Science, ANSYS, Inc).     The Co-op program also announced its 2015 Employers of the Year: Robinson Fans, a co-op supporter since 1999, and Zoll LifeVest, an innovative and diverse partner since 1998. Cooperative Education is the rotation between school and full-time work assignments that relate directly to a student’s academic discipline. Pitt’s co-op program enables students to complement classroom studies with practical experience, technical knowledge, and financial reward. Student works full-time for a term, and then returns to school for full time study. To complete the program requirements and receive certification, engineering students must work a minimum of three four-month terms. To date more than 5,200 students have participated in Pitt’s program, with 985 undergraduate and 40 graduate students participating in the 2014-2015 academic year.  ###
Paul Kovach

If the Shoe Fits

Bioengineering, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (December 10, 2015) - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, workplace slips, trips and falls cost the U.S. economy $180 billion each year* and represent the majority of nonfatal injury costs. While injury prevention strategies can save lives and reduce costs, one factor rarely taken into consideration is footwear. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering are exploring new techniques to better predict the wear rate of shoes in order to improve shoe design and replacement policies to reduce slip and fall accidents. The proposal, “Impact of Worn Shoes on Slipping,” was the recipient of a four-year, $1,519,208 R01 grant from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Principle investigator is Kurt E. Beschorner, Research Assistant Professor in the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering. Co-Investigators are Joel M. Haight, Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering and Director of Pitt’s Safety Engineering Program; and Mark S. Redfern, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering. “Our primary mode of transportation is walking, and every time you move your feet you risk a slip or a trip that can lead to a fall,” Dr. Beschorner said. “What we want to address is the preventative side to falling. We have preventative screenings for many health issues such as cancer. Yet relatively few studies have been done to reduce fall prevention by improving the slip resistance of shoes.” Dr. Beschorner compared the research to advances in tire technology and tread wear. Like the grip between a car’s tires and the road, the friction between the sole of the shoe and a walking surface maintains a person’s grip to the floor. Shoes that are heavily worn have a reduced coefficient of friction (COF) and are associated with increased risk of slipping. When worn, treads can no longer channel fluids from beneath the shoe. The fluid then becomes pressurized and the COF decreases, thereby increasing the chance of a fall. The researchers note that knowledge gaps exist regarding the factors that contribute to shoe wear rate and the wear thresholds at which the COF begins to decrease. This gap inhibits design and selection of more effective wear-resistant shoes and preventative programs that replace shoes before they become too worn. To identify the underlying causes of shoe wear and the tread thresholds where shoes become unsafe, new technology developed by the research team will simulate wear using a robotic slip-tester and measure shoe tread hydroplaning using a fluid pressure measurement system. The research will also develop new computational models that can be used to predict shoe wear for new shoe sole designs. “What makes this study unique is the systematic way in which shoe tread wear will be studied,” Dr. Beschorner said. “We’ve developed novel technology to test shoe tread drainage to more precisely measure how shoe wear is impacting slipperiness. We will examine shoe wear and determine specific limits to wear, so that people know when to replace worn shoes. Then we will determine the critical factors that impact how quickly shoes wear, which can help manufacturers build a more durable shoe.” ###   *Sum of fatal [1] and non-fatal [2] injury costs.   [1] Florence, C., Simon, T., Haegerich, T., Luo, F., & Zhou, C. (2015). Estimated lifetime medical and work-loss costs of fatal injuries-United States, 2013.MMWR: Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 64(38), 1074-1077.   [2] Florence, C., Haegerich, T., Simon, T., Zhou, C., & Luo, F. (2015). Estimated lifetime medical and work-loss costs of emergency department-treated nonfatal injuries-United States, 2013. MMWR: Morbidity and mortality weekly report,64(38), 1078-1082.    
Paul Kovach

Something on Your Mind?


  PITTSBURGH (November 9, 2015) … With the potential to allow quadriplegics to operate robotic limbs, to reverse damage caused by Parkinson's disease, and to map the pathways of the 100 billion neurons of the brain, microelectrode arrays-or electronic brain implants-are key to the human-computer interface. Two National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants totaling $4.7 million to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering will help to further research in improving how the implants perform in the brain and survive the body's immune responses. Implants come in many shapes and sizes and contain anywhere from one to hundreds of electrodes in a single array. Large arrays allow for better connectivity with the brain, but they also have a greater risk of triggering the body's defense mechanisms. This causes inflammation of the neural tissue, which can significantly reduce the quality of the implant's signals over time. Even though it won't cause harm to the patient, the body's rejection of foreign substances is one of the major obstacles limiting the usage of microelectrode arrays. Researchers at Pitt's Neural Tissue/Electrode Interface and Neural Tissue Engineering (NTE) Laboratory have been developing ways to integrate the implants with the host neural tissue. Last summer, Xinyan "Tracy" Cui, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering and director of the NTE Lab, received an NIH grant to research a method of disguising microelectrode arrays by coating them with biological molecules the brain won't recognize as intruders.   Today, two more grants from NIH will expand the NTE Lab's research into other areas of microelectrode array technology. Cui will serve as principle investigator of "Inhibition of Neural Electrode-Mediated Inflammation and Neuronal Cell Death." The study will receive $3.1 million over five years and will uncover the role of the caspase-1, an enzyme activated at the earliest detectable moment after ischemia, trauma, and other neurodegenerative conditions. "Caspase-1 is a key mediator of both inflammation and programmed cell death, both of which are thought to degrade neural recording and stimulation performance," said Cui. "Once we identify it as a major pathway, we can disrupt it. In this new study, we are going to use two-photon live animal imaging in conjunction with molecular and electrophysiological methods to study the cellular response around the electrode implant site in real-time." Takashi "TK" Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineering at Pitt, will lead the two-photon imaging, which can capture images at a deep level of tissue in live animals. Although this form of microscopy has become popular in neuroscience and biology, it has not been widely used to examine the interaction between electrode implants and brain tissue. "We are very lucky to have TK's expertise with live imaging at our lab," said Cui. Kozai established the Bio-Integrating Optoelectronic Neural Interface & Cybernetics Lab (BIONIC Lab) at Pitt. He recently joined tenure-stream faculty after completing his post-doctoral research with Cui and will serve as the principal investigator of the other NIH grant study awarded this year. "Mechanisms behind Electrode Induced BBB Damage's Impact on Neural Recording" will receive about $1.6 million for five years. Kozai will examine the damage to the brain caused by blood-brain barrier (BBB) injury from probe implantation. BBB injury has been found around implanted electrodes, but the extent and the cause-and-effect mechanism underlying BBB damage and neural recording failure has not been established. After mapping the brain vasculature with two-photon microscopy, Kozai will implant one group of electrodes that pass through large arterioles and another group that avoids major blood vessels. By comparing the performance of electrodes in the two situations and tracking dynamic changes with two-photon microscopy, Kozai will be able to determine the impact of BBB damage on signal degradation recorded from the implants.   The co-Investigators on these two grants are Dr. Alberto Vazquez (Radiology), Dr. Robert Friedlander and Dr. Diane Carlisle (Neurosurgery), and Dr. Simon Watkins (Center for Biological Imaging). About the NTE Lab Research at the NTE Laboratory focuses on the understanding and modulation of interactions between neural tissue and smart materials and biosensors. Past studies have contributed to a fundamental understanding of topics applicable to a variety of fields, particularly neural electrode and tissue interface, neural tissue engineering, implantable biosensors, and drug delivery. NTE Lab members collaborate with researchers in many different disciplines.   ### For more information about funded positions at the Cui and Kozai labs visit http://www.bioniclab.org/job-opportunities and http://engineering.pitt.edu/Sub-Sites/Labs/CUI/Home/Job-Opportunities/.      
Matt Cichowicz

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Bioengineering By The Numbers


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