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 Bioengineering grads receive 2015 Whitaker International Fellowships

All SSoE News, Bioengineering

UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH NEWS RELEASE PITTSBURGH- In support of their advanced research and career aspirations in the biomedical-engineering fields, two recent graduates of the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering have been granted 2015 Whitaker International Fellowships . The Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars Program provide fellowships, scholarships, and summer grants for overseas research opportunities for emerging professionals in the bioengineering fields. Pitt bioengineering alumni Daniel Freer and Drake Pedersen will use the one-year fellowships to conduct biomedical research in London and Italy, respectively. A total of 75 Whitaker awards were awarded in 2015; Freer and Pedersen bring Pitt's number of Whitaker fellows to 10. Daniel Freer, a native of Asheville, N.C., will pursue a Master of Research degree in medical robotics at Imperial College London . While in the United Kingdom, he will assist in the development of a wearable device that will aid in the physical rehabilitation of knee-surgery patients. "I chose Imperial College's program because it is specially designed to give me a background on current surgical techniques, while teaching the engineering and robotics skills necessary to make improvements to the field," said Freer, who is considering career options in the robotics field. "This is a special opportunity for me to gain experiences within a field of study that I am passionate about. I expect my year in the United Kingdom to play a significant role in my long-term career decisions." While at Pitt, Freer served as an undergraduate researcher within the laboratories of Pitt bioengineering faculty members Kevin Bell and George Stetten . Under Bell's guidance, he played a key role in the development of a monitoring system for measuring anatomical knee angles for use in at-home physical therapy. In Stetten's lab, Freer worked on an ongoing project to improve a camera system for the enhancement of eye-surgery techniques with the use of optical coherence tomography scanners. As a Pitt student, Freer was a member of Engineers for Sustainable Medical Development and Tau Beta Pi , the national engineering honors society. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in bioengineering from the Swanson School in April 2015. Drake Pedersen, a native of Charleston, S.C., will work with a team of cardiovascular researchers at the University of Palermo in Italy. Pederson will assist in a large-scale project that seeks to enhance the durability of tissue-engineered heart valves, which are currently used in nearly 40 percent of the world's heart-transplant procedures. "My experiences in the Whitaker International Program will function as a springboard that I will use to begin working on my own dissertation projects as a bioengineering PhD candidate within the Swanson School," said Pedersen. "Upon completion of my work in Palermo and returning to the United States in June 2016, I will be ready to begin my next career steps as a graduate researcher in the field of cardiovascular bioengineering, with my goal being to improve cardiovascular devices and the tests used to evaluate them." Pedersen plans to pursue a career in the field of cardiovascular bioengineering. As an undergraduate researcher at Pitt, he had extensive experience in the lab of William R. Wagner , director of Pitt's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine . Within Wagner's lab, Pedersen worked on various research projects that analyzed blood flow and platelet deposition over clinically relevant surfaces. A 2011 Eagle Scout, Pedersen was a member of Pitt's Biomedical Engineering Society as well as Tau Beta Pi . He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in bioengineering from the Swanson School in April 2015. The Whitaker International Fellowships are administered through the U.S. Student Programs Division at the Institute of International Education. The Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars Program was founded by the Institute of International Education, who inherited the assets of the now closed Whitaker Foundation, in 2006. Established in 1975, the Whitaker Foundation contributed nearly $700 million in support of biomedical-engineering programs in universities throughout the United States. ###  
Anthony M. Moore

Pittsburgh entrepreneur Max Fedor appointed Director of Pitt’s Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program

All SSoE News, Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (May 28, 2015) … To continue to expand the growth of translational biomedical research and commercialization at the University of Pittsburgh, the Swanson School of Engineering has named Max A. Fedor as Director of the Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program (Coulter Program). Mr. Fedor succeeds Pratap Khanwilkar, PhD, who joined InCube Labs, LLC , as Vice President for Product Development. "As a former Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Pittsburgh's Innovation Institute , as well as a well-respected business leader and entrepreneur, Max brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the Coulter Program," stated Sanjeev G. Shroff, PhD , the Principle Investigator of the Coulter Program and Distinguished Professor and the Gerald McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering at Pitt. "Most notably, his background in product development and early stage commercialization are critical to the continued success of the Coulter Program." Dr. Shroff continued, "During the first three years of the Coulter Program, we have invested ~$3.5 million to advance 15 promising biomedical technologies.  This investment has led to the formation of two companies and 5 options for licenses.  The establishment and success of this program is due in part to the strong leadership of our founding director, Pratap Khanwilkar.  We are very proud of his latest venture and know that he will contribute significantly to the growth of InCube Labs." Mr. Fedor hopes to build significantly upon the foundations of the Coulter Program.  He noted, "As a long standing member of the business community in this region, I have observed a real and growing commitment to innovation here at Pitt and to the translation of its technologies to commercialization, whether through licenses or new company formation.  I envision the Coulter Program growing to become a key center for vetting our advanced biomedical technologies for potential clinical adoption and capital investment, and a significant resource for our faculty researchers to develop the thought processes and materials that are needed to advance their innovations to real clinical products.  I am excited to be a part of these important efforts." Mr. Fedor has over 25 years of experience as a business leader and entrepreneur, with a focus on technology commercialization, general management and operations. Most recently, he was President and CEO of BIOSAFE, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based manufacturer of patented antimicrobial polymers, which he transitioned to a strategic investor in 2013 & 2014.  Prior to this, he served as Executive-in-Residence at the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, managing a portfolio of companies, while mentoring their leadership teams and directors.  Mr. Fedor has also held CEO and other senior level positions in a number of early stage companies, where he successfully developed and launched new medical technology products, raised investment capital and formed partnerships with industry leaders, such as Bayer, J&J and Alstom. Mr. Fedor earned a bachelor's degree in Engineering and Applied Sciences from Harvard College and an MBA from the Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business. About the Coulter Program The Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program (Coulter Program) is a campus-wide effort led by Pitt's Department of Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering to identify, select, fund, and mentor translational biomedical research projects and promote commercialization at the University. This translational research is accomplished by clinician-(bio)engineer teams that address unmet clinical needs through innovative medical technologies. The University was awarded a $3.54 million grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation in fall 2011 (one of only six awards nationwide), supplemented by $1.665 million in matching funds from the University's Swanson School of Engineering, School of Medicine, and Innovation Institute. Teams competing for Coulter Program funding are required to participate with Pitt MBA and School of Law students in a four-month "From Benchtop to Bedside" course. This course is designed to teach researchers how to develop key deliverables such as a business model, business plan, product development plan and investment pitch, which are necessary to assess the clinical and commercial potential of each technology. The projects are then evaluated and selected by the Coulter Program's Oversight Committee and mentored by advisors, comprised of clinicians experienced in translation, business leaders accomplished in medical device commercialization including regulatory affairs and reimbursement, large medical device company representatives, and local and national angel investors and venture capitalists. About the Department of Bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering Bioengineering is the application of engineering principles to analyze native biological systems and to design and manufacture tools, structures, and processes for solving problems in the life sciences. Successful patient-focused and commercialization-oriented collaborations between engineers and physicians who traditionally employ differing methodologies are critical to the burgeoning field and to regional economic development. Pitt's Department of Bioengineering, established in 1998 as part of the Swanson School of Engineering and ranked as one of the nation's top bioengineering programs, is credited for developing many major biomedical technologies: cardiac-assist device for infants, a blood-treatment tool that can free patients from ventilator dependence, materials that help regenerate various tissues and organs, to name a few. ###
Paul Kovach

Swanson School names George Stetten and Götz Veser as Outstanding Educators of the Year

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum

Pictured from left: George Stetten and Götz Veser PITTSBURGH (May 1, 2015) … In recognition of excellence in teaching for the 2014-2015 academic year, the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering presented George D. Stetten, MD, PhD and Götz Veser, PhD with its Outstanding Educator Award at the School's annual Senior Recognition Ceremony on Saturday, April 25. Dr. Stetten is Professor of Bioengineering and Dr. Veser is the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. "The Swanson School's Outstanding Teaching Award is highly competitive, and is judged upon faculty commitment to excellence in the classroom as well as assessment and professional development," noted Gerald D. Holder, PhD, the Swanson School's U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. "Student evaluations play an important role in determining our Outstanding Educators, and this year's results were outstanding. I congratulate George and Götz for their dedication to our students and to the engineering profession." Dr. Veser earned his PhD from the Fritz-Haber-Institute of the Max-Planck-Society in Berlin, Germany, and previously was the A.v. Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis). He later held positions at the University of Stuttgart and at the Max-Planck-Institute for Coal Research, both in Germany, before joining the University of Pittsburgh in 2002. His main research area is catalytic reaction engineering with a focus on clean energy technology and fuel processing applications. Dr. Veser also serves as associate director of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Energy. In 2014 he received the James Pommersheim Award for Excellence in Teaching in Chemical Engineering by his Department. Dr. Stetten received his MD from State University of New York and PhD from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. He serves as Director of the Visualization and Image Analysis (VIA) Laboratory at the Swanson School, and as Research Professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. His research areas include in situ image guided intervention, haptics, and image analysis. Dr. Stetten holds nine patents for medical devices such as the Sonic Flashlight TM , which merges real-time images from ultrasound with direct human vision, and the Hand Held Force Magnifier, which provides surgeons with a heighted sense of force at the tip of microsurgery devices. He is also the creator of the Swanson School's Music Engineering Laboratory (MEL), a professional-quality recording facility where engineering students learn about the technical aspects of musical instruments and recording, and work on projects to expand their own musical interests and experience through a one-semester, one-credit honors course, Music Engineering. ###  
Paul Kovach

Two Engineering Students Share Pitt’s 2015 Senior of the Year Award

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (April 22, 2015) ... The seniors of the year at the University of Pittsburgh have been named by the University's chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa , an honorary society that recognizes students who maintain a high standard of leadership in collegiate activities. Michael Nites and Dhanalakshmi Thiyagarajan have received the 2015 Omicron Delta Kappa Senior of the Year award, which is given to students who possess and exhibit outstanding leadership qualities in service to the University. Their names will be engraved in a walkway between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Memorial Chapel alongside the names of previous recipients of the award. Michael Nites, who served as president of Pitt's Student Government Board (SGB) in 2014, graduated in December 2014 with a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the Swanson School of Engineering and a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics and economics from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Nites is working on special projects in Pitt's Office of the Chancellor until July, when he will begin working for McKinsey & Company , a global management consulting firm. In addition to being president of SGB, Nites served as a member of the board and the SGB Allocations Committee, including one year as committee chair. Nites served as a student liaison to three Pitt Board of Trustees' committees (Student Affairs, Academic, and Budget) and four University Senate committees (Student Affairs, Computer Usage, Tenure and Academic Freedom, and Budget Policies). Nites also served on the University Sexual Assault Task Force, the Alcohol Task Force, the University Review Board, and the Honors College Advisory Board. A native of Shaler, Pa., Nites was a University Honors College ambassador. As a volunteer coordinator for Pitt's Engineers for Sustainable Medical Development student organization, he organized weekly trips to Global Links, an international medical relief agency, and worked to repair and ship usable wheelchairs to patients abroad. He also worked on an interdisciplinary team of six undergraduate Pitt students who went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to perform research on bamboo gridshells, which are rapidly deployable structures that can be used to provide shelter in developing countries during times of natural disaster. In 2013, Nites was named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, a national merit award recognizing the top students in the country studying mathematics, science, or engineering. Nites also won the 2014 George Washington Prize as the Swanson School's top graduating senior, the Blue Stars Red Carpet Outstanding Student Government Board member award, the McKay Prize for academic excellence in Pitt's Department of Economics, and the Undergraduate Chancellor Research Fellow Award. Dhanalakshmi Thiyagaraja from Bethlehem, Pa., will graduate April 26 with a bachelor's degree in bioengineering from the Swanson School and a minor in chemistry from the Dietrich School. She also will earn a Certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. She has been accepted into Temple University's School of Medicine and will begin her medical studies in the fall. Thiyagarajan is the founder and president of the Gluten Free Awareness League on campus, and she has been promoting gluten-free awareness in the United States and India, working with national organizations, companies, and restaurants. For her efforts, she was profiled in the Fall 2013 edition of Allergic Living magazine. Thiyagarajan has also demonstrated leadership on campus as president of the Society of Women Engineers chapter at Pitt, after serving the organization since 2011 as historian, membership chair, and secretary. She has served as an ambassador of the University Honors College, vice president of the Outside the Classroom Honorary Society, member of the Biomedical Engineering Society and of CHAARG (Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions to Recreate Girls), and a tutor for students enrolled in courses based in science, technology, engineering, and math. In 2014, Thiyagarajan won the Swanson School's Sustainability Design Expo for Product Realization for a new dental implant mesh she developed. She also was selected by Pitt's Innovation Institute to represent the University in the national "1000 Pitches" competition in the health category for her idea of a gluten-free sleeve to prevent cross-contamination of foods. Thiyagarajan also won the Swanson School's 2015 George Washington Prize, was named the outstanding sophomore student leader through Blue Stars Red Carpet in April 2013, and won the president's award through Blue Stars Red Carpet in April 2014. Thiyagarajan conducted an independent research project on celiac disease under Marc Schwartz, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition in Pitt's School of Medicine, and served as an undergraduate research assistant under James H-C. Wang, director of the MechanoBiology Laboratory within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and professor in the Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Bioengineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. Her volunteer experience includes assisting mothers and babies at Magee-Womens Hospital, assisting discharged patients at St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem, and helping at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in its Automated Blood Center. ###
John Fedele

Pitt designated an Innovation Corps Site by National Science Foundation

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS

UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH NEWS RELEASE PITTSBURGH- The National Science Foundation (NSF) has designated the University of Pittsburgh as an NSF I-Corps site. The award, which supports innovation activities at select academic institutions, comes with a three-year, $300,000 grant to be used to advance innovation, commercialization, and entrepreneurship at Pitt. The University's Innovation Institute will manage the Pitt I-Corps site. (The "I" in I-Corps stands for "Innovation.") Through the I-Corps grant, 30 Pitt Innovator teams per year will receive $3,000 to participate in the Institute's Pitt Ventures program, which provides Pitt teams with hands-on commercialization and entrepreneurial education activities in partnership with entrepreneurs-in-residence, investors, and local business mentors. Pitt Innovator teams may use the $3,000 stipends for market research, customer-discovery analyses, and other development efforts.  "We're honored to receive this prestigious NSF award to support our commercialization efforts," says Marc Malandro, founding director of the Innovation Institute and associate vice chancellor for technology management and commercialization at Pitt. "This award builds on our efforts to instill a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across the entire University, bringing together more faculty, staff, and student innovators with educators, mentors, and other community partners to advance our commercialization activities." The Innovation Institute's goals for the I-Corps program are to accomplish the following: Increase the number of entrepreneurially minded faculty, staff, and students at Pitt through education, training, and outreach-particularly among innovators from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented academic disciplines. Enhance a recently deployed commercialization process at Pitt that includes experiential learning and customer-discovery support for Pitt Innovator teams. Improve Pitt's connection to-and support of-the Pittsburgh region's entrepreneurial ecosystem in nurturing startup companies emerging from University innovations. "Through support provided by the I-Corps program, the University of Pittsburgh now will be able to develop an even deeper pipeline of commercialization opportunities from a broader group of innovators, further enhancing our impact on regional and national economic development," Malandro says. The Innovation Institute , launched in November 2013, serves as the hub of innovation commercialization and entrepreneurship activities at the University of Pittsburgh.   ###
Joe Miksch

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Bioengineering By The Numbers


Number of Undergraduate Students enrolled for the 2013-2014 Academic Year


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


Number of Masters Candidates enrolled for the 2014-2015 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