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.

Dec
11
2018

University of Pittsburgh Faculty Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

Bioengineering

Reposted from UPMC and Pitt Health Sciences. Click here to view the original post. PITTSBURGH – Stephen Badylak, D.V.M., Ph.D., M.D., professor of surgery and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh and deputy director of the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine, has been named among 148 renowned academic inventors elected as fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction accorded to academic inventors. To be chosen for this honor, fellows must demonstrate a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. “Dr. Badylak is a pioneer in the field of regenerative medicine and has perfected the blueprint for successful innovation at Pitt,” said Evan Facher, vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Pitt Innovation Institute. “His balanced pursuit of basic scientific discovery and achieving impact through the commercialization of his lab’s discoveries has resulted in therapies that have improved the lives of millions of people and are poised to impact millions more.” Badylak holds 64 issued patents across the fields of biomaterials, medical devices and tissue engineering, and has filed 18 more. Badylak has prioritized clinical translation of his ideas, resulting in more than 40 of his patents being licensed to industry. He also has assumed the role of chief scientific officer for a new startup company, ECM Therapeutics, based on a group of patents developed in his lab. Badylak’s discoveries have been translated to medical applications that have helped millions of patients, and his intellectual property has contributed significantly to the multibillion-dollar regenerative medicine industry. “This acknowledgement is terrific and appreciated, but it should be noted that I’m not the lone named inventor on these patents. There are more than 60 co-inventors,” Badylak said. “This is really a team effort and a testament to the quality of the people working in the lab and their innovativeness and ability to think outside the box. I’m fortunate to work with people like this.” With the election of the 2018 class, there are now more than 1,000 NAI Fellows, five of them from the University of Pittsburgh. The collective issued U.S. patents held by all NAI Fellows totals more than 35,000. “I am very proud to welcome another class of outstanding NAI Fellows, whose collective achievements have helped shape the future and who each day work to improve our world,” said Paul R. Sanberg, president of the NAI. “Each of these new NAI Fellows embodies the Academy’s mission through their dedication, creativity and inventive spirit. I look forward to working collaboratively with them in growing a global culture of innovation.” The 2018 NAI Fellows will be highlighted with a full-page announcement in the Jan. 25, 2019, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education and in coming issues of Technology & Innovation. The complete list of NAI Fellows is available on the NAI website.

Dec
6
2018

Bioengineering Welcomes Two New Faculty This Fall

Bioengineering

Two new faculty members joined the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering in the Fall 2018 semester. Mangesh Kulkarni joined the department as a research assistant professor, and Elisa Castagnola as a visiting research assistant professor. Mangesh Kulkarni, PhD, Research Assistant Professor Kulkarni studied bioengineering at the National University of Ireland Galway and completed his PhD titled, “Fibrin Mediated Proangiogenic and Secretory Control Gene Therapy for Compromised Wound Healing” in Sept 2012. Before joining Pitt, Kulkarni was a postdoctoral researcher in regenerative medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Over the years, Kulkarni’s research has been focused on the development of biomaterials-based tissue engineered systems for delivering therapeutic biomolecules and/or cells for tissue repair and regeneration. Kulkarni will be working with Bryan Brown, assistant professor of bioengineering, at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. He will continue his research on the development of biomaterials-based delivery systems. Additionally, he will work on molecular diagnostics and therapeutics, particularly involving non-coding RNA, and cell-free therapeutic strategies, such as stem cells secretome therapy. Elisa Castagnola, PhD, Visiting Research Assistant Professor Castagnola studied Robotics, Neuroscience, and Nanotechnologies at the University of Genoa in Italy and completed her PhD, “Carbon nanotube based coatings for low impedance neural microelectrodes,” in April 2011. Prior to coming to Pitt, Castagnola was a senior postdoctoral researcher in bioengineering at the Center for Neurotechnology and an adjunct assistant professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University. For the past decade, Castagnola’s work focused on combining research in material science and new microfabrication techniques for the development of innovative neurotechnology, advancing state-of-the-art implantable neural devices and bringing them to a clinical setting. Castagnola will conduct research with Tracy Cui, professor of bioengineering, in the NTE Lab. She is currently working on the development of a new class of multimodal implantable neural probes with superior capability in neurochemical and neurophysiological recordings, as well as in electrochemical stability. “I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Kulkarni and Dr. Castagnola to our department,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “The addition of these two new faculty members will strengthen our robust regenerative medicine and neural engineering research.” ###

Nov
30
2018

Bioengineering Graduate Student Ravi Vats Awarded AHA Predoctoral Fellowship

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (November 30, 2018) … Ravi Vats, a bioengineering graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was awarded an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. The program will provide two years of support for his work with vaso-occlusive crisis among Sickle Cell Disease patients. According to the AHA, the Predoctoral Fellowship “enhances the integrated research and clinical training of promising students who are matriculated in pre-doctoral or clinical health professional degree training programs and who intend careers as scientists, physician-scientists or other clinician-scientists, or related careers aimed at improving global cardiovascular health.” Vats conducts research in Pitt’s Vascular Medicine Institute under the supervision of Prithu Sundd, assistant professor of medicine. His research aims to understand the primary reason for acute painful vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC), which contributes to cardiovascular abnormalities in Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) patients. “VOC involves the blocking of a blood vessel, known as vaso-occlusion, across multiple organs, but the cellular, molecular, and biophysical mechanisms that promote widespread vaso-occlusion are unknown,” said Vats. “In an effort to identify new treatments to reduce cardiovascular complications in SCD, we want to understand the mechanisms behind concurrent vaso-occlusion in multiple organs.” Vats will begin his fellowship on January 1, 2019. ###

Nov
28
2018

Physical Therapy and Bioengineering Graduate Student Stephanie Rigot Receives Clinical and Translational Science Postdoctoral Fellowship

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (November 28, 2018) … Stephanie Rigot, DPT, a physical therapy and bioengineering graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, received a Postdoctoral Clinical and Translational Science Fellowship. This competitive award provides a stipend and partial tuition support for up to two years of multidisciplinary clinical and translational research. Dr. Rigot is a member of the inaugural cohort of the Doctor of Physical Therapy/PhD in Bioengineering (DPT-PhD) dual-degree program, a unique offering that integrates clinical and research experiences in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Swanson School of Engineering. “This program combines the outstanding evidence-based physical therapy education and innovative bioengineering research training that already exists at the university and builds upon synergies between faculty members of the nationally-ranked Departments of Bioengineering and Physical Therapy,” said Patrick Sparto, associate professor of physical therapy and co-director of the DPT-PhD program. Dr. Rigot works in the lab of Michael Boninger, Professor and UPMC Endowed Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, where she aims to create a new clinical prediction rule for a patient’s ambulatory ability after spinal cord injury using lower limb movement measured by activity monitors. Current prediction rules, she explained, are not sufficient to predict ambulation for individuals with moderate impairments and do not provide the full picture for a patient’s mobility potential. These shortcomings can lead to improper use of therapy time and limit an individual's functional independence. “These tools fail to provide insight into the quality of gait or whether it is likely to be a functional mode of mobility,” Dr. Rigot said. “By using machine learning techniques, we aim to combine clinical measures, psychosocial and environmental factors, and lower limb movements to develop prediction models that provide improved insight into the long-term mobility prognosis of individuals with acute spinal cord injuries. We hope that the models can be used to optimize patient care during rehabilitation,” she explained. Dr. Rigot graduated with a Doctor in Physical Therapy degree in April 2018 and is now focusing on the bioengineering aspects of the program to complete her PhD. “The uniquely intertwined physical therapy, engineering, and research training offered by the DPT-PhD program has provided me with abilities necessary to excel in both clinical and technical fields,” said Dr. Rigot. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of an outstanding multidisciplinary program that has allowed for my growth as a clinician and researcher in ways that I could not imagine before beginning this program.” Dr. Boninger, who chairs her doctoral committee, said, “Stephanie and her project embody what the DPT-PhD program hoped to achieve. She is completing highly technical research that is clinically relevant and immediately translatable into practice. I am not surprised she was selected for this highly competitive grant – she is an outstanding student working in an important area.” ###

Nov
14
2018

Gelsy Torres-Oviedo Presents Plenary Lecture at the Motor Learning and Motor Control Symposium

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (November 14, 2018) … Gelsy Torres-Oviedo, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, presented a plenary lecture at the 2018 Advances in Motor Learning and Motor Control symposium. The annual meeting provides a forum for presenting research advancements in the areas of human motor behavior, imaging, motor neurophysiology, and computational modeling. Torres-Oviedo runs the Sensorimotor Learning Laboratory in the Swanson School of Engineering where she investigates the ability of the human motor system to adapt walking patterns and learn new movements upon sustained changes in the environment. Torres-Oviedo’s plenary talk for the MLMC symposium was titled “Sensorimotor adaptation through the lens of feedback-generated muscle activity.” The research investigates how muscle activity is rapidly modified in response to external perturbations, and it is the thesis work of Pablo Iturralde, a bioengineering PhD candidate in the Sensorimotor Learning Laboratory. “Consider, for example, the muscle responses of a person who suddenly stepped on an icy patch without noticing,” said Torres-Oviedo. “We study these reactions in our laboratory by recording and analyzing muscle activity to unexpected transitions in foot speed.” The group’s work showed that walking on the altered environment for a long time (i.e., taking ~900 steps on the patch of ice) modifies the calibration of one’s motor system. “As a result of this adaptation, individuals adopt the perturbed situation as their new normal and transitioning back to the previous environment causes subjects to react as if it was novel to them,” explained Torres-Oviedo. “From an engineering perspective, we can model this motor behavior as a dynamical system (i.e., a history-dependent system) in which the parameters are recalibrated through the process of sensorimotor adaptation.” During their research, the group also discovered that age may play a role in this adaptation. Iturralde explained, “Interestingly, we found that this adaptation effect is reduced with healthy aging, suggesting that the greater incidence of falls in older individuals might be due to their inability to adjust motor patterns upon environmental transitions.” Torres-Oviedo was one of three plenary lectures during the MLMC symposium, which was held on November 2, 2018 as a satellite event for the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego, CA. ###

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