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.

Apr
17
2019

Nine Pitt Students Awarded 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH—Nine University of Pittsburgh students were awarded a 2018 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Seven Pitt students and one alumnus also earned an honorable mention. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is designed to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive an annual stipend of $34,000 for three years, as well as a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees. The support accorded to NSF Graduate Research Fellows is intended to nurture awardees’ ambition to become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. “Receipt of an NSF Fellowship award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our undergrad and graduate students, and to their faculty mentors and advisors. It is also one of the most highly recognized indicators of early success in a scientific research career,” said Nathan Urban, vice provost for graduate studies and strategic initiatives at Pitt. “The University is committed to increasing support for future NSF-GRFP applicants through the application process while we congratulate this year’s winners.” Four Swanson School students received an award: Nathanial Buettner, a civil engineering undergraduate student, works in the Pavement Mechanics and Materials Laboratory where he aims to advance research on concrete pavements. Starting in summer 2019, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in civil engineering at the University of Pittsburgh under the advisement of Dr. Julie Vandenbossche. Charles Griego, a chemical engineering graduate student, works with Dr. John Keith to evaluate computational models used for high-throughput screening of catalysts that improve chemical processes. He graduated from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 2017 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. He serves as President of Pitt’s Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association and plans to become a professor to fulfill his desire for teaching and inspiring students in STEM. Dulce Mariscal, a bioengineering graduate student, works in the lab of Gelsy Torres-Oviedo where she aims to identify biomechanical factors that modulate the generalization of treadmill learning to ultimately improve rehabilitation treatments for patients with gait impairments. She graduated from the Universidad del Turabo, PR in 2014 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. Kalon Overholt, a bioengineering undergraduate student, has worked under the mentorship of Dr. Rocky Tuan in the Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering (CCME) for the past three years. His research focused on developing a device to study how biochemical crosstalk between bone and cartilage may contribute to the mechanism of osteoarthritis. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology starting in fall 2019. Two Swanson School students received honorable mentions: Ethan Schumann graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He worked on medical device development with Dr. Jeffrey Vipperman at Pitt and hardware design and testing of a bipedal robot with Dr. C. David Remy at the University of Michigan. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Harvard University with Dr. Conor Walsh in the Biodesign Lab starting fall 2019. Sommer Anjum, a bioengineering graduate student, is pursuing a Ph.D. in the area of computational modeling and simulation. She works in the MechMorpho lab of Dr. Lance Davidson where she aims to develop computational models capturing the complex biophysical properties of developing organisms. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2018 with a degree in Biological Engineering, where she discovered her passion for trying to understand the behaviors of biological systems through computational models. Andrea Sajewski, an undergraduate student from Duquesne University who works with Dr. Tamer Ibrahim, was also awarded a fellowship. She will join the bioengineering graduate program in the fall and continue her magnetic resonance imaging research in the Radiofrequency Research Facility. Current Swanson School students who hold or previously held the NSF-GRFP award include, Sarah Hemler (BioE), Angelica Herrera (BioE), Monica Liu (BioE), Patrick Marino (BioE), Erika Pliner (BioE), Donald Kline (BioE), Megan Routzong (BioE), Michael Taylor (ChemE), Drake Pedersen (BioE), Natalie Austin (ChemE), Gerald Ferrer (BioE), Alexis Nolfi (BioE), Carly Sombric (BioE), and Elyse Stachler (CEE). ###

Apr
16
2019

BioE graduate students capture top prizes at the Pitt Three Minute Thesis competition

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 16, 2019) … After their success in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, bioengineering graduate students Piyusha Gade and Gerald Ferrer participated in the university-wide event hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Office of the Provost on April 1, 2019. Gade was awarded first place while Ferrer captured the runner-up prize and the People’s Choice award. The Pitt 3MT competition was held during National Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week, a celebration to emphasize the contributions, impact, and value of graduate and professional students on campuses throughout the United States. The Provost’s Office presented four prizes for the 3MT competition: first place was awarded a $1000 travel grant, two runner-ups were each awarded a $500 travel grant, and for the first time at Pitt, a $1000 travel grant was awarded to a People’s Choice winner. “I am proud that both Piyusha and Gerald received awards at the university-wide Three Minute Thesis competition,” said Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Nickolas A. Dececco Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “We try to prepare our Swanson School students for successful careers in STEM, and effective communication is an important but often overlooked part of that.” Gade, who placed first in both the Pitt and Swanson School 3MT competition, is a bioengineering a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Anne Robertson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. She presented her research which involves rationally designing in situ engineered vascular grafts in young and aged hosts. “Piyusha is an outstanding researcher – extremely smart, innovative and versatile,” Robertson said. “She is always ready to take on new challenges, both intellectually and professionally. I am so proud of Piyusha and her accomplishment!” Ferrer, who was a runner-up in the Swanson School competition, presented his work from the Orthopaedic Robotics Lab of Dr. Richard Debski, professor of bioengineering. His current research is focused on quantifying location specific mechanical properties in tendons using different ultrasound techniques and understanding key biomechanical factors that influence rotator cuff tear propagation through computational models. "I enjoyed the challenge of communicating the significance and impact of our research in a way that everyone - regardless of their background - could understand and relate to, all in under 3 minutes,” Ferrer said. “Being able to communicate with a diverse audience is important because it allows us to bridge the gap between scientists and nonscientists thus increasing awareness of the societal impact of your research.” The 3MT Competition, developed by The University of Queensland, is designed to encourage students to communicate the importance of their research to the broader community. Since its launch in 2008, the 3MT competition has expanded to 67 countries, and events are currently held at more than 600 universities worldwide. ###

Apr
11
2019

Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering Presents Thomas Gilbert with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) ... This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. This year’s recipient for the Department of Bioengineering is Thomas Gilbert, PhD BioE ‘06, Chief Science Officer at ACell, Inc. The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. James R. Martin II, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at Pitt in the fall. “Dr. Gilbert’s research in scaffold materials for regenerative medicine led him to faculty positions in surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, and bioengineering here at Pitt,” said Dean Martin. “His fascinating work shows how the engineering principals we studied for complex systems can just as easily, and successfully, be applied to healing the human body.” About Thomas W. Gilbert Thomas Gilbert has a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Gilbert has served as Chief Science Officer at ACell, a leading regenerative medicine company, since 2015 and provides leadership to the Research and Development, Clinical Research, and Quality organizations.  In this role, Dr. Gilbert has responsibility for the continuum of product development from concept through clinical evaluation, with careful attention given to regulatory requirements.  Previously, he served as ACell’s Vice President of Research and Development from 2012-2015. During his time at ACell, Dr. Gilbert has provided technical and organizational leadership, and has overseen renewal within each of his departments. Before joining ACell, Dr. Gilbert was Assistant Professor of Surgery, Cardiothoracic Surgery, and Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh as well as a faculty member of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. His research includes the study of processing and use of extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffold materials for the development of regenerative medicine strategies in a variety of body systems. Dr. Gilbert has co-authored several book chapters and more than sixty peer-reviewed articles. In addition, he has received five patents related to ECM technology. His research funding sources include the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. He has also worked as a Metallurgist for the Perryman Company in Houston, PA. ###

Apr
9
2019

Maria Jantz Receives the 2019 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Award

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 9, 2019) … Maria Jantz, a bioengineering graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was selected to receive the 2019 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship Award. The competitive fellowship, which received more than 2,900 applications, recognizes academic excellence in STEM fields and awards up to three years of full tuition, a monthly stipend, health insurance, and a travel budget for research-related training and/or conferences. Jantz received her undergraduate degree in physics at Goshen College, where she developed an interest in prostheses. Following college, she worked with Professors Lee Miller and Matthew Tresch at Northwestern University to use functional electrical stimulation to restore locomotion following spinal cord injuries. She has continued to explore these interests at Pitt and joined the lab of Robert Gaunt, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, where she studies epidural stimulation of the spinal cord to improve bladder control. “After spinal cord injuries, bladder control is one of the most important functions people want to have restored,” said Jantz. “By applying electrical stimulation to the surface of the spinal cord, we can activate nerves in that region to produce bladder reflexes that improve continence and voiding. “Spinal cord stimulation is a really exciting area of research with a lot of possibilities that we are only now figuring out, and I'm very happy to be a part of that,” Jantz continued. “With an application in bladder control, specifically, I get to improve an issue that many people deal with daily that regularly goes unaddressed, and I think it's really important to meet that need.” In 2018 Jantz was awarded an honorable mention from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and was the recipient of the best oral presentation award from the Society for Pelvic Research. “I feel very fortunate to have Maria working in my lab on a problem that is such a significant issue for so many people,” said Gaunt. “This award recognizes Maria’s outstanding talents and abilities, and I’m really looking forward to see what she is able to accomplish with this generous support!” ###

Apr
8
2019

University of Pittsburgh Appoints Medtech Executive and Alumnus Scott Morley as Director of its Coulter@Pitt Medtech Accelerator

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (April 8, 2019) ... Building upon its successes in translational biomedical research and commercialization at the University of Pittsburgh, the Swanson School of Engineering has named Scott Morley as Director of its Coulter@Pitt medtech accelerator program.  Morley succeeds Allison Formal who left the University in February to pursue new opportunities outside of the region. Morley is a seasoned life sciences executive with broad experience in technology development, clinical trials, regulatory strategy, marketing, and sales.  He began his career at ALung Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based medical device company spun out from the University of Pittsburgh.  As ALung’s fourth employee, he quickly rose to become the lead engineer responsible for design and development of ALung’s artificial lung technology, the Hemolung RAS, which was originally developed in the lab of Bioengineering Professor William Federspiel. Morley went on to lead clinical studies in India and Germany resulting in global product approvals. Simultaneously, he built a new therapeutic market for the technology, establishing ALung’s leadership position through a strategy of clinical collaboration with global key opinion leaders and medical societies. After running a global product launch, Morley oversaw the start of ALung’s VENT-AVOID Trial, a 40-center pivotal IDE trial aimed at securing US FDA approval. Most recently, he founded 3Rivers MedTech LLC, providing innovation and commercialization services to the medtech industry. Morley is a two-time graduate of the University of Pittsburgh having earned a BS from the Swanson School of Engineering (Bioengineering) and an MBA from Katz Graduate School of Business (Marketing).  “We are excited to welcome Scott back to Pitt,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of of Bioengineering. “Scott brings extensive experience in developing and commercializing medical devices from bench to the bedside, and our translational research teams across campus will be well served by his expertise.” In tandem with his duties as the Coulter@Pitt Program Director, Morley is also an Entrepreneur in Residence with the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute where he is supporting the commercialization of life science innovations with a focus on medical devices and diagnostics. “There is a great collaboration between the Coulter Program and the Innovation Institute,” said Evan Facher, Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Director of the Innovation Institute. “Scott’s dual-role on campus will only further strengthen our partnership as we collaborate to build a robust engine for commercialization of Pitt’s biomedical technologies.” “Pitt has taken great strides to develop a new culture of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Morley. “University research is a primary catalyst for growth of the Pittsburgh life sciences industry. I am very appreciative of the opportunity to work with our partners across Pitt and the region as we seek to drive important advances in healthcare to successful commercialization for the benefit of patients and our regional economy.” ### About the Coulter@Pitt Program The Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program (Coulter@Pitt) is a University based accelerator which helps faculty researchers translate their innovations to commercialization. By way of a competitive grant program, training processes, and collaborative services, University technologies are de-risked and viable commercial pathways identified. Coulter@Pitt extensively engages with business partners, mentors and clinical experts to bring industry perspectives to translational research. In 7+ years, the Coulter Program has attracted over 260 applications and funded 36 projects leading to eight Pitt start-up companies and 5 licenses. 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. About the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute Established in 2013, The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute is the University’s hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.  The Innovation Institute provides a comprehensive suite of services for Pitt Innovators, from protecting intellectual property to the commercialization of new discoveries through licensing and/or new enterprise development. The Institute also provides a wealth of educational programming, mentoring and networking for Pitt faculty, students and partners. The Innovation Institute strengthens the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt and is eager to facilitate and support entrepreneurial initiatives across the university and beyond. It is also invites alumni, entrepreneurs and industry partners to collaborate with our faculty and students to help achieve societal impact through commercialization.
Lindsay Rodzwicz, Coulter@Pitt Manager

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