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.

Jan
9
2019

Engineering New Career Exploration Opportunities

Bioengineering

In addition to the four weeks of camp hosted at the University of Pittsburgh, the CampBioE team also headed to the Crossroads Foundation in Homewood for a free 4-day camp experience with 19 rising sophomore scholar participants. Here is an article reposted from the Crossroads Foundation about their experience... If a mannequin head falls 25 feet from the Calland Center patio to the sidewalk below, does it make a sound? What if it’s full of gelatin? And wearing a helmet? The answer, as this year’s rising sophomore scholars can tell you, is “yes, and the brain fragments get a little messy.” The experiment was just one of the many fascinating activities exploring bioengineering at Camp BioE. Now in its 11th year, Camp BioE is an interactive week-long exploration of bioengineering and regenerative medicine, which hosted its summer mentor training week at Crossroads for the first time this summer. The camp’s theme of STEM applications in criminal investigation had scholars gathering clues to solve an office murder mystery (complete with a crime scene set up in the back hallway). Designed and facilitated by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, CampBioE invites students--especially from groups underrepresented in STEM fields--to learn with a team of college student-mentors from Pitt and working professionals in STEM education, including Dr. Juel Smith (CCAC), Dr. Steven Abramowitch (University of Pittsburgh), and Mr. Mark “Special K” Krotec (Central Catholic High School). “It’s so encouraging to see the faces of the campers, their parents and our staff as learning and growth takes place,” says Dr. Smith. “For us it’s not only about the campers themselves, but about our ability to change the lives of our interns and junior counselors as well. To expose them to diversity...and to assist in the development of the next generation of educators and scientists.” On a given day during CampBioE, guests walking through the Calland Center might find Scholars wearing giant bubble suits and building PVC pipe structures for a bio-themed relay race Raw chicken in various parts of the office for tissue regrowth testing A robotic machine serving hundreds of ping pong balls to scholars as a “lesson in biomechanics” Mr. Krotec leading an “Enzymes” singalong to the tune of The Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” “Camp BioE was an amazing opportunity to learn about the principles of engineering and biology rolled into one, enhancing our inner scientists,” said Seton sophomore Hadia Killang. “My favorite part was when we dissected a chicken leg/thigh and learn[ed] about the different parts of the leg.” Despite accounting for 30% of the population, black, hispanic, and native American students are awarded only 15% of the nation’s share of bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Our goal was to try to change that,” says Dr. Smith. The program’s vision, Dr. Abramowitch adds, “is that the field of STEM should reflect the population.” ### About Crossroads Foundation: Crossroads Foundation is a non-denominational 501c3 enjoying its 30th school year as a Pittsburgh leader in providing educational equity to low-income youth.  We envision a world where all students, regardless of means, have access to the educational opportunities and support necessary to achieve their God-given potential.  Our mission is to provide promising, low-income youth who have limited access to a quality high school education, with tuition assistance to attend one of six local Catholic high schools partnered with a wide range of after-school and summer support in academics, college and career exploration, and personal guidance.  Learn more about us and our important work at www.crossroadsfoundation.org.
Esther Mellinger Stief, Executive Director, Crossroads Foundation
Jan
7
2019

Changing Frequencies: Pitt Bioengineers Look Deeper Into How Electrical Stimulation Activates Neurons

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (January 7, 2019) … Electrical stimulation of the brain is common practice in neuroscience research and is an increasingly common and effective clinical therapy for a variety of neurological disorders. However, there is limited understanding of why this treatment works at the neural level.  A paper published by Takashi D. Y. Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, addresses gaps in knowledge over the activation and inactivation of neural elements that affect the desired responses to neuromodulation. The article, “Calcium activation of cortical neurons by continuous electrical stimulation: Frequency dependence, temporal fidelity, and activation density” (DOI: 10.1002/jnr.24370), was published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research. Co-investigator is Kip Ludwig, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For this study, Kozai’s group - the BIONIC Lab - used in vivo two-photon microscopy to capture neuronal calcium activity in the somatosensory cortex during 30 seconds of continuous electrical stimulation at varying frequencies. They imaged the population of neurons surrounding the implanted electrode and discovered that frequency played a role in neural activation - a finding that conflicted with earlier studies. “Electrical stimulation has a large number of parameters that can be used to activate neurons, such as amplitude, pulsewidth, waveform shapes, and frequency,” explained Kozai. “This makes it difficult to compare studies because different stimulation parameters are used in other studies. Based on the parameters that were previously employed, it was thought that activation occurs in a sphere centered around the electrode where neurons near the electrode would activate more than neurons far from the electrode. “Recent research, however, shows that stimulation mostly activates distant neurons whose axons are very close to the electrode by transmitting action potentials backward to the neuron cell body,” he continued. “We demonstrate that both of these things can be true depending on stimulation frequency and duration.” According to Kozai, the fact that researchers can use varying stimulation parameters to activate different neurons in the same location has huge implications in basic science research. The findings will allow them to activate different neural circuits with the same implant to elicit different behaviors. Beyond its research applications, Kozai believes that this knowledge may also help in clinical settings. “Empirical evidence in the field suggests that frequency plays a role in deep brain stimulation, but the why and how have puzzled scientists since the beginning,” said Kozai. “This research is a first glimpse into understanding the mechanisms underlying the role of frequency in clinical therapies. In the long-term, this research could also give insight on how to activate distinct glial and vascular populations, which could have a prolonged impact on behavior, attention, and tissue regeneration.” Kozai believes that more research needs to be done to understand neuronal activation properties and hopes that this work will lead to new tools in neuroscience and improved neuromodulation therapy by explaining why electrical stimulation produces its effective responses. ###

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. ###

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