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.

Aug
23
2019

Pitt Bioengineer Aims to Change Stroke Patients’ Perception to Improve Gait Rehabilitation

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (August 23, 2019) … For stroke survivors whose ability to walk has been impaired by neurological damage, rehabilitation using robotics has proven to be an effective therapy to improve their gait. However, one of the major issues with this type of rehabilitation is that following training with a robotic device, motor improvements are not maintained in the patient’s daily life. Gelsy Torres-Oviedo, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was awarded a $805,670 CAREER Award by the National Science Foundation to apply a novel approach to improve locomotor learning in stroke patients. She is the fifth Swanson School CAREER Award recipient in 2019, tying the school’s record from 2017. “Our bodies adjust their movement to adapt to changes in the environment, but the very first thing that we need to do is sense that environment,” explained Torres-Oviedo, who directs the Sensorimotor Learning Laboratory at Pitt. “We then use this sensory information as input to our motor system, which drives our movement.” The challenge with measuring sensation in people is that it is an internal variable; therefore, Torres-Oviedo’s group will use mathematical tools and perception experiments to estimate what individuals feel. “We think that some stroke survivors have difficulty perceiving their asymmetric movement, and these proposed studies will help us characterize this deficit and indicate if split-belt walking - in which the legs move at different speeds - can correct it,” she said. In the first part of this study, the lab will track how patients with brain lesions perceive asymmetries in their gait. They will then measure how their perception is adjusted once their movements are adapted in the split-belt environment. In the second part of this study, the lab will use these data and a unique method to manipulate how people perceive their movement and create the illusion of error-free performance during split-belt walking. They will use a human-in-the-loop (HITL) method, which is a closed-loop approach in which the behavioral output is feedback to tune the input to the motor system - in this case, the speed difference. This strategy creates an individualized outcome for each subject, which is a more effective method for training purposes. “The idea is that if we understand how each patient adjusts their perceived movements, we can create the illusion of error-free performance where they think that they’re walking normally even though their movements are changing,” said Torres-Oviedo. “If they never perceive that they are doing something different, the hope is that changes in their movements can be carried over to the patient’s daily life.” This research aims to enhance the generalization of movements from devices like treadmills and exoskeletons to daily activities. “If Professor Torres-Oviedo and her group are successful in their work, it could have a profound effect on gait rehabilitation for stroke survivors,” said Sanjeev G. Shroff, Distinguished Professor and the Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. Torres-Oviedo will also use this project as a way to increase the participation of students from underrepresented minorities (URM) in science and engineering. She will recruit, mentor, and prepare URM students from K-12 and college to pursue advanced education, with the ultimate goal of broadening the professional opportunities for this population. ###

Aug
21
2019

Youngjae Chun Receives American Heart Association’s 2020 Innovative Project Award

Bioengineering, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 21, 2019) —Coronary artery disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S., with about 370,000 Americans dying from the disease each year. Stents are a life-saving procedure used to prop open narrowing blood vessels; however, over time, tissue can regrow into the mesh stent and cause the artery to narrow again, putting the patient at risk. Knowing that regrowth is happening as soon as possible is crucial in saving the patient’s life, but monitoring is a challenge. Youngjae Chun, PhD, associate professor of industrial engineering and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, has received a funding award from the American Heart Association for his project creating a stent that will use sensors to monitor for signs of restenosis and alert the patient’s doctor without the need for endless follow-up visits. Dr. Chun’s project has been selected by the American Heart Association for its 2019 Innovative Project Award, which supports highly innovative, high-impact research that could lead to major advancements and discoveries that accelerate cardiovascular and cerebrovascular research. The award includes a total of $200,000 over two years and began on July 1, 2019. “Stenting to treat coronary artery disease is a well-established and widely used interventional procedure. This new stent will minimize the follow-up imaging procedures that can be inconvenient, expensive, and sometimes invasive for the patient,” says Dr. Chun. “Our device would continuously monitor restenosis providing valuable information to the patients.” This project will be conducted through a multidisciplinary collaboration with W. Hong Yeo, PhD, assistant professor of Department of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and John Pacella, MD, cardiologist at UPMC. “Real-time surveillance would be critical for the patient whose stented blood vessels are re-narrowing, putting them at risk for heart attack or stroke,” says Dr. Chun. “The device would provide critical information directly to patients and their doctors and could potentially save many lives.”
Maggie Pavlick
Aug
16
2019

NTE Lab’s Asiyeh Golabchi Receives Poster Award at Pitt’s Data and Dine Symposium

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (August 16, 2019) … A poster presented by Asiyeh Golabchi, a bioengineering postdoctoral research associate at the University of Pittsburgh, was selected as one of the best poster presentations at the 2019 Postdoctoral Data & Dine Symposium. Hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Postdoctoral Association, the Data & Dine Symposium is an opportunity for postdoctoral associates and scholars at Pitt to present their research to colleagues, faculty, and administrators. The event recognizes 10 participants with a $750 travel award for the best poster presentations. Golabchi received an award for her work titled “Neuronal cell adhesion molecule L1 improves quality of the chronic neural recording in mouse visual cortex.” Golabchi works in the Neural Tissue Engineering (NTE) Lab directed by Xinyan Tracy Cui, professor of bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Golabchi’s research focuses on developing a molecular-level understanding of neurobiological interactions to neural implants. Golbachi explained that these devices, which are used to record and stimulate the brain, have been an invaluable tool for neuroscience research and clinical applications, but their functional longevity has proven to be a hurdle for researchers. “Neural implants have been used to help people who have lost abilities due to trauma or disease regain those abilities and improve their quality of life,” said Golabchi. “However, many medical, biological, and technical considerations have to be taken into account when using these devices. “Current neural implants are limited by the body’s natural conditions to safely operate and avoid toxicity and degradation,” she continued. “The requirements for a functional and stable long-term neural interface are still relatively unknown.” Golabchi’s research develops biomaterial strategies and novel technologies to control neuroinflammatory responses, both acute and chronic, to implantable devices. “Asiyeh is most deserving of this award from Pitt’s Postdoctoral Association. Her work with neural implant technology demonstrated the potential to improve neural recording stability and longevity through biomimetic coating,” said Cui. “Such coating may be optimized for commercial translation and benefit many implantable devices in both research and clinical settings.” Golabchi received her PhD in neuroscience and brain technologies from Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, in collaboration with the University of Genoa, under the supervision of Dr. Axel Blau. During Golabchi’s doctoral research, she used microfabrication methods to develop a flexible polymer-based microelectrode array for interfacing with neurons at a high spatiotemporal resolution for both in vivo and in vitro applications. ###

Aug
14
2019

Making a Sustainable Mark in Pittsburgh

Bioengineering, Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (August 14, 2019) ... From the hazy industrial city it once was to the city it is today, Pittsburgh’s environmental outlook has come a long way, thanks to the dedication and ingenuity of its people. The Incline recognized 13 of the people who are making Pittsburgh a greener city in its inaugural Who’s Next: Environment and Energy class, including three from the Swanson School of Engineering: Kareem Rabbat (CEE ’20), Noah Snyder (PhD BioE ’15) and Aurora Sharrard, director of sustainability at the University of Pittsburgh.“These three individuals are true innovators, and we are exceptionally proud of their connection to the Swanson School.” says U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin. “Our community has proven a clear dedication to pursuing new ideas and technologies that will make the city and the planet more ecologically sound.”Kareem Rabbat, Chief Innovation Officer, Ecotone RenewablesKareem’s company, Ecotone Renewables, earned him a spot in the Who’s Next class. The company converted shipping containers into biodigesters and greenhouses throughout the city. In addition to Ecotone Renewables’ work, his research at Pitt looks at ways to use bacteria and fungi to naturally and sustainably remove contaminants from soil and water.“I was always fascinated by the natural world growing up and I have decided to dedicate my life to preserving its integrity for generations to come,” Rabbat told The Incline. “… we don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors but we borrow it from our children.”Noah Snyder, President & CEO, Interphase MaterialsNoah founded Interphase Materials in 2015 when he realized the impact that biodegradable materials used for the medical brain implants he was researching could have on industrial and commercial heat exchangers. His company’s shown that commercial applications of the materials reduces energy consumption of large water-cooled HVAC units and heat exchangers, which has a positive impact on the local environment as well as the energy grid.Aurora Sharrard, Director of Sustainability, University of PittsburghAurora’s work at Pitt has had a far reaching impact in making the school greener. She enabled Pitt’s first Sustainability Plan and created the Office of Sustainability to make the plan a reality. The plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and landfill waste and focus on using renewable energy on campus. She’s also worked with the Green Building Alliance, co-founding Pittsburgh’s 2030 District, which aspires to reduce energy use, water consumption and transportation emissions 50 percent by 2030. ###
Maggie Pavlick, Senior Communications Writer
Aug
13
2019

International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory and University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute Form Biomedical Research Alliance

Bioengineering

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), August 12, 2019 – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory is embarking upon a multi-year research alliance with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (MIRM) at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) to push the limits of biomedical research and development aboard the orbiting laboratory. This alliance — a core element of the ISS National Laboratory Industrial Biomedicine Program — was unveiled at the 8th annual ISS Research and Development Conference held in Atlanta earlier this month. This new partnership will serve as a benchmark for how the ISS National Laboratory develops similar programs in the future involving research and development activities aboard the space station. The ISS National Laboratory and MIRM will collaborate with partners from industry, other academic research centers, and government agencies to drive the progress of regenerative medicine research onboard the ISS.  As part of this alliance, Pitt will develop Earth-based facilities on campus to advance research and meet with potential partners, while working in coordination with the ISS National Laboratory on flight opportunities to the orbiting laboratory. The program will focus on microgravity life sciences research and development, with a line of sight toward products and services for clinical application on Earth. For instance, exploiting the unique behavior of stem cells in microgravity could improve cell-based therapies for a variety of diseases and impairments, such as traumatic brain injury and type I diabetes. Similarly, microgravity could allow 3D printers to create complex tissue structures that are difficult to achieve in the presence of full gravity. “As the premier partner for the Industrial Biomedicine Alliance with the ISS National Laboratory, we look forward to using the space station as a testbed for regenerative medicine advances and product development in low Earth orbit,” said MIRM Director William R. Wagner, Ph.D. “The McGowan Institute has built on its deep history advancing the development of artificial organs to establish a position of internationally recognized leadership in regenerative medicine,”said Rob A. Rutenbar, Ph.D., senior vice chancellor for research at Pitt. “The ISS National Laboratory will benefit from that deep expertise, as well as our commitment to rapid clinical translation.” The products of the Industrial Biomedicine Program and this research partnership will help build the fundamental business case for the industrialization of crewed platforms in low Earth orbit. In future alliances, the ISS National Laboratory will work with companies and research partners who seek to better understand and find solutions to common problems on Earth through space-based experimentation on the ISS National Laboratory. “The ISS National Laboratory is proud to announce this alliance with Pitt and MIRM in order to develop biomedical products in space that could benefit human health on Earth,” said ISS National Laboratory Chief Strategy Officer Richard Leach, Ph.D. “Part of the role of the ISS National Laboratory is to create and implement innovative strategies to enhance the research capacity of the orbiting laboratory, and we believe alliances like this will pave the way for future collaborations to advance the discoveries of space-based science.” To learn more about innovative research taking place aboard the ISS National Laboratory, visit www.ISSNationalLab.org. Media Contacts:Patrick O’Neill(321) 480-1054PONeill@issnationallab.org Erin Hare (MIRM)412-738-1097HareE@upmc.edu Amerigo Allegretto (Pitt)412-624-6128aallegretto@pitt.edu # # # About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the ISS as the nation’s newest national laboratory to optimize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by non-NASA U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The ISS National Laboratory manages access to the permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. About the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine:  The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC established the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine in 2001. The McGowan Institute serves as a single base of operations for the university’s leading engineers, scientists and clinical faculty working in the areas of tissue engineering, cellular therapies, and medical devices. The Institute’s mission includes the development of innovative clinical protocols, as well as the pursuit of rapid commercial transfer of its technologies related to regenerative medicine. There are more than 250 McGowan-affiliated faculty who have collectively filed over 1,600 patents worldwide, licensed or optioned 185 patents with outside partners and produced more than 30 spinout companies. For more information, visit www.mirm.pitt.edu. About the University of Pittsburgh: A nonsectarian, coeducational, state-related, public research university founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is a member of the prestigious by-invitation-only Association of American Universities and internationally renowned as a leading center of learning and research in the arts, sciences, humanities, professions, and health sciences. Comprising a Pittsburgh campus, which is home to 16 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, and four Western Pennsylvania regional campuses, Pitt offers nearly 500 distinct degree programs and confers more than 8,500 degrees annually. Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998 and is ranked among the top 10 American research universities nationally in terms of total federal science and engineering research and development obligations. For more information, visit www.pitt.edu.

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