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
6
2019

Bioengineering Undergraduate McKenzie Sicke Announced as Finalist for the George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (December 6, 2019) … The US-Ireland Alliance recently announced the 21st Class of George J. Mitchell Scholars, and among the finalists was McKenzie Sicke, a bioengineering undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh. The George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program is a national, competitive scholarship that awards one year of postgraduate study in any discipline offered by institutions of higher learning in Ireland and Northern Ireland to up to 12 students annually. A native of upstate New York, Sicke joined the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt in 2016  and has spent her time studying bioengineering and reaching beyond the classroom to discover how this work can be applied to the real-world. Upon graduation, she hopes to continue her studies and was attracted to Ireland’s medical device design community. She said, “I am driven by the desire to create empathetic healthcare solutions that have a big impact.” Sicke currently works in the lab of Bryan Brown, associate professor of bioengineering, where she studies angiogenic response to polypropylene mesh implants in rabbit models. “Being able to take my project from start to finish over the past year and a half has been an invaluable experience,” she said. “With the help of my research mentor Aimon Iftikhar, I developed protocols and took them through each phase of testing. I’ve learned a lot working with her, and contributing to her thesis work has made me more confident of my place in a lab setting.” She also spent the past summer participating in Pitt’s SERIUS study abroad program at the National University of Singapore where she worked in the SINAPSE Lab on a neurotechnology project focused on nanoparticle-aided stem cell therapy for ischemic stroke. In addition to pursuing her degree and research projects, Sicke has worked as a teaching assistant and peer advisor for freshman engineering students and volunteers as a 3D printing mentor in the bioengineering department’s student-run makerspace. She is also the current publicity chair for the undergraduate chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society. “This is indeed a magnificent accomplishment. Students like Kenzie are a source of delight to the Department of Bioengineering,” said Arash Mahboobin, assistant professor of bioengineering and director of the undergraduate program. “I always feel fortunate and privileged to have the opportunity to get to know these young individuals and, perhaps, have some influence on their development and progression as professionals and people. I will certainly watch Kenzie’s career develop with great interest and high expectations.” The Mitchell Scholars Program is named in honor of George J. Mitchell, the former United States senator who served as chairman of the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. Under his leadership the Good Friday Agreement, a historic accord ending decades of conflict, was agreed to by the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland. About the US-Ireland Alliance The US-Ireland Alliance is a proactive, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to consolidating existing relations between the United States and the island of Ireland and building that relationship for the future. The organization connects current and emerging Irish and American leaders in various spheres—including education, politics, business and the arts—for the mutual benefit of both countries. ###

Dec
5
2019

Bioengineering Professors Davidson, Federspiel, and Ruder receive Swanson School professorship and fellowship appointments

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (Dec. 5, 2019) … In recognition of outstanding productivity as a faculty member, the University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering appointed two faculty professorships and one faculty fellowship in 2019. Lance Davidson was appointed William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering, William Federspiel was appointed John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, and Warren Ruder was appointed William Kepler Whiteford Fellow of Bioengineering. “In addition to conducting cutting-edge research, each of these individuals is a dedicated teacher and mentor, which is critical for developing the next generation of knowledge creators and professional practitioners,” said Sanjeev G. Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “I am very proud to have Lance, Bill, and Warren as a part of our bioengineering family.” Lance Davidson, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering Davidson’s MechMorpho Lab carries out interdisciplinary research at the interface of physics, engineering, mathematics, and cell biology. They study the mechanics of morphogenesis - the central process of tissue self-assembly that couples physical processes that move cells and tissues with the biological processes that give cells their identity, establish tissue architecture and physiological function. Using these tools they have uncovered how mechanics lays out and shapes key germ layers in the embryo that give rise to the central nervous system, how mechanical cues guide cells that form the heart and the cardiovascular system, and how mechanical cues can drive regeneration of skin cells. This work is supported by the United States National Institutes of Health including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Together with their basic research objectives their long-term engineering objective is to turn the principles of morphogenesis into technology to advance cell and tissue engineering. William Federspiel, John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering Federspiel directs the Medical Devices Lab in the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine where researchers develop clinically significant devices for the treatment of pulmonary and cardiovascular ailments by utilizing engineering principles of fluid flow and mass transfer. In particular, Federspiel’s lab have created next-generation artificial lung devices, including portable, wearable devices for adults and children suffering from lung disease. His research in artificial lung technology eventually led Federspiel to co-found ALung Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based medical device startup company that develops technology for treating respiratory failure. He serves as head of the scientific advisory board for the company, which is currently gunning clinical trials for their Hemolung® Respiratory Assist System (RAS), a dialysis-like alternative for or supplement to mechanical ventilation which removes carbon dioxide directly from the blood in patients with acute respiratory failure. Warren C. Ruder, William Kepler Whiteford Fellow and Associate Professor of Bioengineering Ruder directs the Synthetic Biology and Biomimetics laboratory where his team focuses on applying synthetic biology constructs, methods, and paradigms to solve a range of biomedical problems. His group aims to both understand the fundamental biology of natural systems as well as re-engineer these systems with synthetic gene networks. They have expertise in multiple fields including gene network engineering, cell physiology and biomechanics, microfluidics, mechanical engineering and biomaterials. They are currently developing new approaches to embed synthetic gene networks within biomimetic systems that mimic cell, tissue, and organism physiology. Ruder recently received a prestigious $2.2 million NIH Director’s New Innovator Award to develop magnetically activated gene networks in human cells. ###

Dec
2
2019

A New Offensive against Alzheimer’s Disease

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (December 02, 2019) … An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh received a $3,720,828 award from the National Institutes of Health to create advanced MRI technology which will allow them to investigate the connection between small vessel disease (SVD), cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) clearance and preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. The group will use a powerful, ultra-high-field 7 Tesla magnetic resonance imager (7T MRI), which was recently approved by the FDA for clinical applications, in conjunction with the next generation Tic Tac Toe radiofrequency (RF) antenna technology developed in Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt. Tamer Ibrahim, professor of bioengineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, will serve as principal investigator on the grant along with MPIs Howard Aizenstein, Charles F. Reynolds III and Ellen G. Detlefsen Endowed Chair in Geriatric Psychiatry, and Ann Cohen, assistant professor of psychiatry. “Alzheimer’s disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States so we want to develop advanced imaging techniques that can help researchers better understand the underlying mechanisms relating small vessel disease and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Ibrahim. “We hope that this research will lead to the identification of new prevention and treatment targets for this widespread and debilitating disease.” The project will support the development of the next generation Tic Tac Toe 7T MRI device, a collection of antennas that aim to image the human head and neck at unprecedented temporal and spatial resolutions. Ibrahim runs the Radiofrequency (RF) Research Facility and the 7T Bioengineering Research Program which include experimental and human studies with a whole-body 7T MRI - one of the strongest human MRI devices in the world and a powerful imaging tool that allows researchers to gain a far better understanding of brain structure and function. Amyloid plaque accumulation in the brain has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease so in addition to investigating SVD, this project will also examine the related CSF pulsatility associated with clearance of amyloid from the brain. “CSF travels through the ventricles in the brain where it helps clear amyloid before it is eventually absorbed into the bloodstream and carried away to be filtered by the kidney and liver,” said Ibrahim. “In a study of individuals with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, researchers found lower levels of amyloid in a sample of CSF collected from the spine, and thus, they have theorized that the fluid isn’t sufficiently clearing amyloid in this population.” Using the stronger magnetic fields in a 7T MRI along with state-of-the-art antenna and MRI technology will allow for imaging at a greater resolution, which could reveal more detailed information about pathways linking SVD and CSF flow pathophysiology to Alzheimer’s disease. “The brain is the body’s most complex organ, and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to understand how it functions and what can be done to improve the lives of individuals with neurological disorders,” said Ibrahim. This study also includes collaborations with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the University of Minnesota, Quality Electrodynamics Inc., and Montreal Neurological Institute. ###

Nov
20
2019

Pitt STRIVE Program Receives UPSIDE Award

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Diversity, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

This article was originally published on @Pitt. Reposted with permission. PITTSBURGH (November 20, 2019) ... The Swanson School of Engineering’s Pitt Success, Transition, Representation, Innovation, Vision and Education (STRIVE) Program was recognized with the 2019 University Prize for Strategic, Inclusive and Diverse Excellence (UPSIDE) Award by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The goal of the Pitt STRIVE Program is to improve transitions of underrepresented minority (URM) students into doctoral engineering programs at the University. Using evidence-based strategies, the program aims to foster student and faculty engagement to ensure students’ successful completion of the PhD in engineering. "It has been an honor be a part of the leadership team of this extraordinarily great program,” said Sylvanus Wosu, associate dean for diversity affairs at the Swanson School. Wosu acknowledged the support and commitment from the U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin II and the Office of the Dean. “The Pitt STRIVE Program has been transformational in increasing URM PhD enrollment from less than 5% to over 7.5%, enhancing the academic culture and community that have contributed to 13 URM PhDs in the last four years, and significantly increasing the number of faculty with a shared vision for the school’s diversity and inclusion goals,” Wosu said. Under the direction of Wosu and Steven Abramowitch, associate professor of bioengineering, the program—which has been recognized and funded by the National Science Foundation—has focused on such areas as: Improving faculty engagement with URM students Improving faculty awareness of the impediments to URM success in doctoral programs Promoting a shared vision among vested faculty regarding the success of URM students within the Pitt community Achieving a systemic inclusive academic culture and climate that support the success of URM doctoral students “The Pitt STRIVE Program’s implementation is informed by research and practices that positively impact the culture and experiences of the faculty, students and community,” said David Gau, the Pitt STRIVE Program director of University engagement and communication. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher will recognize the Swanson School of Engineering with the UPSIDE Award at a Senate Council meeting in December. ###

Nov
18
2019

Bioengineering Undergrad Sebastian Correa Clinches First Place at SHPE Poster Competition

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (November 18, 2019) … Sebastian Correa, a junior bioengineering student at the University of Pittsburgh, attended the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) National Convention in Phoenix and received the first place award at the Engineering Science Symposium poster competition. Correa works in the lab of Doug Weber, associate professor of bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering and director of the Rehab Neural Engineering Labs. He presented a poster on using a high-density electromyography (HDEMG) electrode sleeve array to analyze surface EMG from individuals who have sustained spinal cord injury. “We use the HDEMG sleeve to record EMG signals from a patient’s forearm while they do several hand movements and then process and classify these movements,” Correa explained. “The purpose of the project is to optimize the methods of processing and classifying the data to enable individuals who have sustained a spinal cord injury the ability to accurately control assistive devices through the use of EMG signals found on affected limbs.” Jordyn Ting, a bioengineering graduate student in the RNEL Labs, has helped mentor Correa during his undergraduate research. Her work involves studying spared muscle and motor unit activity in individuals with tetraplegia with the goal of restoring intuitive control of hand function through non-invasive methods. “Sebastian’s work has helped to identify some of the key analysis steps necessary in analyzing muscle activity from individuals with spinal cord injuries,” said Ting. “We will continue to build upon this foundation in future work on the project.” Correa received a $1,000 award for his achievement among a competitive group of both graduate and undergraduate students. The presentations covered a variety of topics from a broad range of STEM fields with a focus on “engineering grand challenges.” “Sebastian was competing against PhD students from around the country, but still managed to bring home the top prize,” said Weber. “He and Jordyn worked very hard on this research, and it’s wonderful to see their efforts rewarded.” ###

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