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
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.

Aug
7
2019

Amazon Web Services Teams with Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance to Improve Care

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (August 7, 2019) ... In the latest sign of Pittsburgh’s growing importance as a center of health care technology innovation, the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance (PHDA) announced today that it is working closely with Amazon Web Services (AWS), an Amazon.com company, through a machine learning research sponsorship, to advance innovation in areas such as cancer diagnostics, precision medicine, voice-enabled technologies and medical imaging. A unique consortium formed four years ago by UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, the PHDA uses the “big data” generated in health care — including patient information in the electronic health record, diagnostic imaging, prescriptions, genomic profiles and insurance records — to transform the way that diseases are treated and prevented, and to better engage patients in their own care. New machine learning technologies and advances in computing power, like those offered by Amazon SageMaker and Amazon EC2, are making it possible to rapidly translate insights discovered in the lab into treatments and services that could dramatically improve human health. “We believe that machine learning can significantly accelerate the progress of medical research and help translate those advances into treatments and improved experiences for patients,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of machine learning for AWS. “We are excited to bring our machine learning services and cloud computing resources to support the high-impact work being done at the PHDA.” Through the AWS Machine Learning Research sponsorship, PHDA scientists from both Pitt and CMU expect to accelerate research and product commercialization efforts across eight projects, including those with the potential to create an individual risk score for every cancer patient, thus enabling doctors to better predict the course of a person’s disease and response to treatment; use a patient’s verbal and visual cues to diagnose and treat mental health symptoms; and reduce medical diagnostic errors by mining all the data in a patient’s medical record. Data are secure, anonymized and stay with PHDA institutions. Pitt researcher David Vorp, Ph.D., and his team are using AWS resources to improve the diagnosis and treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms, the 13th-leading cause of death in western countries. Currently, clinicians can use only the simple measurements of an aneurysm’s diameter and growth rate to predict the risk of a rupture. “With the latest advances in machine learning, we are developing an algorithm that will provide clinicians with an objective, predictive tool to guide surgical interventions before symptoms appear, improving patient outcomes,” said Vorp, associate dean for research at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering. Likewise, a CMU team led by Russell Schwartz, Ph.D., and Jian Ma, Ph.D., will use AWS support to develop algorithms and software tools to better understand the origin and evolution of tumor cells. This project will use machine learning to gain insights into how tumors develop and to predict how they are likely to change and grow in the future. “Data-driven, genomic methods guided by an understanding of cancers as evolutionary systems have relevance to numerous aspects of clinical cancer care,” said Schwartz, professor of biological sciences and computational biology at CMU. “These include determining which precancerous lesions are likely to become cancers, which cancers have a good or bad prognosis, and which of those with bad prognoses might respond long-term to specific therapies.” Formed in 2015, the PHDA brings together the leading health sciences research at Pitt, world-class computer science and machine learning at CMU, and the clinical care, extensive patient data and commercialization expertise at UPMC, one of the nation’s leading integrated health systems. “This collaboration with AWS complements the unique strengths of the PHDA’s founders and will provide unparalleled resources to our researchers,” said Tal Heppenstall, president of UPMC Enterprises, which funds the PHDA and focuses on commercializing its breakthroughs. “By leveraging AWS machine learning and artificial intelligence services, we can help Pittsburgh become the premier hub of technology innovation in health care, drawing innovators from companies big and small to join us in this critical effort to revolutionize the delivery of health care.” ###
Wendy Zellner, Vice President, UPMC Public Relations
Aug
5
2019

Associate Dean for Research David Vorp Receives Research Leader Fellowship from APLU

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (August 5, 2019) … The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Council on Research (CoR) has named the University of Pittsburgh’s David Vorp as one of eight fellows in its third Research Leader Fellowship Program cohort selected nationwide. Dr. Vorp is Associate Dean for Research for Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, and Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Surgery, Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, and the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.According to APLU, the CoR Research Leadership Program is designed to provide training and skill development necessary in the breadth and depth of the academic research enterprise. The APLU notes that because many universities have segmented research support organizations, rising research leaders often oversee relatively confined areas such as research administration, research development, research compliance, research communication, economic development, or sponsored programs. The APLU CoR Fellowship is designed to allow rising research leaders to gain expertise outside of their respective portfolios and to foster connections with CoR’s extensive network of senior research officers through site visits and participation in CoR meetings. The fellowship is 18 months in duration.“This is a tremendous opportunity for me that I will ensure also greatly benefits Pitt and the Swanson School,” Dr. Vorp said. “In the past few years we have expanded and diversified our research portfolio, increased our public-private research partnerships through the creation of our Making Research Work initiative, and more. But there is so much more that we can do, and I’m excited to see up-close the best practices and novel programs developed by other research universities and learn from the best minds in the business.”During his fellowship, Dr. Vorp intends to focus on working more closely with Pitt’s Office of Community and Governmental Relations; integrating research data and analytics into proactive planning and research portfolio management; and developing more sustainable revenue models for the Swanson School’s several research centers and institutes. He also plans to investigate how the Swanson School can play a greater role in regional economic development as well as develop stronger multidisciplinary and sponsored research programs. ### About Dr. VorpDavid Vorp is the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Surgery, and the Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, he is the Associate Dean for Research, Swanson School of Engineering and serves as a Director of the Center for Vascular Remodeling and Regeneration, a Co-Director of the Center for Medical Innovation, as well as the Director of the Vascular Bioengineering Laboratory. He previously served as Interim Director of Pitt’s Petersen Institute for Nano-Science and -Engineering. he research in Dr. Vorp’s lab focuses on the biomechanics, “mechanopathobiology,” regenerative medicine, and tissue engineering of tubular tissues and organs, predominantly the vasculature. He is currently studying the biomechanical progression of aortic aneurysms by modeling the mechanical forces that act on the degenerating vessel wall. He is developing a treatment strategy for abdominal aortic aneurysms by delivering adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells to the periadventitial side of the aneurysm to inhibit the matrix degradation commonly seen in the disease progression and promote its regeneration. He is also using varied regenerative medicine-based approaches to develop a small diameter tissue engineered vascular graft to treat cardiovascular diseases. His research has been supported by $9 million in funding as principal investigator (PI), and an additional $4 million as collaborating investigator, from foundation and federal agencies, including the American Heart Association (AHA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Whitaker Foundation, Pittsburgh Foundation, and other sources.  He has several patents in the field of vascular bioengineering and was a co-founder of the start-up Neograft Technologies, Inc., a company that developed technology from Dr. Vorp’s laboratory relating to biodegradable support for arterial vein grafts.In 2011 Dr. Vorp was recognized with the Van C. Mow Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), was twice awarded a Pitt Innovator Award, and received the Carnegie Life Sciences Award in 2013.  He served on the Executive Committee of the ASME Bioengineering Division (BED; 2006-2015), serving as ASME BED Chair from 2013-2014. Dr. Vorp was elected to the Board of Directors of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) for two terms (2006-2009; 2009-2012), and was elected BMES Secretary, an executive post, for two terms (2012-2014; 2014-2016).  He was Co-Program Chair of the 2018 World Congress of Biomechanics. In 2012, Dr. Vorp became the first non-MD President of the International Society for Applied Cardiovascular Biology, and was re-elected for a second term in 2014.  Dr. Vorp is a Fellow of ASME, BMES and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.

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