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.

Feb
19
2019

Tenure/Tenure-Stream Faculty Position in Synthetic or Systems Biology

Bioengineering, Open Positions

The Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering invites applications from accomplished individuals with a PhD or equivalent degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering, or closely related disciplines for an open-rank, tenured/tenure-stream faculty position. We wish to recruit an individual with strong research accomplishments in Synthetic or Systems Biology, with preference given to research focus areas related to mammalian cellular engineering, immune engineering, or neural regeneration. It is expected that this individual will complement our current strengths in biomechanics, bioimaging, molecular, cellular, and systems engineering, medical product engineering, neural engineering, and tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In addition, candidates must be committed to contributing to high quality education of a diverse student body at both the undergraduate  and graduate levels. Located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh is a top-five institution in terms of NIH funding, and provides a rich environment for interdisciplinary research, strengthened through its affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The Department of Bioengineering, consistently ranked among the top programs in the country, has outstanding research and educational programs, offering undergraduate (~270 students, sophomore-to-senior years) and graduate (~150 PhD or MD/PhD and ~50 MS students) degrees. The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (mirm.pitt.edu), Computational and Systems Biology (https://www.csb.pitt.edu/), the Vascular Medicine Institute (vmi.pitt.edu), the Brain Institute (braininstitute.pitt.edu), Starzl Transplantation Institute (http://www.stiresearch.health.pitt.edu/), and the Drug Discovery Institute (upddi.pitt.edu) offer many collaborative research opportunities. The Center for Medical Innovation (https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/CMI/), the Coulter Translational Partnership II Program (engineering.pitt.edu/coulter) and the Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data (healthdataalliance.com/university-of-pittsburgh) provide biomedical innovation and translation opportunities. Interested individuals should send the following as a single, self-contained PDF attachment via email to bioeapp@pitt.edu (include “AY20 PITT BioE SynBio-SysBio” in the subject line): (1) cover letter, (2) complete CV (including funding record, if applicable), (3) research statement, (4) teaching statement, (5) three representative publications, and (6) names and complete contact information of at least four references. To ensure full consideration, applications must be received by June 30, 2019. However, applications will be reviewed as they are received. Early submission is highly encouraged. The Department of Bioengineering is fully committed to a diverse academic environment and places high priority on attracting female and underrepresented minority candidates. We strongly encourage candidates from these groups to apply for the position. The University affirms and actively promotes the rights of all individuals to equal opportunity in education and employment without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other protected class.

Feb
19
2019

Tenure/Tenure-Stream Faculty Position in Translational Bioengineering

Bioengineering, Open Positions

The Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering invites applications from accomplished individuals with a PhD or equivalent degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering, or closely related disciplines for an open-rank, tenured/tenure-stream faculty position. We wish to recruit an individual with strong research accomplishments in Translational Bioengineering (i.e., leveraging basic science and engineering knowledge to develop innovative, translatable solutions impacting clinical practice and healthcare ), with preference given to research focus on neuro-technologies,imaging, cardiovascular devices, and biomimetic and biorobotic design. It is expected that this individual will complement our current strengths in biomechanics, bioimaging, molecular, cellular, and systems engineering, medical product engineering, neural engineering, and tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In addition, candidates must be committed to contributing to high quality education of a diverse student body at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh is a top-five institution in terms of NIH funding, and provides a rich environment for interdisciplinary research, strengthened through its affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The Department of Bioengineering, consistently ranked among the top programs in the country, has outstanding research and educational programs, offering undergraduate (~270 students, sophomore-to-senior years) and graduate (~150 PhD or MD/PhD and ~50 MS students) degrees. The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (mirm.pitt.edu),  the Vascular Medicine Institute (vmi.pitt.edu), the Brain Institute (braininstitute.pitt.edu), Starzl Transplantation Institute (http://www.stiresearch.health.pitt.edu/), and the Drug Discovery Institute (upddi.pitt.edu) offer many collaborative research opportunities. The Center for Medical Innovation (https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/CMI/), the Coulter Translational Partnership II Program (engineering.pitt.edu/coulter) and the Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data (healthdataalliance.com/university-of-pittsburgh) provide biomedical innovation and translation opportunities. Interested individuals should send the following as a single, self-contained PDF attachment via email to bioeapp@pitt.edu (include “AY20 PITT BioE Translational BioE” in the subject line): (1) cover letter, (2) complete CV (including funding record, if applicable), (3) research statement, (4) teaching statement, (5) three representative publications, and (6) names and complete contact information of at least four references. To ensure full consideration, applications must be received by June 30, 2019. However, applications will be reviewed as they are received. Early submission is highly encouraged. The Department of Bioengineering is fully committed to a diverse academic environment and places high priority on attracting female and underrepresented minority candidates. We strongly encourage candidates from these groups to apply for the position. The University affirms and actively promotes the rights of all individuals to equal opportunity in education and employment without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other protected class.

Feb
15
2019

Pitt Bioengineers Create Ultrasmall, Light-Activated Electrode for Neural Stimulation

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (February 15, 2019) … Neural stimulation is a developing technology that has beneficial therapeutic effects in neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. While many advancements have been made, the implanted devices deteriorate over time and cause scarring in neural tissue. In a recently published paper, the University of Pittsburgh’s Takashi D. Y. Kozai detailed a less invasive method of stimulation that would use an untethered ultrasmall electrode activated by light, a technique that may mitigate damage done by current methods. “Typically with neural stimulation, in order to maintain the connection between mind and machine, there is a transcutaneous cable from the implanted electrode inside of the brain to a controller outside of the body,” said Kozai, an assistant professor of bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Movement of the brain or this tether leads to inflammation, scarring, and other negative side effects. We hope to reduce some of the damage by replacing this large cable with long wavelength light and an ultrasmall, untethered electrode.” Kaylene Stocking, a senior bioengineering and computer engineering student, was first author on the paper titled, “Intracortical neural stimulation with untethered, ultrasmall carbon fiber electrodes mediated by the photoelectric effect” (DOI: 10.1109/TBME.2018.2889832). She works with Kozai’s group - the Bionic Lab - to investigate how researchers can improve the longevity of neural implant technology. This work was done in collaboration with Alberto Vasquez, research associate professor of radiology and bioengineering at Pitt. The photoelectric effect is when a particle of light, or a photon, hits an object and causes a local change in the electrical potential. Kozai’s group discovered its advantages while performing other imaging research. Based on Einstein's 1905 publication on this effect, they expected to see electrical photocurrents only at ultraviolet wavelengths (high energy photons), but they experienced something different. “When the photoelectric effect contaminated our electrophysiological recording while imaging with a near-infrared laser (low energy photons), we were a little surprised,” explained Kozai. “It turned out that the original equation had to be modified in order to explain this outcome. We tried numerous strategies to eliminate this photoelectric artifact, but were unsuccessful in each attempt, so we turned the ‘bug’ into a ‘feature.’” “Our group decided to use this feature of the photoelectric effect to our advantage in neural stimulation,” said Stocking. “We used the change in electrical potential with a near-infrared laser to activate an untethered electrode in the brain.” The lab created a carbon fiber implant that is 7-8 microns in diameter, or roughly the size of a neuron (17-27 microns), and Stocking simulated their method on a phantom brain using a two-photon microscope. She measured the properties and analyzed the effects to see if the electrical potential from the photoelectric effect stimulated the cells in a way similar to traditional neural stimulation. “We discovered that photostimulation is effective,” said Stocking. “Temperature increases were not significant, which lowers the chance of heat damage, and activated cells were closer to the electrode than in electrical stimulation under similar conditions, which indicates increased spatial precision.” The lab recently showed how electrical stimulation frequency can activate different populations of neurons. “What we didn’t expect to see was that this photoelectric method of stimulation allows us to stimulate a different and more discrete population of neurons than could be achieved with electrical stimulation.” said Kozai, “This gives researchers another tool in their toolbox to explore neural circuits in the nervous system. “We’ve had numerous critics who did not have faith in the mathematical modifications that were made to Einstein’s original photoelectric equation, but we believed in the approach and even filed a patent application” (patent pending:US20170326381A1), said Kozai. “This is a testament to Kaylene’s hard work and diligence to take a theory and turn it into a well-controlled validation of the technology.” Kozai’s group is currently looking further into other opportunities to advance this technology, including reaching deeper tissue and wireless drug delivery. Stocking anticipates  graduating in April 2019 and plans to pursue a doctoral degree. She said, “The University of Pittsburgh has amazing resources that have allowed me to gain meaningful research experience as an undergraduate, and I’m grateful to Dr. Kozai and the Department of Bioengineering for giving me the opportunity to do impactful work.” ###

Feb
13
2019

Scholar Works to Restore Sensory Perception

Bioengineering

Reposted from the ARCS Foundation. Click here to see the original article. Mind over matter—a phrase meant to draw out mental fortitude in a time of physical exhaustion. For University of Pittsburgh ARCS® Scholar Christopher Hughes, this phrase takes on new meaning as he works with a quadriplegic patient to use his brain to move a robotic arm from a few feet away. Hughes, a third-year Pittsburgh Chapter Scholar, is working on the human brain-computer interface (BCI) project studying intracortical micro stimulation (ICMS) for the restoration of tactile perception.  His project team was recently featured in the New Yorker where their work to restore movement by implanting a microelectrode array in a human brain is described. Currently, he focuses on using biomimetic pulse trains to improve naturalness of sensory perception in his patients. Hughes’ work creates an environment for the electrical stimulation to more closely mimic normal neural activity. These pulses give his participants a chance to get back a sense of physical freedom and purpose. “Some of our participants feel as if their life was taken from them,” Hughes said. “Participating in research studies like this helps give them purpose and goals to help others.” He will travel to Japan in April to present findings from this project to several hundred attendees at the Neural Control of Movement Conference. A first generation college student, Hughes says the ARCS Scholar award helped him set aside financial worries and put more focus and thought into his research. The California native says ARCS has enabled him to find community in a place far from home. “Beyond the financial component, I have really appreciated my donors and I have established relationships with them that would have never existed had it not been for ARCS,” he said. "I left all of my family behind to study here in Pittsburgh. But my ARCS donors have made me feel like I have family here.” Help fund scholars like Chris who are changing lives with their passion for science and make a donation to the ARCS Foundation.

Feb
12
2019

Making a Mark on Cardiovascular Disease Detection

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (February 12, 2019) … According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one cause of death in the United States.1 Conditions for cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease leading to heart failure, are clinically silent until serious complications arise, and current diagnostic tools are unreliable, time consuming, and expensive. Moni K. Datta, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, received a $300,000 award from the Department of Defense to develop a quicker, simpler, and more reliable diagnostic technology related to cardiomyopathy so that the signs of disease can be spotted and treated earlier. One method currently applied to cardiovascular disease diagnosis is biochemical marker testing, using only bodily fluids or tissues to search for substances that signal disease or other abnormalities. The goal of this project, “Novel Aptamer-Based Biosensor Platforms for Detection of Cardiomyopathy Conditions,” is to create a tool that more efficiently senses and detects various essential cardiac biomarkers in the bloodstream. This work has previously received funding from the Department of Bioengineering’s Coulter Program as well as the Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Translational Research Pilot Award. Prashant N. Kumta, Edward R. Weidlein Chair and Distinguished Professor of bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science, and professor of oral biology in the School of Dental Medicine, is co-investigator on the project with Robert L. Kormas, Brack G. Hattler Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Datta said, “Dr. Kumta has extensive experience related to materials functionalization and generation of materials platforms for detection and sensing of biological markers while Dr. Robert Kormas is a renowned cardiologist and an expert in understanding the cardiac biomarkers connected to various cardiovascular diseases.” The group will develop a portable biosensor specific to the cardiac biomarkers using only a few drops of blood to detect and provide the levels within minutes. “The design will include a vertical array of metallic wires functionalized with biological sensing agents, namely the aptamer specific to binding the relevant cardiac biomarkers in the blood,” said Datta. “The resulting platform will measure the change in overall resistance due to the binding of the specific cardiac biomarker to the sensing element. The developed biosensors are extremely sensitive to the resistance changes and as a result, will accurately measure the levels of relevant cardiac markers in the blood, thereby serving as an effective measuring device.” Current biochemical marker assays in hospitals and clinics are benchtop machines that lack portability and require expensive instrumentation and training. Datta’s design will be optimized for precision, reliability, and portability, making biochemical marker testing more accessible in hospitals, emergency room settings, ambulances, and perhaps even at home. “This device will allow patients and clinicians to screen for and circumvent cardiovascular diseases at early stages, thus reducing the cardiovascular disease risk and eventual healthcare costs,” said Datta. “Development of this biosensor will create a simple, inexpensive, and efficient point-of-contact device. We hope to eventually make this versatile technology useful for detection and monitoring disease conditions outside of cardiovascular disease states.” ### 1 According to the AHA… https://www.heart.org/-/media/data-import/downloadables/heart-disease-and-stroke-statistics-2018---at-a-glance-ucm_498848.pdf

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