Lee Bassett and Andrew Tsourkas Awarded Grainger Foundation Grant for Interdisciplinary Research

Lee Bassett and Andrew Tsourkas

By Lauren Salig

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has awarded two Penn Engineers with The Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Grant for Advancement of Interdisciplinary Research. Lee Bassett, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, and Andrew Tsourkas, professor and undergraduate chair in the Department of Bioengineering, will be using the $30,000 award to kick-start their research collaboration.

The NAE describes the Frontiers of Engineering program as one that “brings together outstanding early-career engineers from industry, academia, and government to discuss pioneering technical work and leading-edge research in various engineering fields and industry sectors. The goal is to facilitate interactions and exchange of techniques and approaches across fields and facilitate networking among the next generation of engineering leaders.”

Bassett and Tsourkas fit the grant’s description, as their proposed research requires them to combine their different areas of expertise to push the state of the art in engineering. The pair plans to engineer a new class of nanoparticles that can sense and differentially react to particular chemicals in their biochemical environment. This new class of nanoparticles could allow scientists to better study cellular processes and could eventually have important applications in medicine, potentially allowing for more personalized diagnoses and targeted treatment of disease.

To design and create this type of nanoparticle is no small task. The research demands Bassett’s background in engineering quantum-mechanical systems for use as environmental sensors, and Tsourkas’ ability to apply these properties to nanoscale “theranostic” agents, which are designed to target treatments based on a patient’s specific diagnostic test results.

By combining forces, Bassett and Tsourkas hope to introduce a new nanoparticle tool into their fields and to connect even more people in their different areas to promote future interdisciplinary work.

Originally posted on the Penn Engineering Medium Blog.

Chip Diagnostics receives the JPOD @ Philadelphia QuickFire Challenge Award

By Erica K. Brockmeier

Chip Diagnostics is the awardee of the JPOD @ Philadelphia QuickFire Challenge sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Innovation — JLABS. The Challenge was designed to accelerate healthcare innovation and commercialization within the greater Philadelphia area.

David Issadore (center) was announced as the awardee of the JPOD @ Philadelphia QuickFire Challenge by Katherine Merton (right), head of JLABS New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, at last week’s BIO 2019 International convention. (Photo: Johnson & Johnson Innovation)

Chip Diagnostics is a Philadelphia-based device company founded in 2016 based on research from the lab of David Issadore, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and Electrical and Systems Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The startup combines microelectronics, microfluidics, and nanomaterials with the aim to better diagnose cancer. The company is developing technologies and digital assays for minimally-invasive early cancer detection and screening that can be done using mobile devices.

There has been a long interest in diagnosing cancer using blood tests by looking for proteins, cells, or DNA molecules shed by tumors, but these tests have not worked well for many cancers since the molecules shed tend to be either nonspecific or very rare.

Issadore’s group aims to target different particles called exosomes: Tiny particles shed by cells that contain similar proteins and RNA as the parent cancer cell. The problem, explains Issadore, is that because of the small size of the exosomes, conventional methods such as microscopy and flow cytometry wouldn’t work. “As an engineering lab, we saw an opportunity to build devices on a nanoscale that could specifically sort the cancer exosomes versus the background exosomes of other cells,” he explains.

After Issadore was approached by the IP group at PCI Ventures in the early stages of their research, Chip Diagnostics has since made huge strides as a company. Now, as the awardee of the JPOD @ Philadelphia QuickFire Challenge, Chip Diagnostics will receive $30,000 in grant funding to further develop the first-in-class, ultra-high-definition exosomal-based cancer diagnostic. The award also includes one year of residency at Pennovation Works as well as access to educational programs and mentoring provided by Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies global network of experts.

Originally posted on the Penn Engineering Medium Blog. Continue reading at Penn Today.

BE Sophomore wins 2019 Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Chloe Cho, BSE ’21

Congratulations to BE sophomore Chloe Cho (BSE ’21), recipient of the 2019 Goldwater Scholarship!

Three juniors and one sophomore (Cho) at the University of Pennsylvania have been selected as Goldwater Scholars by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which provides scholarships of as much as $7,500 to undergraduate students interested in research careers in the natural sciences, math, or engineering.

They are among 496 recipients chosen this year from across the United States from out of more than 5,000 applicants. To date, 43 Penn students have received the award since Congress established the foundation in 1986 to honor the work of U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater.

Chloe, a sophomore from Moorestown, New Jersey, majors in bioengineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She works with Jason Mills and Jean Bennett at the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics on engineering novel treatments for retinal degenerative disorders. She intends to pursue a MD/PhD in bioengineering.

Continue reading about Penn’s Goldwater Scholars at Penn Today.

A Record 12 BE Students Receive 2019 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

In a record year for the BE graduate program, twelve current and future students from the Department of Bioengineering were selected for the 2019 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). In addition, four more students were selected for honorable mention. This prestigious program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported fields. BE is thrilled to congratulate our excellent students on these well-deserved accolades! Continue reading below for a list of winning students and descriptions of their research.

Further information about the program can be found on the NSF website.

2019 NSF GRFP Recipients:

Tala Azar

Tala Azar is a PhD student in the Liu lab. During pregnancy and lactation, the maternal skeleton mobilizes to provide calcium for the developing fetus and breastfeeding, respectively. Tala’s current work seeks to isolate individual effects of pregnancy and lactation on the biology and structure of maternal bone in a rat and mouse model, which is important for understanding the mechanisms behind postmenopausal osteoporosis development.

 

Sarah Cai

Shuting (Sarah) Cai  is a current Bioengineering senior (BSE ’19).  She previously worked in Dr. Lloyd Miller’s Dermatology and Immunology Lab at Hopkins during the summer of her freshman year, and she has since been working in Dr. Andrew Tsourkas’s lab here at Penn on various projects involving development of nanoparticles for multimodal imaging and cancer theranostics.

 

Brandon Hayes

Brandon Hayes is a PhD student in the Discher lab. He is currently working on manipulating the macrophage immune checkpoint to exploit the mechanisms of phagocytosis for immunoengineering. The goal of this manipulation is to develop a new cell therapy and engineer new gene therapy and protein delivery approaches to target both immune cells and tumors.

 

Travis Kotzur

Travis Kotzur is a PhD student in the Winkelstein lab. His project revolves around better understanding the mechanisms of neuronally transduced pain from an injury within his lab’s models of the spine and the ligaments within.

 

 

Victoria Muir

Victoria Muir is a PhD student in the Burdick lab. She is studying injectable hyaluronic acid hydrogels for musculoskeletal tissue regeneration and repair.

 

 

 

Margaret Schroeder

Margaret Schroeder graduated with a BSE in 2018 and is currently completing her MSE, both in BE. She works in the Meaney lab. She studies astrocytic modulation of mesoscale neural populations in vitro, in the context of traumatic brain injury. She images the calcium activity of neurons and astrocytes to examine how astrocytes affect population response to single-cell mechanical injury.

 

Olivia Teter

Olivia Teter is a current Bioengineering senior (BSE ’19). She works in the Meaney lab which focuses on traumatic brain injury. Olivia’s work has been dedicated to understanding how injury propagates in neuronal networks. She uses a combination of in vitro experiments and computational analyzes to identify and evaluate possible mechanisms describing how the neuronal network changes after injury.

 

Tanniel Winner graduated with her BSE from Penn BE in the fall of 2015 and is now a PhD candidate in the Neuromechanics Lab at Georgia Tech and Emory University. She is working on machine learning models to classify and predict gait cycle states.

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Margaret Billingsley – PhD student in the Mitchell lab
  • Dennis Andrew Huang – BSE 2018, now at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Brianna Marie Karpowicz – current BE senior (BSE ’19) and MSE student in Data Science
  • Hannah Zlotnick – PhD student in the Mauck lab

In addition to her honorable mention, Margaret Billingsley was also awarded the Tau Beta Pi Fellowship,  a selective program which provides a year of financial support for graduate study.

Finally, several honorees at other institutions will be joining our department in the fall of 2019. We congratulate them as well and look forward to welcoming them to Penn:

Congrats once again to everyone on another year of outstanding research!

Building Literacy and Leadership Through Basketball

by Gwyneth K. Shaw

Bioengineering student Oladunni Alomaja, who goes by the nickname Ola, moved to the United States six years ago.

Princess Aghayere, Summer Kollie, and Oladunni Alomaja met for the first time before they even started college, at Penn’s Pre-Freshman Program. Drawn together by their common ties to West Africa, they became fast friends and, eventually, roommates. Kollie is originally from Liberia, and Aghayere and Alomaja were born in Nigeria.

Although all three moved to the United States as children or teenagers, each felt compelled to give back to Africa. As winners of one of the 2019 President’s Engagement Prizes (PEP), they will.

Their project, Rebound Liberia, aims to give young women a platform to develop their voices and, ultimately, to position them to create a new, more positive narrative about the country. It involves building a basketball court in Monrovia, the capital, and pairing it with literacy programs and a resource center.

The initial goal is to serve about 60 girls between the ages of 8 and 18, to complement what the young women are learning in school, and to build on those skills during the summer break. The PEP gives their project a $100,000 award, as well as a $50,000 living stiped for each of them.

All three women said the ability to begin their post-Penn lives giving back is hugely significant.

“We have always had that passion, that drive to want to work with youth in West Africa, to give back and just kind of help the youth in the way we have been helped along the way of our journey,” Kollie says.

“In Africa, West Africa especially, it’s very patriarchal,” says Alomaja, who goes by the nickname Ola. “We’re giving girls a voice. We’re empowering them, teaching them leadership skills. And we’re teaching them so many things that their society might have taken away from them or has not given them the opportunity to learn.

“For me, being involved in this project means I will be able to see that through and to have a close, interactive relationship with these girls for a long time, to help reach their own goals. I want to help them realize they’re more than what their society tells them they can be.”

Aghayere, a standout forward on Penn’s women’s basketball team, began playing basketball not long after she and her family moved to Virginia when she was 8. She’s driven by research showing the power of sports to teach leadership, and she can’t wait to expand the sport’s reach in Liberia.

“Basketball is definitely on the rise in Liberia. If we can build this program to a world-class program and really sort of help redefine Liberia in a new way, it will help. We’ve talked a lot about the negative narratives about Liberia,” Aghayere says. “We want to see this not only be self-sustainable but be something that people from all across West Africa come to and know Liberia for.”

The genesis of the project lies in Penn Engineering’s global and local-service program. Aghayere and Kollie had both been involved in summer projects in Africa and in 2018 won a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace Program.

Their project, Promoting Education and Cultivating Empowerment (PEACE) through Girls Basketball, renovated a basketball court in Monrovia and hosted a basketball clinic for girls twice a week. Each participant received a jersey, shoes, and a basketball, all donated by the Penn women’s basketball team.

Kollie and Aghayere also put together weekly workshops for the girls, discussing everything from sexual and reproductive health to goal-setting. They took the girls to Monrovia’s Coca-Cola plant and the nation’s Senate, two places where women are scarce.

After that success, the duo wanted to reach higher and began thinking about entering the annual contest for the PEP. Alomaja suggested adding in the literacy component to round out the program.

The trio approached Ocek Eke, the director of global and local-service learning programs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. He knew all three women, since Alomaja is majoring in bioengineering and Kollie and Aghayere had worked on programs with him, and he agreed to be their faculty mentor for the project.

Read the full story at Penn Today.

Strella Biotechnology’s Biosensors Minimize Food Waste, One Apple at a Time

By Erica K. Brockmeier

BE Senior Malika Shukurova (left) with her partner Katherine Sizov, Strella Biotechnology

Bringing home a bad apple or two from the grocery store might not seem like a huge deal to the average consumer. But for producers and sellers of fresh fruits and vegetables, the staggering 40% of food that goes bad before it even reaches a store means mounds of wasted food and nearly $1 trillion in lost profits.

Now, thanks to a 2019 President’s Innovation Prize (PIP) award, seniors Katherine Sizov of Alexandria, Virginia, and Malika Shukurova of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, plan to address the issue and optimize the produce supply chain. The prize will help them grow their novel biosensing technology startup company Strella Biotechnology.

Sizov, who is majoring in molecular biology, likes to ask everyone the same question when talking about Strella: “How old do you think an apple in a grocery store is?” As it turns out, an apple from a store may have been in storage anywhere from a couple months to up to more than a year. “That’s one fact that you don’t really consider when you go into a store because you’re so used to seeing fresh fruit,” she says.

The idea for Strella came to life when Sizov, who was previously doing undergraduate research on neurodegenerative disorders, found herself reading papers outside of her main area of study and chatting with Shukurova about what she learned about food waste. The two friends had met during freshmen year through the Penn Russian Club.

That 40% of all fresh produce going to waste is what motivated Sizov. “I thought it was the most ridiculous number in the world,” she says. “This clearly is a problem that could be solved, and, since ag is a bio space, I thought we could use the technical knowledge that we have to solve the problem.”

Shukurova, a bioengineering major, quickly became interested in seeking a solution with Sizov. “At that time I was becoming increasingly interested in the technical aspects [of the problem], and more focused towards building a solution by sensing,” she says. Their complementary areas of technical expertise, and two years of friendship, led to a collaboration.

They soon found a potential approach: Ripening fruits release ethylene gas, and the amount of the gas correlates with a fruit’s ripeness. The challenge, however, is that man-made compounds do not bind ethylene with much specificity, so it’s a difficult gas to measure.

Strella’s solution? “Hack the fruit,” says Sizov, explaining that fruits can already measure ethylene themselves. Placing a ripe banana next to an unripe banana, for example, causes the unripe fruit to ripen more quickly. “Why reinvent the wheel? Let’s use what a fruit uses to sense ethylene,” she says.

After Sizov “hacked” the fruit and had a potential biosensor in hand, Shukurova’s experience and technical knowledge in bioengineering gave her knowledge on both the electronic and biological aspects of the problem. Their patent-pending sensor is now a “leading ripeness indicator” that Strella can monitor on a constant basis.

But bringing their biosensor to market means overcoming technical and biological challenges, including biosensor stability and powering the electrical components that collect data. Sizov and Shukurova put together a team of people with complementary knowledge, including Zuyang Liu, an electrical engineering master’s student; Reggie Lamaute, an undergraduate studying chemistry and nanotechnology; and Jay Jordan, who has previous experience in sales and market development in agriculture.

Strella biotechnology came together thanks to a number of programs and resources at Penn, including the Wharton VIP-Xcelerate, the Wharton VIP Fellows program, Weiss Tech House, the Wharton Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Club, the Penn Engineering Miller Innovation Fellowship, and courses offered as part of the Engineering and Entrepreneurship Program. Sizov and Shukurova also say that Penn’s openness to innovation and the numerous resources for would-be entrepreneurs has expedited their success.

Mentorship was also crucial for the success of their startup, with both naming Sevile Mannickarottu and their PIP mentor, Jeffrey Babin, as instrumental resources. Babin, who first met Sizov when she took his engineering entrepreneurship lab and who later served as her Wharton accelerator program advisor, says that Sizov was able to take skills she gained in the classroom and directly apply them in business scenarios. “She’s fearless in terms of picking up the phone and talking to strangers, gauging the market place, and taking on the tough issues in starting a company,” he says.

Continue reading at Penn Today.

BE’s Jason Burdick Receives the 2019 Acta Biomaterialia Silver Medal

by Sophie Burkholder

Dr. Burdick (second from the left) receives his award at the Annual Meeting of the U.S. Society for Biomaterials, April 2019

The Department of Bioengineering would like to congratulate our very own Jason A. Burdick, Ph. D., on being awarded the Acta Biomaterialia Silver Medal. Dr. Burdick is the Robert D. Bent Professor and a member of both the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM) and Center for Engineering Mechanobiology (CEMB) here at Penn.

The Acta Biomaterialia Silver Medal is an award from the monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal Acta Biomaterialia that recognizes leaders in academia, industry, and the public sector for mid-career leadership in and significant contribution to the field of biomaterials engineering. Dr. Burdick is the third recipient of the award so far, which includes a silver medal, an inscribed certificate, and reward of $5000. As the principal investigator of the Polymeric Biomaterials Laboratory in Penn’s Department of Bioengineering, Dr. Burdick leads research with a focus in polymer design, musculoskeletal tissue engineering, the control of stem cells with material cues, and the control of molecule delivery with polymers.

The Silver and Gold Medalists (Dr. Burdick and Dr. Antonios G. Mikos respectively) were presented with their own brand of wine in celebration of their achievement.

Specifically, Dr. Burdick’s innovation in the application of hydrogels to the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems brought him recognition for this award. His recent publications in Acta Biomaterialia include a study of bioactive factors for cartilage repair and regenesis in collaboration with fellow Penn Professor of Bioengineering Robert Mauck, Ph. D, and a study of adhesive biolinks that mimic the behavior of the extracellular matrix. The Acta Biomaterialia Silver Medal is only the most recent of several awards that Dr. Burdick has received, including both the George H. Heilmeier Faculty Award for Excellence in Research and the Clemson Award for Basic Research, and we can’t wait to see where his continued innovation in biomaterial engineering will take him next.

Two BE Seniors Win the President’s Engagement and President’s Innovation Prizes

The Department of Bioengineering is proud to congratulate two of our graduating seniors on their 2019 President’s Engagement Prize and President’s Innovation Prize. Awarded annually, the Prizes empower students to design and undertake post-graduation projects that make a positive, lasting difference in the world. Each Prize-winning project will receive $1000,000, as well as $50,000 living stipend per team member.

Senior Oladunni Alomaja (right) with her partners Princess Aghayere and Summer Kollie, Rebound Liberia

BE senior Oladunni Alomaja (BSE 2019) and her partners Princess Aghayere and Summer Kollie won a President’s Engagement Prize for Rebound Liberia. Ola and her partners will use basketball as a tool to bridge the literacy gap between men and women and as a mechanism for youth to cope with the trauma and stress of daily life in post-conflict Liberia. Rebound Liberia will build an indoor basketball court in conjunction with a community resource center, and its annual three-month summer program will combine basketball clinics with daily reading and writing sessions and personal development workshops. The team is being mentored by Ocek Eke, director of global and local service-learning programs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Senior Malika Shukurova (left) with her partner Katherine Sizov, Strella Biotechnology

BE senior Malika Shukurova (BSE 2019, also pursuing a MSE in BE) and her partner Katherine Sizov won a President’s Innovation Prize for Strella Biotechnology. Strella is developing a bio-sensor that can predict the maturity of virtually any fresh fruit. Strella’s sensors are installed in controlled atmosphere storage rooms, monitoring apples as they ripen. This enables packers and distributors to identify the ripest apples and fruit for their customers, thus minimizing spoilage and food waste and promoting sustainability. Strella’s current market is U.S apple packers and distributors, which represent a $4 billion produce industry. The startup is looking to expand to other markets, such as bananas and pears, in the future. Malika and Katherine are being mentored by Jeffrey Babin, Practice Professor and Associate Director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program. Katherine, a Biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, developed the company as a sophomore in the George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory, the primary teaching lab for the Department of Bioengineering.

Another winner of the President’s Innovation Prize, Wharton student Michael Wong for InstaHub, also has BE connections: One of the co-founders, Oladayo (Dayo) Adewole, graduated with a BSE in Bioengineering in 2015, went on to achieve his master’s in Robotics, and is currently back in BE pursuing his PhD. InstaHub’s mission is to eliminate energy waste through snap-on automation that enhances, rather than replaces, existing building infrastructure. Founded at Penn in 2016, InstaHub is focused on fighting climate change through energy conservation efforts with cleantech building automation technology. The initial development work for InstaHub was also done in the George H. Stephenson lab here in BE.

Congratulations once again to all the winners of this year’s President’s Engagement Prize and President’s Innovation Prize! Read more about the awards and all the winners at Penn Today and the Penn Engineering Medium Blog.

Bioengineering Chair and Students Honored at the 2019 SEAS Awards

Each spring, the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania hosts an awards recognition dinner to honor exceptional work in the school: The Faculty honor students for outstanding service and academics, while the students choose faculty members for their commitment to teaching and advising. This year, the Department of Bioengineering won big with honors for both our Department Chair and our undergraduates. Read about each of the award winners and see photos from the awards ceremony below. Congratulations to all the winners!

David F. Meaney, Ph.D.

Dr. David F. Meaney, Solomon R. Pollack Professor and Chair of Bioengineering, was awarded with the Ford Motor Company Award for Faculty Advising, which recognizes “dedication to helping students realize their educational, career and personal goals.” Dr. Meaney is beloved by the students in BE for his engaging teaching style, his commitment to student wellness and advancement, as well as his weekly Penn Bioengineering spin classes, and so we are delighted to see him recognized in this way by the wider student body  Read more about the award here and Dr. Meaney here.

Eshwar Inapuri (BAS 2019), a graduating senior completing his Bachelor of Applied Science degree in BE with minors in Biophysics and Chemistry, was awarded the Ben and Bertha Gomberg Kirsch Prize. This competitive award is decided by the SEAS faculty from among the Engineering undergraduate body and distinguishes a member of the B.A.S. senior class in  who “in applying the flexibility of the program, has created a personal academic experience involving the most creative use of the resources of the University.”

The Hugo Otto Wolf Memorial Prize, awarded to one or more members of each department’s senior class, distinguishes students who meet with great approval of the professors at large through “thoroughness and originality” in their work. This year, BE chose to share the award between Ethan Zhao (BSE 2019) and Shelly Teng (BSE 2019).

The Herman P. Schwan Award is decided by the Bioengineering Department and honors a graduating senior who demonstrates the “highest standards of scholarship and academic achievement.” The 2019 recipient of the Schwan Award is Joseph Maggiore (BSE 2019).

Every year, four BE students are recognized with Exceptional Service Awards for their outstanding service to the University and their larger communities. Our winners this year are Dana Abulez (BSE 2019), Daphne Cheung (BSE 2019), Lamis Elsawah (BSE 2019), and Kayla Prezelski (BSE 2019). All four of these recipients are also currently in the Accelerated Master’s program in BE.

And finally, BE also awards a single lab group (four students) with the Albert Giandomenico Award which reflects their “teamwork, leadership, creativity, and knowledge applied to discovery-based learning in the laboratory.” This year’s group consists of Caroline Atkinson (BSE 2019), Shuting (Sarah) Cai (BSE 2019), Rebecca Kellner (BSE 2019), and Harrison Troche (BSE 2019).

A full list of SEAS award descriptions and recipients can be found here.

Week in BioE: April 5, 2019

by Sophie Burkholder

Tulane Researchers Use Cancer Imaging Technique to Help Detect Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is potentially life-threatening pregnancy disorder that typically occurs in about 200,000 expectant mothers every year. With symptoms of high blood pressure, swelling of the hands and feet, and protein presence in urine, preeclampsia is usually treatable if diagnosed early enough. However, current methods for diagnosis involve invasive procedures like cordocentesis, a procedure which takes a sample of fetal blood.

Researchers at Tulane School of Medicine led by assistant professor of bioengineering Carolyn Bayer, Ph.D., hope to improve diagnostics for preeclampsia with the use of spectral photoacoustic imaging. Using this technique, Bayer’s team noticed a nearly 12 percent decrease in placental oxygenation in rats with induced preeclampsia when compared to normal pregnant rats after only two days. If success in using this imaging technology continues at the clinical level, Bayer plans to find more applications of it in the detection and diagnosis of breast and ovarian cancers as well.

New CRISPR-powered device detects genetic mutations in minutes 

Two groups of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and the Keck Graduate Institute of the Claremont Colleges recently collaborated to design what they call a “CRISPR-Chip” –  a combination of the CRISPR-Cas9 System with a graphene transistor to sequence DNA for the purpose of genetic mutation diagnosis. While companies like 23andMe made genetic testing and analysis more common and accessible for the general public in recent years, the CRISPR-Chip looks to streamline the technology even more.

This new chip eliminates the long and expensive amplification process involved in the typical polymerase chain reaction (PCR) used to read DNA sequences. In doing so, the CRISPR-Chip is much more of a point-of-care diagnostic, having the ability to quickly detect a given mutation or sequence when given a pure DNA sample. Led by Kiana Aran, Ph.D., the research team behind the CRISPR-Chip hopes that this new combination of nanoelectronics and modern biology will allow for a new world of possibilities in personalized medicine.

New Method of Brain Stimulation Might Alleviate Symptoms of Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States, with nearly 3 million cases every year. For most patients suffering from depression, treatment involves prolonged psychotherapy, antidepressant medication, or even electroconvulsive therapy in extreme cases. Now, scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine study the use of transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) to alleviate symptoms of depression.

Led by Flavio Frohlich, Ph.D., who has an adjunct appointment in biomedical engineering, this team of researchers based this new solution on information from each patient’s specific alpha oscillations, which are a kind of wave that can be detected by an electroencephalogram (EEG). Those who suffer from depression tend to have imbalanced alpha oscillations, so Frohlich and his team sought to use tACS to restore this balance in those patients. After seeing positive results from data collected two weeks after patients in a clinical trial receives the tACS treatment, Frohlich hopes that future applications will include treatment for even more mental health disorders and psychiatric illnesses.

University of Utah Researchers Receive Grant to Improve Hearing Devices for Deaf Patients

Engineers at the University of Utah are part of team that recently received a $9.7 million grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to design new implantable hearing devices for deaf patients, with the hope to improve beyond the sound quality of existing devices. The work will build upon a previous project at the University of Utah called the Utah Electrode Array, a brain-computer interface originally developed by Richard Normann, Ph.D., that can send and receive neural impulses to and from the brain. This new device will differ from a typical cochlear implant because the Utah Electrode Array assembly will be attached directly to the auditory nerve instead of the cochlea, providing the patient with a much higher resolution of sound.

People & Places

Vivek Shenoy, Eduardo D. Glandt President’s Distinguished Scholar in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Secondary Faculty in Bioengineering, has been named the recipient of the 2018–19 George H. Heilmeier Faculty Award for Excellence in Research for “for pioneering multi-scale models of nanomaterials and biological systems.”

The Heilmeier Award honors a Penn Engineering faculty member whose work is scientifically meritorious and has high technological impact and visibility. It is named for George H. Heilmeier, a Penn Engineering alumnus and overseer whose technological contributions include the development of liquid crystal displays and whose honors include the National Medal of Science and Kyoto Prize.

Read the rest of the story on Penn Engineering’s Medium blog.

We would also like to congratulate Jay Goldberg, Ph.D., from Marquette University on his election as a fellow to the National Academy of Inventors. Nominated largely for his six patents involving medical devices, Goldberg also brings this innovation to his courses. One in particular called Clinical Issues in Biomedical Engineering Design allows junior and senior undergraduates to observe the use of technology in clinical settings like the operating room, in an effort to get students thinking about how to improve the use of medical devices in these areas.