2020 Awards Season for Bioengineering Students

Each spring, the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania gives out awards of special recognition to honor exceptional work by undergraduate and graduate students. The Department of Bioengineering is proud to announce the following awards given to students in the Class of 2020.

Bioengineering Professor and Chair Ravi Radhakrishnan says, “Congratulations to all the winners! I am so incredibly proud of your accomplishments and I thank you for enriching the Bioengineering environment with your invaluable contributions.” Keep reading below for a list of 2020 award recipients.

UNDERGRADUATE AWARDS:

Katharine Cocherl (BAS 2020), who completed a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Bioengineering along with a second major in Cinema and Media Studies, 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 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 Jacqueline Peng (BSE 2020) and Vera Lee (BSE 2020). In addition to their majors, Jacqueline also minored in Computer Science and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Data Science and Vera minored in the Engineering Entrepreneurship program and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Robotics.

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 2020 recipient of the Schwan Award is Alexander Silva (BSE 2020) who is also graduating with a minor in Economics.

Every year, several BE students are recognized with Exceptional Service Awards for their outstanding service to the University and their larger communities. Our winners this year are Arielle Stern (BSE 2020 with a Math minor), Lauren McLeod (BSE 2020), and Evan Paregol (BSE 2020 with an Entrepreneurship minor). Arielle and Evan are also currently in the Accelerated Master’s program, in Data Science and Bioengineering, respectively.

The Student Leadership Award is given annually to a student in Bioengineering who has demonstrated, through a combination of academic performance, service, leadership, and personal qualities, that he or she will be a credit to the Department, the School, and the University. The 2020 recipient of this award is Katherine Simms (BSE 2020 with a minor in Chemistry).

BE also distinguishes 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 Alisa Bhakta (2020 dual degree BSE in Bioengineering and BS in Economics from Wharton), Gabriel Desantis (BSE 2020 with a minor in Math), Lauren McLeod (BSE 2020), and Caroline Raquel (2020 dual degree BSE in Bioengineering and BS in Economics from Wharton).

Of this year’s Bioengineering Senior Design teams, three groups were chosen for special recognition:

  • RelieVR with Nicole Chiou (BSE 2020 with a minor in Computer Science), Gabe Desantis (BSE 2020 with a minor in Math), Ben Habermeyer BSE 2020 with a minor in Computer Science), and Vera Lee (BSE 2020 with an Engineering Entrepreneurship minor). RelieVR also won second place at the 2020 Johns Hopkins Healthcare Design Competition and took home the Berkman Prize this past fall semester.
  • Relila with Alisa Bhakta (dual degree BSE and BS 2020), Alexander Connor (BSE 2020), Lauren McLeod (BSE 2020), Alexa Murray (BSE 2020 in Systems Science and Engineering), and Caroline Raquel (dual degree BSE and BS 2020). Relila also won second place at the annual M&T Program Lab Integration Awards summit.
  • SchistoSpot with Alec Bayliff (dual degree BAS and BS in Economics 2020), Bram Bruno (BAS 2020), Justin Swirbul (BSE 2020 in Computer Science), and Vishal Tien (BSE 2020). SchistoSpot also won the Pioneer Award at the annual Rothberg Catalyzer Makerthon.

Research for these projects was conducted in the George H. Stephenson Foundation Education Laboratory & Bio-Maker Space. The abstracts and presentation videos for each of the 2020 Senior Design Competition winners can be viewed on the BE Labs website.

Additionally, two graduating BAS seniors were awarded prizes for Best Senior Thesis:

  • Katharine Cocherl (BAS 2020 in Bioengineering and Cinema and Media Studies) for her paper “Bioethical Assessments of Film Portrayals of the Opioid Epidemic and Its Relationship with Public Discourse and Policy from the 1990s to Present.” “Insightful, original, and wide-reaching, her study of films related to the opioid epidemic in the U.S. the past 25 years was one of the best senior theses I have advised at Penn the past 15 years, ” says Katharine’s advisor Lance Wahlert, Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics & Health Policy, Program Director of the Master of Bioethics
  • Gayatri Maria Schur (BAS 2020 with a minor in Music) for her paper titled “In Vivo Assessment of OXPHOS Capacity Using 3T CrCEST MRI in Adults and Children with Friedrich’s Ataxia.” Her advisor, Shana McCormack, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Perelman School of Medicine, says that Gayatri’s “work has required that she communicate with collaborators across a variety of disciplines, and has also included interaction with the community of patients we study, and she has excelled here.”

GRADUATE AWARDS:

Master’s student Kayla Prezelski was awarded an Outstanding Teaching Award for students. Kayla served as a TA for the Department of Bioengineering’s two-semester Senior Design courses (BE 495/496).

The following Master’s students were awarded recognition for their Outstanding Research:

  • Linghan Mei – advisor Andrew Tsourkas, Ph.D., Professor of Bioengineering
  • Ayush Aditya Pal – advisor Lukasz Bugaj, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Bioengineering
  • Robert Pierson – Independent Study advisor Brian Litt, M.D., Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Bioengineering, and Thesis advisors Insup Lee, Ph.D., Cecilia Fitler Moore of Computer and Information Science and Electrical and Systems Engineering, and James Weimer, Ph.D. Research Assistant Professor of Computer and Information Science
  • Tianjia Zhu – advisor Hao Huang, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor of Radiology in the Perelman School of Medicine

And finally, The Solomon R. Pollack Award for Excellence in Graduate Bioengineering is given annually to the most deserving Bioengineering graduate student who has successfully completed research that is original and recognized as being at the forefront of its field. This year, that award goes to Jonathan Beagan, Ph.D. who recently defended his thesis. Jon conducted his research in the 3D Epigenomics and Systems Neurobiology Lab overseen by Jennifer Phillips-Cremins, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Bioengineering. Research related to Jon’s award-winning doctoral thesis was recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. In addition to this prestigious award, Jon was also named a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow during his time at Penn. Jon’s collaborations with Dr. Cremins have been covered several times on the BE blog. “Jon is an excellent researcher — simultaneously rigorous and creative,” says Dr. Cremins. “He has been a force in the lab — reading the literature voraciously, teaching other students, and executing/designing experiments meticulously. Beyond his natural talent, it is Jon’s personal qualities that make him stand out. He is a true leader, a team player, and one of the rare people that raises the bar for everyone around him.”

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

Congratulations once again to the award winners and to all graduating students on an outstanding year of scholarship and service!

A Record 15 BE Students Receive 2020 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

The Department of Bioengineering at Penn is incredibly proud of its fifteen current and future graduate student recipients of the 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP). This total surpasses last year’s record of twelve students. In addition, one current student was selected for honorable mention and one additional incoming student has been named a Fullbright Scholar.

The prestigious NSF GRFP program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported fields. Further information about the program can be found on the NSF website. BE is thrilled to congratulate our excellent students on these well-deserved accolades! Continue reading below for a list of 2020 recipients and descriptions of their research.

Current Students:

William Benman

William Benman is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, Lukasz Bugaj. His work in the Bugaj lab focuses on developing novel optogenetic tools to control and study cell function.

Paul Gehret

Paul Gehret is a Ph.D. student and Ashton Fellow in the lab of Riccardo Gottardi, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine. Paul works on pediatric cartilage and airway tissue engineering for children with subglottic stenosis. He and his team apply classic tissue engineering principles to the airway.

Rebecca Haley

Rebecca Haley is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Michael J. Mitchell, Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in Bioengineering. Her current project aims to use polymer and/or lipid nanoparticles for the intracellular delivery of proteins. Successful delivery of proteins (such as antibodies) in this fashion may allow for targeting of previously undruggable intracellular targets.

Patrick John Mulcahey

Patrick John Mulcahey is a Research Assistant and Graduate Student in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Epilepsy Research Lab of Douglas A. Coulter, Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine. His work focuses on developing techniques that combine electrophysiology with two-photon excitation microscopy to study a potential biomarker of the seizure onset zone in models of drug-refractory epilepsy.

Catherine Porter

Catherine Porter is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Alex J. Hughes, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering. She is working on developing high-throughput methods to produce and characterize human-cell-derived kidney organoids for disease modeling and genetic screening. Currently, she is focused on engineering physicochemical control to improve organoid homogeneity.

Sarah Shepherd

Sarah Shepherd is a Ph.D. student who is co-advised in the Michael J. Mitchell lab and the lab of David Issadore, Associate Professor of Bioengineering and Electrical and Systems Engineering (ESE). Her research aims to combine microfabrication with biomaterial design of lipid nanoparticles to address major shortcomings in the field of nanomedicine. Currently, she is prototyping a scale-up microfluidic device to produce lipid nanoparticles for gene therapy.

Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Dennis E. Discher, Robert D. Bent Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE), Bioengineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM). His current research examines phenomena leading to mechano-induced genomic variation in multiple cell subtypes. Through better understanding of characteristic pathways and subsequent cell responses, he hopes to improve treatments for malignant solid tumors.

John Viola, a Ph.D. student in the Hughes lab, was listed as an honorable mention.

Incoming Students:

Additionally, eight NSF GRFP honorees from other institutions will be joining our department in the fall of 2020. We congratulate them as well and look forward to welcoming them to Penn:

Finally, incoming Ph.D. student Dora Racca was awarded a Fullbright Scholarship. Dora will will have rotations in the BIOLines Laboratory of Dongeun (Dan) Huh, Associate Professor of Bioengineering and the McKay Orthopaedic Research Laboratory of Robert Mauck, Mary Black Ralston Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Professor of Bioengineering.

We would like to send congratulations once again to all our current and future graduate students on another year of outstanding research!

Bomyi Lim Receives KIChE President Young Investigator

Bomyi Lim, Ph.D.

Bomyi Lim, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Biomolecular Engineering, has been selected by the U.S. Chapter of the Korean Institute of Chemical Engineers (KIChE) as the recipient of the KIChE President Young Investigator Award. As a recipient of this Award, Lim will be invited to present a research talk at the KIChE Open Forum during the AIChE Conference.

KIChE is an organization that aims “to promote constructive and mutually beneficial interactions among Korean Chemical Engineers in the U.S. and facilitate international collaboration between engineers in the U.S. and Korea.”

Read more on the Penn Engineering blog. Dr. Lim is a member of the Department of Bioengineering Graduate Group.

Victoria Muir Wins Penn Prize for Excellence in Teaching by Graduate Students

Victoria Muir, PhD Candidate in Bioengineering

The Office of the Provost awards the Penn Prize for Excellence in Teaching by Graduate Students in recognition of their profound impact on education across the University. Nominations come directly from undergraduate and graduate students in their courses and are narrowed down to ten awardees each year.

Victoria Muir, a graduate student in the Department of Bioengineering, is among this year’s class of recipients.

Muir has served as a teaching assistant for coursework in Biomaterials with Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation Michael Mitchell and Tissue Engineering with Robert D. Bent Professor Jason Burdick. She is conducting her thesis on granular hydrogels for musculoskeletal tissue repair under Burdick’s advisement. Muir has also received both NSF and Tau Beta Pi Fellowships for her graduate studies.

Originally posted on the Penn Engineering blog.

Danielle Bassett Named AIMBE Fellow

Danielle Bassett, Ph.D.

Danielle Bassett, J. Peter Skirkanich Professor of Bioengineering, has been named an American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) Fellow.

Election to the AIMBE College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer. College membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering and medicine research, practice, or education” and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of medical and biological engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to bioengineering education.”

Bassett was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for “significant contributions to the application of neural network theory for understanding both physio and patho-physiological brain function.”

As a result of health concerns, AIMBE’s annual meeting and induction ceremony scheduled for March 29–30, 2020, was cancelled. Under special procedures, Bassett was remotely inducted along with 156 colleagues who make up the AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2020.

Originally posted on the Penn Engineering blog.

Penn Bioengineering Junior Shreya Parchure Named Goldwater Scholar

Shreya Parchure (BSE ’21)

Shreya Parchure is one of four juniors at the University of Pennsylvania who have been selected as Goldwater Scholars by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship & Excellence in Education Foundation, which provides scholarships of as much as $7,500 to undergraduate students interested in pursuing research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering. Each year Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) nominates four students for the award and provides advising.

Shreya Parchure, from Fremont, California, is a bioengineering major who has been working with Roy Hamilton, the director of the Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation in the Perelman School of Medicine, characterizing a form of non-invasive brain stimulation for use in neurorehabilitation after stroke. The work with Hamilton is through a Faculty Mentoring Undergraduate Research grant. She also is creating a cardiac surgical device with support from Penn Health-Tech. She is a Rachleff Scholar, and a recipient of a Vagelos Undergraduate Research Grant. As a United Nations Millennium Fellow, Parchure led a social-impact initiative expanding her work with Penn’s Intercultural Leadership Program. She serves as a CURF Research Peer Advisor and as co-editor-in-chief of the Penn Bioethics Journal. She intends to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in neuroengineering and conduct medical research.

Originally posted on the Penn Engineering blog. Read about Penn’s other Goldwater Scholars at Penn Today.

The Optical Society Names Nader Engheta the 2020 Max Born Award Recipient

Nader Engheta, Ph.D.

The Optical Society (OSA) has named Nader Engheta, H. Nedwill Ramsey Professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, as the 2020 recipient of the Max Born Award.

Engheta, who also has appointments in the departments of Bioengineering and Materials Science and Engineering, is honored for pioneering contributions to optical metamaterials and nanoscale optics.

“The Born Award recognizes Nader Engheta’s exceptional contributions to the fields of metamaterials, transformation optics and nanophotonics,” said 2020 OSA President Stephen D. Fantone, founder and president of Optikos Corporation. “This honor is emblematic of the pioneering work he has done in near-zero index metamaterials.”

Read the full story on the Penn Engineering blog.

Alex Hughes Receives the First MIRA Award of Penn SEAS

by Sophie Burkholder

Alex Hughes, Ph.D.

We would like to congratulate Assistant Professor in Bioengineering Alex Hughes, Ph.D., on receiving the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds investigators to create flexible and forward-thinking research programs. Hughes is the first recipient of this award in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, marking a major accomplishment for him and his lab.

The award recognizes Hughes’ efforts to create new  tools used for tissue engineering, in particular by fusing concepts from developmental biology into tissue construction efforts. Hughes believes this approach will have impacts on fundamental understanding human disease, leading to new strategies to combat them. Hughes and his lab specifically focus on kidney disease. As Hughes says, “defects in the kidney and urinary tract account for up to a third of all birth defects.” Furthermore, because kidney development involves many different kinds of cell interactions, there’s a gap in understanding exactly how these defects occur.

Unlike other grants that focus on funding projects, the MIRA prioritizes the people behind the research, giving them funding as a sign of faith in the future work they’ll choose to do. “The MIRA has allowed us significant leeway to integrate several complementary approaches here,” Hughes says. Because of this flexibility, Hughes and his lab thinks it will allow them to reach for more innovative and risky approaches in their research, in the hopes that this will lead to a better understanding of kidney defects and modes of treatment for them.

After President’s Innovation Prize, InstaHub has Even More Spark

This past spring, we congratulated the founders of InstaHub, one of the winners of the President’s Innovation Prize. The initial development work for InstaHub was also done in the George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory & Bio-MakerSpace here in Penn Bioengineering. Check out the article and video below to learn more about InstaHub’s efforts to fight climate change.

By Lauren Hertzler

As he processed down Locust Walk the day of Commencement, Michael Wong didn’t miss a beat. He took in with pride all his interactions with friends, every cheer from the crowd, and each step on his final day as an undergraduate at Penn.

The first in his family to go to college, Wong would not only graduate that day with a degree from the Wharton School. Thanks to a President’s Innovation Prize (PIP), he’d also graduate with a full-fledged startup and significant funding in hand, ready and willing to take on his next chapter.

“The whole day of graduation I was like ‘Wow, this is amazing,’” recalls Wong. “It’s one of my favorite moments.”

Wong, from Oakland, California, founded InstaHub in 2016. Working with Dayo Adewole, a doctoral candidate in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the pair designed a snap-on motion sensor device that attaches onto existing light switches. It is battery powered, with occupancy sensing capabilities, and is easy to install. With PIP, which awarded Wong $100,000 (plus $50,000 for living expenses), he says he’s been able to do rapid prototyping to move InstaHub forward.

Continue reading at Penn Today.

Jason Burdick Named National Academy of Inventors Fellow

Robert D. Bent Chair
Jason Burdick, PhD

Jason Burdick, Robert D. Bent Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), an award of high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors. Elected Fellows have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.

Burdick’s research interests include developing degradable polymeric biomaterials that can be used for tissue engineering, drug delivery, and fundamental polymer studies. His lab focuses on developing polymeric materials for biomedical applications with specific emphasis on tissue regeneration and drug delivery. Burdick believes that advances in synthetic chemistry and materials processing could be the answer to organ and tissue shortages in medicine. The specific targets of his research include: scaffolding for cartilage regeneration, controlling stem cell differentiation through material signals, electrospinning and 3D printing for scaffold fabrication, and injectable hydrogels for therapies after a heart attack.

Read the full story on the Penn Engineering blog.