Provost’s Award Given to Hammer for PhD Mentoring

Provost's Award
Daniel Hammer, PhD

Last night, Daniel A. Hammer, PhD, Alfred G. and Meta A. Ennis Professor of Bioengineering and Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, was recognized with the 2018 Provost’s Award For Distinguished PhD Teaching and Mentoring. This University-wide honor has been awarded annually to two Penn faculty members for the last 15 years.

With an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Princeton and a PhD from Penn, Dr. Hammer joined the faculty at Cornell in Chemical Engineering after a short postdoctoral appointment in 1988. He was awarded tenure there and came to Penn in 1996. He holds a joint appointment in Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering, and he spent almost seven years as department chair, including serving as Principal Investigator of Penn’s Whitaker Foundation Leadership-Development Award, which led to the hiring of 8 faculty members in Bioengineering and provided seed money for the construction of Skirkanich Hall.

Among Dr. Hammer’s previous honors are an NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1982, election as a Fellow of the AIMBE in 1997, and the Penn SEAS Heilmeier Faculty Award for Excellence in Research in 2004. Dr. Hammer has mentored a total of 51 PhD students, many of who have become faculty members themselves, including three recipients of NSF Career Awards.

“I am deeply honored to win the PhD mentoring award, which is a testament to the quality, inventiveness, and drive of my doctoral students. I have very much enjoyed training these young people in Penn’s fertile scientific environment, and it’s been a singular joy to see their careers flourish.”

More Awards for Penn Bioengineering Students

Every year the Penn Bioengineering Department presents several awards to students. Last week, we featured our NSF scholarship winners and Rothberg Catalyzer first-prize winners. Here, we present more awards given to students for their service, originality, leadership, and scholarship.

More AwardsThe Albert Giandomenico Award, presented to four students who “reflect several traits that include teamwork, leadership, creativity, and knowledge applied to discovery-based learning in the laboratory,” was given to Jessica Rose, Michael Roth, Singh Gurjeet, Nicholas Vigilante. The Herman P. Schwan Award, named for a former faculty member in Bioengineering, was given to Anna Branch. In addition, Nicholas Stiansen received the Bioengineering Student Leadership Award and four students —Shira Rieke, Karol Szymula, Kate Panzer, and Michael Patterson — won the Penn Engineering Exceptional Service Award.

The Wolf-Hallac Award was established in October 2000 to be awarded to the best graduating female senior from Penn Engineering who is seen as a role model, has achieved a high GPA (top 10%) of class and who has demonstrated a commitment to school and or community. This year’s award was given to two stands: Jacqueline Valeri from Bioengineering and Anna Estep from Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics. The Ben and Bertha Gomberg Kirsch Award, given by the Undergraduate Affairs Committee for achievement in applied science, went to BE’s Harvey Huang.

Last but certainly not least are our senior design and project award winners. This year’s Biomedical Applied Science Project Award was given to Bioengineering major Emily Bachner. The department’s Senior Design competition was held on April 16 and 18, and three teams were selected to continue to the school-wide competition this Friday. The three teams had the following members:

• Kate Panzer, Jackie Valeri, Nick Stiansen, and Karol Szymula
• Eric Helfgott, Margaret Schroeder, Manjari Ganti, and Kyle O’Neil
• Jessica Rose, Michael Roth, Gurjeet Singh, and Nick Vigilante

Congratulations to all of our winners!

Jason Burdick Wins Two Research Awards

Burdick
Jason Burdick, PhD

It was a big week’s for Penn Bioengineering‘s Jason Burdick, PhD. This week Dr. Burdick, who is Professor of Bioengineering, received the George H. Heilmeier Faculty Award for Excellence in Research and the Clemson Award from the Society for Biomaterials. Receiving the Heilmeier Award on Tuesday, April 10, Dr. Burdick presented a lecture entitled “”Engineering Hydrogels for Applications in Drug Delivery and Tissue Repair.” Two days later at the annual meeting of the Society for Biomaterials in Atlanta, he received the Clemson and lectured as well.

The Heilmeier Award is  named for George H. Heilmeier, PhD, an alumnus in electrical engineering from Penn and Princeton and executive at RCA, Texas Instruments, DARPA, and other organizations who died in 2014. Dr. Burdick is the sixth BE faculty member (including secondary faculty) to win the award since its institution in 2002. The Clemson awards are given yearly in three areas: basic research; applied research; and contributions to the literature. Dr. Burdick is the first-ever Clemson recipient from Penn. In addition, his PhD student Leo Wang won the Student Award for Outstanding Research by a PhD candidate.

“I am very honored to receive these two awards,” Dr. Burdick said, “which are really reflections of the great lab members that I have had over my years at Penn, as well as the support of fantastic colleagues and collaborators.”

Awards Season for Bioengineering Students

awards seasonIt’s awards season again, and Penn Bioengineering undergraduates and graduate students are among the honorees. Five students received fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Three of our current graduate students — Jason Andrechak, Brendan Murphy, and Wisberty Gordián Vélez — were awarded fellowships. In addition, two of our former undergrads — Elaida Dimwamwa and Ingrid Sheu Lan — won fellowships to attend graduate programs, respectively, at Georgia Tech and Stanford.

Among our Master’s students, Natalie A. Giovino was one of four recipients from the School of Engineering and Applies Science receiving Outstanding Academic Awards. BE undergraduate Jacqueline A. Valeri, who will go on to MIT for her PhD next year, received honorable mention. Finally, at the Rothberg Catalyzer at Penn over the last weekend in March, the first prize (runner-up to grand prize) award of $2,000 went to a team of Penn freshmen including Bioengineering major Jonathan Mairena.

“The successes of our remarkable students continue to be recognized in local and national competitions” says David Meaney, S.R. Pollack Professor and chair of Bioengineering, “and is more evidence of the special environment Penn has for bioengineering.”

Congratulations to all our winners!

Thouron Award for Bioengineering Major Nicholas Stiansen

Thouron
Nick Stiansen

Nicholas Stiansen, a senior Bioengineering major at Penn, is one of eight students and alumni receiving a Thouron Award. Nick will receive a full scholarship to cover tuition and fees, plus a stipend of £19,500 (approximately $27,000). He is still awaiting decisions from graduate programs, but his first choice is to study at Imperial College London (ICL) in the United Kingdom.

Named for Sir John Thouron, a British aristocrat and husband of Esther Driver du Pont, great-granddaughter of Alfred V. du Pont, founder of the chemical company, the Thouron Award is given to graduates of Penn and of universities in the U.K. Each year, a small number of Penn students receives awards, as well as a similar number of British students.  Previous awardees include: the current nominee to head the SEC, Jay Clayton; Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Jennifer Egan; and John J. Leonard, Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering and Samuel C. Collins Professor at MIT.

In addition to majoring in Bioengineering, Nick works as an undergraduate research assistant in the Spine Pain Research Laboratory of Beth Winkelstein, Vice Provost for Education and Professor, and a teaching assistant for BE 310, the second half of the junior year bioengineering lab series. Plus, he holds or has held positions with the Engineering Deans’ Advisory Board and the Biomedical Engineering Society, and he is involved in the Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. If he enrolls at ICL, Nick intends to study in the university’s Master’s program in Medical Device Design and Entrepreneurship.

“I am honored to be named a Thouron Scholar,” Nick says, “and I am extremely excited to continue my graduate studies in the U.K. I am eager to immerse myself in a new, vibrant culture and learn about medical technology from an entirely new perspective. This experience will be integral towards achieving my long-term goal of developing the next wave of innovative and accessible medical devices.”

Penn Bioengineering at BMES 2017

BMES 2017

The annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) was held in Phoenix on October 11-14. The professional society for bioengineers and biomedical engineers this year played host not only to faculty from Penn’s Bioengineering Department but also to several undergraduate and graduate students, as well as staff

As previously mentioned here, three of the undergraduate students from the Center for Engineering MechanoBiology (CEMB) presented their work at the BMES meeting. The three students – Kimberly DeLuca from New Jersey Institute of Technology; John Durel from the University of Virginia; and Olivia Leavitt from Worcester Polytechnic Institute – spent 10 weeks over the summer at Penn working on individual research projects in the labs of Penn faculty.

Olivia worked in the laboratory of Beth Winkelstein, Ph.D., Professor of Bioengineering and Vice Provost for Education at Penn. Olivia’s project studied how matrix proteases influence the nerve impulses, but not the structure, of connective tissue. Jacob’s project, developed with Professor Jason Burdick, Ph.D., generated new insights into how single stem cells sense the mechanical environment and ‘make decisions’ about which type of cell they will become.  Kimberly’s work was done in the lab of Robert Mauck, Ph.D., Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, and it studies how to make materials with unique mechanical properties that could eventually find use in tissue engineering applications.

“I am very pleased to have been a part of the CEMB’s first round of undergraduate summer interns, and while there are certainly some small kinks to be worked out around the edges, the CEMB offered an invaluable experience. If I had to go back and decide again whether or not to chose this internship versus others, I would do it again in a heart-beat,” John Durel said.

BMES 2017
(left to right) Bioengineering Department Chair David Meaney, BMES Co-president Olivia Teter, and GABE board members Meagan Ita and Varsha Viswanath.

Also attending BMES were officers of the undergraduate chapter of BMES at Penn. As we previously reported, the chapter won the Student Outreach Achievement Award for the year, repeating its win from 2015. Penn’s contingent from the BMES chapter, as well as from the Graduate Association of Bioengineers (GABE), were on hand to receive awards and recognition (see photo above).

BMES 2017
Sevile Mannickarottu

Finally, Sevile Mannickarottu, instructional laboratories director for the Bioengineering Department, presented a paper at one of the conference sessions. Alongside presenters from MIT, Johns Hopkins, Berkeley, UCSD, UIUC, and Stanford, Sevile (see photo right) participated in a special sessions on curricular innovation held on Friday, October 13. Sevile did a great job explaining the innovations introduced to Penn’s undergraduate lab over the course of the last few years, and the presentation was very well received.

Next year’s BMES conference will be held in Atlanta on October 17-20, followed by the 2019 meeting in Philadelphia, to be co-chaired by Penn BE’s Jason Burdick.

Lagrange Goes to Dani Bassett

Lagrange
Danielle Bassett, Ph.D.

Danielle S. Bassett, Eduardo D. Glandt Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Bioengineering, is the recipient of the 2017 Lagrange-CRT Foundation Prize. The prize, given by the Institute for Scientific Interchange Foundation in Turin, Italy, was created to encourage and honor researchers working in the field of complex systems.

Complex systems feature many interconnected parts whose individual behavior influences the outcomes of the whole. Examples include social media networks, ecological webs, stock markets, and in Bassett’s case, the brain. Her research maps and analyzes the networks of neurons that enable all manners of cognitive abilities, as well as how those networks evolve during development or malfunction in disease.

The prize comes with an award of €50,000, or roughly $60,000. It will be formally presented to Bassett at a ceremony in Turin next week. Bassett is the first woman to be the sole recipient of the prize since its inception in 2008. Lada Adamic won it alongside Xavier Gabaix in 2012.

Read more at the SEAS blog on Medium.

Noordergraaf Fellows Conduct Summer Research

Each year, the Penn Department of Bioengineering chooses undergraduate students to receive fellowships for summer research. These fellowships, which provide a $3,500 stipend for use over 10 weeks, were endowed by the Abraham Noordergraaf Student Summer Bioengineering Research Fund. Dr. Noordergraaf, who died in 2014, was a founding member and first chair of the Penn BE Department. In keeping with Dr. Noordergraaf’s research focus on the cardiovascular system, fellows with a focus on this system are favored but not exclusively awarded.

Noordergraaf
Brianna Karpowicz

The fellows for the summer of 2017 were Brianna Karpowicz, Jacqueline Valeri, and Alejandro Villasmil. Brianna is a junior bioengineering major working in the lab of Professor Yale Cohen. In her research, Brianna worked with Dr. Cohen in the Auditory Research Laboratory, examining the modeling of multisensory perceptual decision making and specifically seeking to better understand the mechanisms underlying the relationship between sensory information and perception.

Noordergraaf
Alejandro Villasmil

Alejandro Villasmil, who is a senior bioengineering major working in Professor Beth Winkelstein’s lab, used his Noordergraaf’s grant to study chronic pain in neck injury. To better understand this problem, Alejandro helped to model injury to the facet capsular ligament — one of the structures in the neck — by examining how painful and nonpainful stimuli affected the axonal structure. He found using fluorescence technology that uniaxial tension resulted in axonal changes resulting in pain.

Noordergraaf
Jacqueline Valeri

Finally, Jacqueline Valeri is a senior bioengineering major doing research in the lab of Professor Jennifer Phillips-Cremins. In Professor Cremins’s lab, Jackie undertook research on stem cells, specifically examining the question of whether light could be used to control and modulate the fate of these cells — a field called optogenetics. She helped to design two light boxes to stimulate the interaction between two proteins as a first step toward ultimately attempting to control pluripotent stem cells using light, specifically determining what cell lines these stem cells ultimately produce.

We congratulate our Noordergraaf award winners!

Sperry Wins BMES Design and Research Award

Sperry
Megan Sperry

Megan Sperry, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Bioengineering, is a recipient of a Student Design and Research Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES). Megan works in the Spine Pain Research Lab of Beth Winkelstein, Ph.D., professor of Bioengineering and Vice Provost for Education at Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, as well as with Eric Granquist, DMD, MD, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Penn Dental Medicine.

With Drs. Winkelstein and Granquist, Megan studies temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain and osteoarthritis, the latter of which can develop as a long-term consequence of untreated TMJ dysfunction.  There’s currently no way to determine which patients will progress to TMJ osteoarthritis, so Megan’s extended abstract, which was submitted to the BMES competition, detailed a study using 18F-EF5 PET, an imaging modality used mainly in oncology. Hypothesizing that hypoxia, or low oxygen, was a key factor in the development of TMJ osteoarthritis, Megan studied the relationship between hypoxia and persistent TMJ pain and found that hypoxia preceded reorganization of the cartilage of the TMJ, part of the process culminating in TMJ osteoarthritis (see image below).

Sperry
An example of 18F-EF5-PET imaging of the TMJ.

“This project has been both fun and challenging because it brings together concepts and techniques from multiple fields, including orthopedics, neuroscience, and, with the use of 18F-EF5, radiation oncology,” Megan said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to share my work at the BMES Annual Meeting and receive feedback as we continue to move the project forward.”

Each year, BMES awards up to five graduate students the Student Design and Research Award from dozens of submissions. Congratulations to Megan for this elite recognition of her research!

BMES at Penn Wins Outreach Award

BMES

The chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) at the University of Pennsylvania has won the Student Outreach Achievement Award from the society. This is the second time in three years that BMES at Penn has won the award, for which more than 60 other chapters compete.

The award acknowledges the efforts of Penn BMES to establish relationships with the surrounding community. For instance, Junior Beta Day, held in the spring semester, saw Penn BE students hosting approximately 60 local middle school students for a day on campus, during which they interacted with members of the faculty and engaged in activities centered on bioengineering. In addition, the Penn BMES chapter has participated in local neighborhood revitalization initiatives and acted as mentors.

“I’m very proud of our group’s outreach initiatives within the both the greater Philadelphia and campus communities,” said Sonia Bansal, who is one of the outreach chairs for the chapter. “Our partnerships with iPraxis and SPARK help us break down bioengineering concepts into approachable activities for middle school students. We hope that our programming shows students that they too can go on to be engineers and scientists, and its an incredibly rewarding experience to see students get excited about STEM.”

Founded in 1968, BMES is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit professional association acting as a lead society for 7,000 members and 115 student chapters.