Erdős-Rényi Prize for Danielle Bassett

    Erdos-Renyi PrizeDanielle Bassett, PhD

Danielle S. Bassett, PhD, Eduardo D. Glandt Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, has been named the 2018 recipient of the Erdős-Rényi Prize in Network Science by the Network Science Society (NetSci). NetSci has recognized Dr. Bassett for “fundamental contributions to our understanding of the network architecture of the human brain, its evolution over learning and development, and its alteration in neurological disease.” Dr. Bassett will receive the award and deliver a lecture on June 14 at the International Conference on Network Science in Paris. She is the seventh scientist and fourth American to receive the prize.

“Receiving the Erdos prize is a clear recognition from her colleagues that Dani is a true pioneer with many significant accomplishments to date and even more ahead of her,” says Bioengineering Chair Dave Meaney. “She is an amazing role model for all of us.”

The Erdős-Rényi Prize is awarded annually to a scientist younger than 40 years old for his/her achievements in the field of network science. It is named for the Hungarian mathematicians Paul Erdős, whose surname provided a measurement for research collaboration by academic mathematicians, and Alfréd Rényi, whose work focused on probability and graph theory. In network science, an Erdős-Rényi model is a model for generating random graphs. Dr. Bassett’s research applies the principles of network science in neuroscience, with the intention of understanding the brain better by modeling the networks and circuits of our most complex organ.

“I am thrilled and honored to receive this prestigious award,” Dr. Bassett says. “Network science is a true passion for me, and it is heartwarming to see my work, and that of my fantastic collaborators and brilliant students, acknowledged in this way.”

Winkelstein Named to World Council of Biomechanics

Beth Winkelstein, PhD

The University of Pennsylvania Department of Bioengineering is proud to announce that our senior faculty member Beth Winkelstein, PhD, who is also Vice Provost for Education and the newly named Eduardo Glandt Presidential Professor, was elected as a councilor to the World Council of Biomechanics (WCB).  In the words of Dominique Barthes-Biesel, PhD, Chair of the WCB, and Roger Kamm, PhD, Chair of the Nominating Committee, Dr. Winkelstein’s election comes in recognition of her “distinguished contributions to and leadership in the field of biomechanics at an international level.” The appointment will be recognized at the WCB General Assembly, to be held at the 8th World Congress of Biomechanics in Dublin, Ireland on July 8.

Instituted in 1990, the WCB is an international academic and professional forum of engineers and scientists from five continents.  With her appointment, Dr. Winkelstein joins colleagues from MIT, Columbia, and Georgia Tech, among others. “I’m honored to be included as a representative among the impressive world leaders in biomechanics,” Dr. Winkelstein says, “and I look forward to helping shape the upcoming World Congresses and meetings.

Winkelstein Appointed Eduardo Glandt Presidential Professor

Beth Winkelstein
Beth Winkelstein with SEAS Dean Vijay Kumar

The University of Pennsylvania Department of Bioengineering is proud to announce that our faculty member Beth Winkelstein, PhD, has been named the Eduardo Glandt Presidential Professor by the Penn School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). The endowed professorship is named for Eduardo D. Glandt, PhD, former Dean of SEAS and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering.

An undergraduate alumna of Penn, Dr. Winkelstein earned her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Duke in 1999. Recruited by Dr. Glandt himself, Dr. Winkelstein returned to Penn as a Bioengineering faculty member in 2002, with tenure and promotion to Associate Professor in 2007 and promotion to Professor in 2011. Beginning that same year, she has taken on a series of increasingly important administrative positions, first as Bioengineering Graduate Group Chair (2011-12), then as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education in SEAS (2012-2015), and now as Vice Provost for Education (since 2015).

Dr. Winkelstein is the principal investigator at the Spine Pain Research Lab, which studies and seeks to better understand chronic pain syndromes. On the basis of her research, she has received multiple awards and honors, including the NSF Career Award, the Y.C. Fung Award from the American Association of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and election as a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the ASME. Most recently, Dr. Winkelstein was elected as a councilor in the World Council of Biomechanics.

“Receiving an endowed chair represents a recognition of an individual’s contributions to their field, their leadership, and the legacy of their trainees,” said David Meaney, PhD, Chair of the Bioengineering Department. “Beth’s research program continues to flourish, and her leadership in national societies grows constantly.”

Robert D. Bent Chair for Jason Burdick

Robert D. Bent Chair
Jason Burdick (right) with SEAS Dean Vijay Kumar

The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Bioengineering is proud to announce that Professor Jason Burdick, PhD, has been named the Robert D. Bent Chair.  Robert Bent is an internationally recognized nuclear physicist who spent most of his career at Indiana University.

A PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Colorado (2002), Dr. Burdick was a postdoc in Robert Langer’s lab at MIT before coming to Penn in 2005 as Wilf Family Assistant Professor. He was tenured with a promotion to Associate Professor in 2010 and subsequently promoted to Professor in 2013. His research, which focuses on the development of polymeric biomaterials for tissue engineering and drug delivery, has earned him recognition including an NSF Career Award, the American Heart Association Established Investigator Award, and most recently the Heilmeier Research Award and Clemson Award for Basic Research.

“This chair recognizes Jason’s prolific and deep scholarly contributions to the field of biomaterials, in addition to his leadership at Penn and beyond,” said David Meaney, PhD, Chair of the Bioengineering Department. “For anyone who saw Jason’s Heilmeier lecture, you know how impactful his work has been in the field.”

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.”

Jason Burdick Wins Two Research Awards

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.”

Nanoparticle Synthesis Facility Established


Nanotechnology is enabling new materials and devices that work at sizes so small that individual atoms and molecules make a difference in their behavior. The field is moving so fast, however, that scientists from other disciplines can have a hard time using the fruits of this research without becoming nanotechnologists themselves.

With that kind of technology transfer in mind, the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Targeted Therapeutics and Translational Nanomedicine has established the Chemical and Nanoparticle Synthesis Core.

Supported by the Perelman School of Medicine and its Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Chemistry, this core facility aims to help Penn researchers design and synthesize custom molecules and nanoscale particles that would be otherwise hard to come by.

“Based on a short survey we conducted, we found that many faculty members want to synthesize unique chemical compounds, such as imaging agents, drugs or nanoparticles, but they don’t have the expertise to produce these compounds themselves,” says Andrew Tsourkas, professor in Penn Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering and Director of the Chemical and Nanoparticle Synthesis Core. “As a result, these projects are often abandoned.”

Read more at the Penn One Health website.

Future of Technology Is Focus of Teach-in

futureAs new technologies emerge, whether related to health care, artificial intelligence, or other aspects of society, they bring with them new ethical challenges.

The topic of the future of technology was front and center on day three of the Penn Teach-in March 18-22. The series of free public events convened by the faculty senate aims to bring the academic community together with the broader community to engage in wide-ranging discussions on topics of social importance.

Among the offerings on Tuesday were two panels featuring faculty from the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The first, “The Future of Technology: Engineering Human Health,” was moderated by Kathleen Stebe and included Jennifer Phillips-CreminsDavid Issadore, and David Meaney – three faculty members in the Department of Bioengineering.

Continue reading at Penn News Today

Cell Phones: Is There a Link to Cancer?

cell phonesLast month, the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced the findings of a draft study in which it was shown that high exposure to radiofrequency radiation, similar to that caused by persistent use of cell phones, resulted in the formation of tumors in nerves surrounding the hearts of male rats — but not female rats or mice.  These are the final results of the study, the preliminary results of which were released in 2016. The study must still undergo peer review later this month.

Among the experts studying this question for the last decade is Kenneth R. Foster, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s not so sure that there’s really any link between the radiation emitted by cell phones and cancers. “People have been using cell phones for decades and so far there has been no noticeable increase in brain cancer,” Dr. Foster said. “This means that the risk, if it occurs at all, is too low to detect with any reliability.”

cell phones
Kenneth R. Foster, Ph.D.

Asked whether the findings of the NTP study could be generalized to people, Dr. Foster responded, “If you look at enough tissues and compare enough endpoints, you will pick up things that may just be one-off findings. Health agencies will have to assess the findings carefully in the light of the considerable previous literature of related studies. The results of the study are unlikely to change their previous assessments, which is that there is no clear evidence of health hazards from using cell phones.” The exposed rats in the NTP study consistently lived longer than the exposed rats, he added.

Dr. Foster noted that the exposure levels for the rats that developed tumors was far higher than safety limits for humans in terms of whole body exposure and not at all similar to the exposures that people receive from using cell phones. “Also,” he said, “people don’t use cell phones for nine hours a day for two years at a time, which were the exposures in the NTP study. After all of this research on the issue, my own view is that cell phones don’t cause brain cancer. But they do contribute to traffic accidents!”

Shoddy Science Uncovered in New Research

by Linda Tunesi

shoddy science
Konrad Kording, Ph.D.

Konrad Kording, professor in the Department of Bioengineering, and colleagues have a new technique for identifying fraudulent scientific papers by spotting reused images. Rather than scrap a failed study, for example, a researcher might attempt to pass off images from a different experiment to give the false impression that their own was a success.

Kording, a Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) Professor who also has an appointment in the Department of Neuroscience in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, and his collaborators developed an algorithm that can compare images across journal articles and detect such replicas, even if the image has been resized, rotated, or cropped.

They describe their technique in a paper recently published on the BioRxiv preprint server.

“Any fraudulent paper damages science,” Kording says. “In biology, many times fraud is detected when someone looks at a few papers and says ‘hey, these images look a little similar.’ We reckoned we could make an algorithm that does the same thing.”

“Science depends on building upon other people’s work,” adds Daniel Acuna, lead author on the paper, and a student in Kording’s lab at Northwestern University at the time the study was conducted. “If you cannot trust other people’s work, the scientific process collapses and, worse, the general public loses trust in us. Some websites were doing this, anonymously, but at a painstakingly slow rate.” Acuna is now an assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University.

While much of Kording’s work focuses on using data science to understand the brain, he is also curious about the process of research itself, or, as he puts it, “the science of science.” One of the Kording lab’s previous projects closely analyzed common methods of neuroscience research, and another turned a mirror on itself, describing how to structure a scientific paper.

Continued at the Penn Engineering Medium blog.