Penn Engineering is proud to announce the establishment of the Madison “Maddie” Magee Award for Undergraduate Excellence, named in honor of the memory of Madison “Maddie” N. Magee, who graduated with both a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM) and a master’s degree in Bioengineering (BE) in 2021. Following her time at Penn, Maddie joined the Integrative Baseball Performance department of the Philadelphia Phillies, where she collaborated with a group in developing the next generation of baseball players by analyzing biomechanics data.
To establish this award, 130 donors, including the Philadelphia Phillies, came together in 2022 to raise over $50,000, meaning that undergraduate students will be able to receive this award in perpetuity. Recipients will be Penn Engineering seniors who “exemplify the energy, enthusiasm, and excellence that was Maddie.”
“Maddie was full of life and promise and brought unmatched passion and spirit to everything she did,” says Kevin T. Turner, Professor and Chair of MEAM. “It was impossible to not see the impact that she was having on our Department and the School.” Magee excelled as a student at Penn, working as a Teaching Assistant at both Penn and Drexel and providing countless hours of tutoring to fellow students.
It is with deep gratitude for Maddie’s profound and lasting impact on many students, faculty and staff that this award is established.
Maddie passed away while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on May 28, 2022.
Three Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professors — Kevin Johnson, Lance Freeman and Dolores Albarracín, — each discussed their research. The audience, at least 600 in person and remote, heard about using city planning to promote racial equity, about how conspiracy theories come to life and propagate, and about the need for physicians to communicate effectively with patients and families.
Following brief remarks from Penn Alumni President Ann Reese, University President Liz Magill introduced the event. “As many of you know, I’ve been thinking a lot and speaking often about what makes Penn Penn,” she said. “What are our distinctive strengths? What are the unique contributions to society that we have made in the past and can make in the future? And where do we go from the extraordinary position we are in now?”
Magill went on to express gratitude for the speakers and invited the audience to think about how the researchers’ work and expertise furthered what she described as the “twin principles of truth and opportunity.”
He took the audience through his family history, education and training, pausing at a point on the timeline when he was a young physician-scientist who had just explained a new medical topic to a journalist. “I felt really good about the conversation — and then the article came out,” Johnson said.
In the piece, he had been cast as saying that the medical community was over-treating this condition, “which is not what I said.” He realized in that moment that as a physician, he had been taught to communicate what a study finds, not how to act based on those findings. That experience shifted his thinking on how to communicate scientific topics, and he has spent decades trying to move the needle on how others in his field perceive this.
“As scientists we face obstacles. We face the obstacle of scale, so, small projects that we’re asked to generalize. We face the issue of trust. And then we face the issue of values,” Johnson said. “I’ll add a fourth, which is format; the way we choose to reach specific audiences will be different.”
Kevin Johnson is the David L. Cohen University of Pennsylvania Professor in the Departments of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics and Computer and Information Science. As a Penn Integrates Knowlegde (PIK) University Professor, Johnson also holds appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering and Pediatrics, as well as in the Annenberg School of Communication.
The program’s core curriculum focuses on leadership, China, and global affairs, according to the Schwarzman program. The academic program is updated each year to align with current and future geopolitical priorities. The coursework, cultural immersion, and personal and professional development opportunities are designed to equip students with an understanding of China’s changing role in the world.
This year, approximately 151 Schwarzman Scholars were selected from a pool of 3,000 applicants from 36 countries and 121 universities.
Jiaqi Liu earned his master’s degree in bioengineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science in 2021. After graduation, he returned to China and works in global early-stage Venture Capital. According to the Schwarzman Scholars program, Liu is passionate about promoting medical equality and affordable health care solutions and has experience in medtech startup, global pharmaceutical company, health care consulting, and health care venture capital.
This story is by Amanda Mott. Read more about the Schwarzman Scholars at Penn Today.
Cynthia Reinhart-King, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University, was one of a handful of experts invited to take part in the White House Summit in Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing on September 14, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Reinhart-King and her colleagues gathered to discuss “bio-based solutions to global challenges ranging from food security and climate change to health security and supply chain disruptions.”
Penelope earned her Ph.D. in Bioengineering in 2006. She is now Associate Director of STEM Initiatives at Princeton University.
“My time at Penn spoiled me for many job experiences that followed. The Institute for Medicine and Engineering (IME) was collaborative, familial, and stimulating. During my Ph.D. work, I felt simultaneously nurtured and challenged. Most credit for this prolific phase of my career is due to the members of Dr. Paul Janmey’s laboratory during my tenure at Penn – starting with the big man himself. My research mentor promoted a research experience that centered on respect for others, not only within our field of study but also outside the academy. Respect meant the expectation of forming strong relationships and collaborations and having reverence for scientific experts and practitioners alike. The foundation of the lab’s ethos was collaboration for the greater good.
Dr. Janmey set the tone for lab members to hold each other in high regard and to be team players. I would not have been as successful without this support. Beyond the lab, the IME at the time had a remarkable staff assistant in Marvin Jackson who was central to promoting camaraderie across the Institute. Marvin was a critical presence in the IME and I believe that many scientific collaborations were made possible due to the environment he cajoled.
Outside the IME, some the most meaningful moments of my Ph.D. studies came from traveling outside the U.S. to collaborate internationally. I was fortunate to travel as close as Mechanicsville, PA and as far as the Czech Republic to attend meetings, perform experiments, and make connections with colleagues. Through travel and meeting many different types of people, I learned the culture of being in academia and developed a broader view of scientific research.
As of recently, my career has focused on pedagogy in higher education. At Princeton, I serve within an entity that has a central mission of improving science and engineering literacy for all its constituents: the Council on Science and Technology. I develop new science and engineering courses and introduce interactive research-based teaching methods into these courses. I am involved in policy issues on STEM education at Princeton and beyond. The skills I learned at Penn that are critical to my current position are to recognize problems and design innovative solutions and the ability to communicate and collaborate with researchers across many disciplines. I am very grateful to be an alumna of a remarkable program.”
Qazi obtained his Ph.D. at the Technical University of Berlin and the Charité Hospital in Berlin, Germany working on translational approaches for musculoskeletal tissue repair using biomaterials and stem cells under the co-advisement of Georg Duda, Director of the Berlin Institute of Health and David Mooney, Mercator Fellow at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. After arriving at Penn in 2019, Qazi performed research on microscale granular hydrogels in the Polymeric Biomaterials Laboratory of Jason Burdick, Adjunct Professor in Bioengineering at Penn and Bowman Endowed Professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. While conducting postdoctoral research, Qazi also collaborated with the groups of David Issadore, Associate Professor in Bioengineering and in Electrical and Systems Engineering, and Daeyeon Lee, Professor and Evan C. Thompson Term Chair for Excellence in Teaching in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and member of the Penn Bioengineering Graduate Group. Qazi’s postdoctoral research was supported through a fellowship from the German Research Foundation, and resulted in several publications in high-profile journals, including Advanced Materials, Cell Stem Cell, Small, and ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering.
“Taimoor has done really fantastic research as a postdoctoral fellow in the group,” says Burdick. “Purdue has a long history of excellence in biomaterials research and will be a great place for him to build a strong research program.”
Qazi’s future research program will engineer biomaterials to make fundamental and translational advances in musculoskeletal tissue engineering, including the study of how rare tissue-resident cells respond to spatiotemporal signals and participate in tissue repair, and developing modular hydrogels that permit minimally invasive delivery for tissue regeneration. The ultimate goal is to create scalable, translational, and biologically inspired healthcare solutions that benefit a patient population that is expected to grow manifold in the coming years.
Qazi is looking to build a strong and inclusive team of scientists and engineers with diverse backgrounds interested in tackling problems at the interface of translational medicine, materials science, bioengineering, and cell biology, and will be recruiting graduate students immediately. Interested students can contact him directly at email@example.com.
“I am excited to launch my independent research career at a prestigious institution like Purdue,” says Qazi. “Being at Penn and particularly in the Department of Bioengineering greatly helped me prepare for the journey ahead. I am grateful for Jason’s mentorship over the years and the access to resources provided by Jason, Dave Issadore, Ravi, Dave Meany and other faculty which support the training and professional development of postdoctoral fellows in Penn Bioengineering.”
Congratulations to Dr. Qazi from everyone at Penn Bioengineering!
Last week, on a sunny spring day, the 2022 President’s Engagement, Innovation, and Sustainability Prize winners were recognized at a special luncheon, a momentous occasion that hasn’t taken place in-person since 2019. The 12 Prize recipients and their advisers, as well as past Prize winners and Penn leadership, joined together at the University Meeting and Guest House for a meal, good conversation, and celebration.
To the group, as well as family members tuning in through Zoom, Interim President Wendell Pritchett described this year’s winners as exemplifying creativity and leadership. “They epitomize why these prizes are central to the vision we share for Penn,” he said, before distributing handcrafted certificates to each of the six teams.
Eli Moraru, who earned one of the inaugural President’s Sustainability Prizes for his nonprofit The Community Grocer, said the event was uplifting for two main reasons: The first being that he got to network with his fellow PEP/PIP/PSP cohort, and the second being his connection with past Prize winners.
“It’s a real community,” Moraru said, sharing, as an example, how Christina Miranda from Be Body Positive Philly—a winner in the 2021 cohort—approached him expressing her interest in serving as a resource to his team in any way possible.
“It’s just one more reason showcasing how we aren’t alone in this,” Moraru said.
Chosen from an applicant pool of 71 people, the two other President’s Sustainability Prize-winning teams include Saif Khawaja for Shinkei Systems and Sarah Beth Gleeson, Shoshana Weintraub, and Julia Yan for EcoSPIN. Earning a President’s Innovation Prize, which was founded in 2016, is William Kohler Danon and Lukas Achilles Yancopoulos for Grapevine. In 2015, the very first President’s Engagement Prizes were announced. This year, Penn awarded this honor to two teams: Seungkwon Son, Max Strickberger, and Sam Strickberger for College Green Ventures and Manoj Simha and Rowana Miller from Cosmic Writers. Each team receives $100,000 to help get their projects off the ground, plus a $50,000 living stipend post-graduation per person.
In a course from Annenberg’s David Lydon-Staley, seven graduate students conducted single-participant experiments. This approach, what’s known as an “n of 1,” may better capture the nuances of a diverse population than randomized control trials can.
To prep for an upcoming course he was teaching, Penn researcher David Lydon-Staley decided to conduct an experiment: Might melatonin gummies—supplements touted to improve sleep—help him, as an individual, fall asleep faster?
For two weeks, he took two gummies on intervention nights and none on control nights. The point, however, wasn’t really to find out whether the gummies worked for him (which they didn’t), but rather to see how an experiment with a single participant played out, what’s known as an “n of 1.”
Randomized control experiments typically include hundreds or thousands of participants. Their aim is to show, on average, how the intervention being studied affects people in the treatment group. But often “there’s a failure to include women and members of minoritized racial and ethnic groups in those clinical trials,” says Lydon-Staley, an assistant professor in the Annenberg School for Communication. “The single-case approach says, instead of randomizing a lot of people, we’re going to take one person at a time and measure them intensively.”
In Lydon-Staley’s spring semester class, Diversity and the End of Average, seven graduate students conducted their own n-of-1 experiments—on themselves—testing whether dynamic stretching might improve basketball performance or whether yoga might decrease stress. One wanted to understand the effect of journaling on emotional clarity. They also learned about representation in science, plus which analytical approaches might best capture the nuance of a diverse population and individuals with many intersecting identities.
“It’s not just an ‘n of 1’ trying to do what the big studies are doing. It’s a different perspective,” says Lydon-Staley. “Though it’s just one person, you’re getting a much more thorough characterization of how they’re changing from moment to moment.”
With Vivodyne, Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering Dan Huh is translating the organs-on-chips technology into a promising industry venture. Using microfluidic structures that mimic aspects of human physiology, organs-on-chips allow scientists to test therapies on lab-grown human cells. Vivodyne specifically focuses on designing organs-on-chips to create a scalable alternative for pharmaceutical drug testing on animals.
Fast Company now lists it as one of “the 10 most innovative companies with fewer than 10 employees,” saying “Vivodyne is helping major pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline quickly adopt viable alternatives for testing drugs on monkeys.”
Vivodyne, launched in 2021, has created a platform that allows fully automated, complex studies at a far larger scale and lower cost than would be possible with manual experimentation, so pharmaceutical companies can actually test lab-made organs instead of animals in their drug-development processes. When done by hand, only 20 to 40 living tissue samples can be managed in parallel; Vivodyne’s instrument can cultivate, dose, and image more than 2,000 living tissues at once. The company, which raised $4 million in seed funding last year, says its instruments currently play pivotal roles in clinical drug testing for respiratory diseases, cancer treatment, vaccine development, diabetes therapies, and maternal medicine. GlaxoSmithKline, one of Vivodyne’s clients, estimates that for some projects the lab-grown tissues may displace as much as 80% of its animal testing. The company’s ultimate goal? “To supplant the vast majority of animal testing within the next decade,” says CEO Andrei Georgescu.
Recently, Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post spoke with Sizov about the hard work and flexibility it took to propel the company’s successful scaling endeavors: Strella is now monitoring 15 percent of all U.S. apples.
“Sizov, 24, wants to eliminate food waste one fruit at a time. In central Washington, it was an effort that required almost as much quick footwork as the épée squad she captained as a championship fencer in college. One moment, she was trying to beam the sensor’s WiFi signal through the reception black hole of millions of apples, which cause transmission issues because of their high water content. The next, she was sitting down with laconic apple growers with orchards planted generations ago, trying to convince them she could help them avoid wasted fruit. By day’s end, she might be folding her 6-foot frame into the passenger seat of a rental car, balancing her laptop on her knees and trying to win over Silicon Valley investors on Zoom calls using skills she had picked up partly by watching YouTube tutorials.”
Strella Biotechnology was founded by Penn alumna Katherine Sizov (Bio 2019) and was initially developed in the George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory, the biomakerspace and primary teaching lab of the Department of Bioengineering. Sizov and Penn Bioengineering alumna Malika Shukurova (BSE 2019) won a President’s Innovation Prize in 2019. Read more BE blog stories featuring Strella Biotechnology.