Building Devices and a “Sense of Community”: Penn Bioengineering Labs Featured in Technical.ly Philly

Penn Bioengineering juniors work on their ECG devices in BE 3100, Bioengineering Modeling, Analysis and Design Laboratory II (aka BE MAD)
Penn Bioengineering juniors work on their ECG devices in BE 3100, Bioengineering Modeling, Analysis and Design Laboratory II (aka BE MAD)

The George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory & Bio-MakerSpace (aka the Penn BE Labs) played host last week to Sarah Huffman, a local journalist writing for Technical.ly Philly. During her visit to the lab, she chatted with third year undergraduates working on their ECG devices for monitoring breathing and heart rates, and senior design students applying all they’ve learned in their previous three years to their graduation capstone projects. She also got a chance to discuss the classes and learn about the lab’s vision to be a bio-makerspace with Sevile Mannickarottu, Director of Educational Labs for BE, and with David Issadore, Associate Professor in Bioengineering and in Electrical and Systems Engineering and professor of the third year spring lab course:

Journalist Sarah Huffman interviews BE 3100 professor David Issadore.

“’The students all come here and they hang out and they build stuff,’ said David Issadore, associate professor of bioengineering and electrical and systems engineering. ‘This junior-level course is kind of an entry point for their senior design. So next year, all these students are going to take on new projects, and then they all kind of hang around here and they build incredible stuff.’”

The profile of the BE Labs is part of Technical.ly’s 2023 Universities Month, a series focusing on the latest trends and tech in higher education.

Read “Peek into an afternoon at Penn’s collaborative bioengineering lab and makerspace” in Technical.ly.

Read more stories featuring the Penn BE Labs.

Student Spotlight: Jerry Gao

Ego of the Week: Jerry Gao
Jerry Gao (photo credit: Nathaniel Babitts)

Fourth year undergraduate Jerry Gao (BE ’23) is the latest student featured in 34th Street Magazine’s “Ego of the Week” series. Jerry, who hails from Coppell, TX, majors in Bioengineering with a minor in Asian American Studies. In addition to his academic studies, he is passionate about education and literacy, working with The Signal, the Asian Pacific American Leadership Initiative, and the Penn Reading Initiative. In this Q&A, he discusses the sense of community that brought him to Penn, the love of cooking (and gifting food to his friends) that powers his @gaos_chows Instagram account, and his experience as a student and now TA in Penn Bioengineering’s “BE MAD” lab class:

“Now that you’re on your way to graduating, what have been your favorite classes or experiences in Bioengineering or Asian American Studies?

‘In terms of bioengineering, there’s definitely a clear favorite that I have. It’s actually the class I’m a TA for right now. It’s “Bioengineering Modeling, Analysis, and Design,” and it’s basically the lab that all junior bioengineers take. There’s one particular lab we do in the class that always catches everyone’s attention; it’s called the cockroach lab. I think it’s one of the biggest reasons why people want to study bioengineering at Penn in particular.

It’s a segue into prosthetics and different medical devices that can help restore people’s limb functions. We order hundreds of cockroaches and then we put them in a little bit of an ice bath to anesthetize. We amputate their legs, which will essentially serve as our prosthetics, and then implant metal electrodes into two different spots of the leg. Then, we go into our computer program and type different lines of code that can help replicate different signal waves to move the legs. If you submit a wave with a particular frequency and particular amplitude, it’ll cause a leg to move in one direction, and if you do a different combination of the amplitude and frequency, it’ll cause it to move in the other direction. The next task is to trace the end of the leg and try to choreograph the leg to spell the letters B and E for bioengineering. It’s so fun to be able to see what combination of leg movements in the servo motor can form the backbone of the B for example, what can form the three lines of the E. I would say that’s probably my favorite moment in the bioengineering department.'”

Read “Ego of the Week: Jerry Gao” in 34th Street.

“Creativity needs to let go of control”: Penn BE Labs Featured on the Shifting Schools Podcast

Shifting Schools. Sevile Mannickarottu, @PennBELabs. Thanks to our sponsors: STEM Sports & MackinMaker.
Sevile Mannickarottu, Director of Educational Labs, Penn Bioengineering

Sevile Mannickarottu, Director of Educational Laboratories in the Department of Bioengineering (BE), was interviewed in a recent episode of Shifting Schools, a weekly podcast that hosts educators and thought-leaders in conversations about the latest trends in education and EdTech. Mannickarottu, a Penn Engineering alumnus, runs the George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory & Bio-MakerSpace, also known as the Penn BE Labs. In addition to being the primary teaching lab for Penn Bioengineering, the Penn BE Labs has grown into “the world’s only interdisciplinary Bio-MakerSpace.”

Students busy at work in the Penn BE Labs.

MakerSpaces–collaborative, educational work environments–have recently grown in popularity. Penn BE Labs distinguishes itself as a Bio-MakerSpace, embracing the interdisciplinary character of bioengineering by offering itself freely as a space for both academic and personal projects. It is stocked with tools ranging from 3D printers, laser cutters, and electrical equipment, including supplies to support work in molecular biology, physiology, chemistry, and microfluidics.

In the episode, hosts Tricia Friedman and Jeff Utecht talk with Mannickarottu about the organic process by which the Penn BE Labs evolved from a standard teaching space for undergraduate engineering laboratory courses into a student-driven hub of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that is open to the entire Penn community regardless of discipline or major.

A student using the BE Labs' sewing machine for a project.Mannickarottu and his team have found that “creativity needs to let go of control – that’s when fun things happen.” As the lab staff and faculty started to allow more creative freedom in the undergraduate bioengineers’ education, the requests for more supplies started pouring in and the lab’s activities and resources grew.  “Honestly, we’re driven almost entirely by student requests and student demands,” says Mannickarottu. So when a student requested a sewing machine for a project? They went out and bought one, adding to their ever-growing stockpile of tools. Over time, more and more diverse projects have emerged from the BE Labs, many of them going on to win awards and grow beyond Penn’s campus as independent startups.

In case this sounds out of reach for smaller institutions, Mannickarottu shares words of encouragement. “The biggest thing,” he says, “is to allow for creativity on the part of the students.” A lab or program can start their own MakerSpace surprisingly inexpensively and build their inventory over time. His number one recommendation for those looking to replicate the success of Penn BE Labs is to allow students freedom to innovate, and administrators will be drawn to invest in the MakerSpace to allow for even more opportunities for them to create and thrive.

BE Labs logoTo help others get started, the Penn BE Labs staff have put a wide range of resources online, including extensive video and photo archives, FAQ’s, tutorials, information about student projects and startups, and equipment inventories. A 2019 post written for the BE Blog by BE alumna Sophie Burkholder (BSE ‘20 & MSE ‘21) gives the reader tips on “how to build your own MakerSpace for under $1500.”

Though it may currently be “the world’s only interdisciplinary Bio-MakerSpace,” the greatest legacy of the Penn BE Labs would be to be known as the first of many.

Listen to “The legacy of your lab” in Shifting Schools to learn more about the Penn BE Labs and for tips on starting your own MakerSpace.

ToxiSense Wins 2022 Venture Lab Startup Challenge

(From left to right) Startup Challenge sponsor Eric Aroesty with members of Toxisense: Aravind Krishnan, Udit Garg, Andrew Diep-Tran, and Aarush Sahni. (Image: The Wharton School)

Penn’s Venture Lab Startup Challenge awarded its 2022 prize to a sustainable and cost-effective water-testing startup. The venture, ToxiSense, was awarded at a ceremony on April 29, at Tangen Hall, Penn’s hub for student entrepreneurship and innovation.

Co-founded by four first-year students—Aravind Krishnan, Udit Garg, Andrew Diep-Tran, and Aarush Sahni—ToxiSense aims to improve the endotoxin testing required for drinking water and biopharma products through genetically engineering plants with bioluminescent properties. Biopharmaceutical products and drinking water must be tested for endotoxins, the sickness-causing molecule from bacteria. The current method relies on expensive horseshoe crab blood and is environmentally damaging. ToxiSense genetically engineered the Arabidopsis plant to luminesce based on the endotoxin concentration applied to it, serving as a sustainable, cost-effective solution.

ToxiSense was selected from a field of eight finalist teams—including DeToXyFi, Groov, Impact Local, Miren, Nemu, Ossum Technologies, and Shinkei Systems Corp.—who advanced from 30 ventures during the semi-finals portion of the competition, which consisted of a day of virtual pitching and Q&A in front of alumni entrepreneur and investor panels. For the finals, teams pitched to a panel of alumni judges and in front of a live audience of nearly 200 attendees as they competed for over $150,000 in cash and prizes to launch their startups.

“The Startup Challenge is Venture Lab’s premier yearly event, showcasing Penn’s most promising teams of student entrepreneurs,” says Lori Rosenkopf, vice dean of entrepreneurship and Simon and Midge Palley Professor at the Wharton School. “This year’s finalists included undergraduate and graduate students from across the University, and their products offered solutions for environmental, financial, health, and social challenges. These motivated teams capture the spirit of Penn entrepreneurship—innovative, interdisciplinary, inclusive—and we offer our congratulations and our optimistic wishes for their futures.”

Read more at The Wharton School.

Udit Garg (Class of 2025) is a rising second year student in Bioengineering.

Some work for this project was done in the George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory & Bio-MakerSpace, the primary teaching lab for the Department of Bioengineering.

Ossum Technologies includes Ananya Dewan, Hoang Le, Shiva Teerdhala, all students in the Vagelos Life Sciences and Management Program, Bioengineering major Karan Shah and Savan Patel, a student in the Jerome Fisher Program for Management & Technology.

2022 Penn Engineering Senior Design Project Competition Winners Announced

by Ebonee Johnson

Each year, Penn Engineering’s seniors present their Senior Design projects, a year-long effort that challenges them to test and develop solutions to real-world problems, to their individual departments. The top three projects from each department go on to compete in the annual Senior Design Competition, sponsored by the Engineering Alumni Society, which involves pitching projects to a panel of judges who evaluate their potential in the market.

This year’s panel included 42 judges, 21 in-person and 21 online, who weighed in on 18 projects. Each winning team received a $2,000 prize, generously sponsored by Penn Engineering alumnus Kerry Wisnosky.

This year, Bioengineering teams won two of the four interdepartmental awards.

Technology & Innovation Award

This award recognized the team whose project represents the highest and best use of technology and innovation to leverage engineering principles.

Team Modulo Prosthetics with Vijay Kumar, Dean of Penn Engineering, and Lyle Brunhofer, Chair of the 2022 Senior Design Competition Committee.

Winner: Team Modulo Prosthetics
Department: Bioengineering
Team Members: Alisha Agarwal, Michelle Kwon, Gary Lin, Ian Ong, Zachary Spalding
Mentor: Michael Hast
Instructors: Sevile Mannickarottu, David Meaney, Michael Siedlik
Abstract: Modulo Prosthetic is an adjustable, low-cost, thumb prosthetic with integrated haptic feedback that attaches to the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint of partial hand amputees and assists in activities of daily living (ADLs).

Leadership Award

This award recognizes the team which most professionally and persuasively presents their group project to incorporate a full analysis of their project’s scope, advantages and challenges, as well as addresses the research’s future potential and prospects for commercialization.

Team ReiniSpec with Vijay Kumar, Dean of Penn Engineering, and Lyle Brunhofer, Chair of the 2022 Senior Design Competition Committee.

Winner: Team ReiniSpec
Department: Bioengineering
Team Members: Caitlin Frazee, Caroline Kavanagh, Ifeoluwa Popoola, Alexa Rybicki, Michelle White
Mentor: JeongInn Park
Instructors: Sevile Mannickarottu, David Meaney, Michael Siedlik
Abstract: ReiniSpec is a redesigned speculum to improve the gynecological exam experience, increasing patient comfort with a silicone shell and using motorized arm adjustments to make it easily adjustable for each patient, while also incorporating a camera, lights, and machine learning to aid in better diagnosis by gynecologists.

Read the full list of competition winners in Penn Engineering Today.

 The 2022 Senior Design Competition Committee was chaired by Lyle Brunhofer, Penn Engineering Alumni Society Board Member and alumnus of Penn Bioengineering (BSE 2014, Master’s 2015).

Work for these and all Bioengineering senior design projects was conducted in the George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory & Bio-MakerSpace, the primary teaching lab for the Department of Bioengineering. Learn more about all eleven 2022 senior design projects in Bioengineering here.

2022 Penn Bioengineering Senior Design Teams Win Multiple Accolades

After a year of hybrid learning, Penn Bioengineering (BE) seniors were excited to return to the George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory & Bio-MakerSpace for Senior Design (BE 495 & 496), a two-semester course in which students work in teams to conceive, design and pitch their capstone projects in bioengineering. This year’s projects include tools for monitoring health, software to improve communication for the healthcare and supply chain industries, and devices to improve patient care for women and underrepresented minorities.

The year culminated in the annual Senior Design Expo on April 13 in the Singh Center for Nanotechnology, in which the students presented their pitches to a panel of alumni judges, followed by demonstrations in the George H. Stephenson  Foundation Educational Laboratory & Bio-MakerSpace which were open to the entire Penn community. This year’s winners of the Bioengineering Senior Design Competition were teams Chrysalis, Modulo Prosthetics, and ReiniSpec.

Team 11 (ReiniSpec) From L to R: Ifeoluwa Popoola, Alexa Rybicki, JeongInn Park (TA), Caitlin Frazee, Michelle White, Caroline Kavanagh (on laptop).

The three winning teams went on to compete in the annual interdepartmental Senior Design Competition sponsored by the Penn Engineering Alumni Society. BE took home two of the four interdepartmental awards: Team Modulo Prosthetics won the “Technology and Innovation Prize,” recognizing the project which best represents the highest and best use of technology and innovation to leverage engineering principles; and Team ReiniSpec won the “Leadership Prize,” which recognizes the team which most professionally and persuasively presents their group project to incorporate a full analysis of their project scope, advantages, and challenges, and addresses the commercialization and future potential of their research.

All BE teams were also required to submit their projects to local and national competitions, and were met with resounding success. “The creativity and accomplishment of this Senior Design class is really unparalleled,” said David Meaney, Solomon R. Pollack Professor in Bioengineering, Senior Associate Dean of Penn Engineering, and instructor for Senior Design. “The number of accolades received by these students, as well as the interest in transforming their ideas into real products for patients, reached a new level that makes us extremely proud.”

Keep reading for a full list of this year’s projects and awards.

Team 1 – MEViD

MEViD (Multichannel Electrochemical Viral Diagnostic) is a modular, low cost device that leverages electrochemistry to rapidly diagnose viral diseases from saliva samples.

Team members: Yuzheng (George) Feng, Daphne Kontogiorgos-Heintz, Carisa Shah, Pranshu Suri, & Rachel Zoneraich

Team 2 – MOD EZ-IO

MOD EZ-IO is a low-cost, novel intraosseous drill that uses force and RPM readings to alert the user via an LED when they have breached cortical bone and entered cancellous bone, guiding proper IO placement.

Team members: Gregory Glova, Kaiser Okyan, Patrick Paglia, Rohan Vemu, & Tshepo Yane

Team 3 – Harvest by Grapevine

Harvest by Grapevine is a user-centric software solution that merges social network communication and supply chain logistics to connect hospitals and suppliers under one unified platform.

Team members: Nicole Bedanova, Kerry Blatney, Blake Grimes, Brenner Maull, & Lukas Yancopoulos

Team 4 – CliniCall

CliniCall helps streamline and centralize communication channels, offering a real-time monitoring device that enables on-site/attending physicians to communicate with on-call physicians through a livestream of patients and data.

Team members: Neepa Gupta, Santoshi Kandula, Sue Yun Lee, & Ronil Synghal

Team 5 – PneuSonus

PneuSonus is a low-cost, user-friendly wearable strap that aids in detecting pediatric pneumonia by using frequency analysis of sound waves transmitted through the lungs to identify specific properties related to fluid presence, a valid indicator specific to pneumonia.

Team members: Iman Hossain, Kelly Lopez, Sophia Mark, Simi Serfati, & Nicole Wojnowski

Team 6 – Chrysalis

Chrysalis is a smart swaddle system comprising an electric swaddle and accompanying iOS application that comforts neonatal abstinence syndrome infants via stochastic resonance and maternal heartbeat vibrational patterns to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms without pharmacological intervention or constant nurse oversight as well as streamlines the Eat, Sleep, Console documentation process for nurses.

Team members: Julia Dunn, Rachel Gu, Julia Lasater, & Carolyn Zhang

Team 7 – EquitOx

EquitOx is a revolutionized fingertip pulse oximeter designed for EMS that addresses racial inequality in medicine through the use of one-off tongue-calibrated SpO2 measurements.

Team members: Ronak Bhagia, Estelle Burkhardt, Juliette Hooper, Caroline Smith, & Kevin Zhao

Team 8 – Modulo Prosthetics

Modulo Prosthetic is an adjustable, low-cost, thumb prosthetic with integrated haptic feedback that attaches to the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint of partial hand amputees and assists in activities of daily living (ADLs).

Team members: Alisha Agarwal, Michelle Kwon, Gary Lin, Ian Ong, & Zachary Spalding

Team 9 – Cor-Assist By Cygno Technologies

COR-ASSIST by Cygno Technologies is a low-cost intra-aortic balloon enhancement that directly supports heart function by increasing cardiac output to 2.8L/min, at a much lower cost and bleeding risk than the current Impella cardiac assist device.

Team members: Francesca Cimino, Allen Gan, Shawn Kang, Kristina Khaw, & William Zhang

Team 10 – Pedalytics

Pedalytics Footwear is a rechargeable sandal that continuously monitors foot health and prevents diabetic foot ulcer formation by novelly tracking three key metrics indicative of ulceration, temperature, oxygen saturation, and pressure, and sending alerts to patients via the Pedalytics app when metric abnormalities are detected.

Team members: Samantha Brosler, Constantine Constantinidis, Quincy Hendricks, Ananyaa Kumar, & María José Suárez

Team 11 – ReiniSpec

ReiniSpec is a redesigned speculum to improve the gynecological exam experience, increasing patient comfort with a silicone shell and using motorized arm adjustments to make it easily adjustable for each patient, while also incorporating a camera, lights, and machine learning to aid in better diagnosis by gynecologists.

Team members: Caitlin Frazee, Caroline Kavanagh, Ifeoluwa Popoola, Alexa Rybicki, & Michelle White

Learn more about the 2022 Senior Design projects, including full abstracts and photo gallery, on the Stephenson Bio-MakerSpace website.

Watch all the 2022 project pitches on the BE Labs Youtube channel 2022 Senior Design Playlist:

2022 Undergraduate Awards for Bioengineering Students

2022 Bioengineering student award winners

Congratulations to the Bioengineering undergraduate student recipients of awards from the School of School of Engineering and Applied Science  for the 2021-2022 academic year. These  awards are given annually by the school and the department in recognition of outstanding scholarship and service. Read the full list of Bioengineering undergraduate award winners below.

The Wolf-Hallac Award: Neepa Gupta (BAS 2022). This award was established in October 2000 to recognize the graduating female senior from across Penn Engineering’s departments who is seen as a role model, has achieved a high GPA (in the top 10% of their class), and who has demonstrated a commitment to school and/or community.

The Hugo Otto Wolf Memorial Prize: Ian Ong (BSE 2022) and Iman Hossian (BSE 2022). This prize is awarded to one or more members of each department’s senior class, distinguishing students who meet with great approval of the professors at large through “thoroughness and originality” in their work.

The Herman P. Schwan Award: George Feng (BSE and Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology 2022). This department award honors a graduating senior who demonstrates the “highest standards of scholarship and academic achievement.”

Exceptional Service Awards recognize students for their outstanding service to the University and their larger communities: Estelle Burkhardt (BSE 2022), Khristina Khaw (BSE 2022), Zachary Spalding (BSE 2022), and Nicole Wojnowski (BSE 2022).

The Student Leadership Award: Kerry Blatney (BSE 2022). This award is given annually to a student in Bioengineering who has demonstrated, through a combination of academic performance, service, leadership, and personal qualities, that they will be a credit to the Department, the School, and the University.

The Engineering Alumni Society E. Stuart Eichert, Jr. Student Award: Gloria Lee (BSE 2023). This award is given annually by the Engineering Alumni Society to a Penn Engineering third-year student who best exemplifies the characteristics of selfless service to the University and the community.

Additionally, the Bioengineering Department  also presents a single lab group 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 Caitlin Frazee (BSE 2022), Ifeoluwa Poppola (BSE 2022), Alexa Rybicki (BSE 2022), and Michelle White (2022).

Three Bioengineering Senior Design teams were chosen for recognition in the Bioengineering Senior Design Competition:

Team Chrysalis: Team members Julia Dunn, Rachel Gu, Julia Lasater, & Carolyn Zhang. Chrysalis is a smart swaddle system comprising an electric swaddle and accompanying iOS application that comforts neonatal abstinence syndrome infants via stochastic resonance and maternal heartbeat vibrational patterns to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms without pharmacological intervention or constant nurse oversight as well as streamlines the Eat, Sleep, Console documentation process for nurses.

Team Modulo Prosthetics: Team members Alisha Agarwal, Michelle Kwon, Gary Lin, Ian Ong, & Zachary Spalding. Modulo Prosthetic is an adjustable, low-cost, thumb prosthetic with integrated haptic feedback that attaches to the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint of partial hand amputees and assists in activities of daily living (ADLs).

Team ReiniSpec: Team members Caitlin Frazee, Caroline Kavanagh, Ifeoluwa Popoola, Alexa Rybicki, & Michelle White. ReiniSpec is a redesigned speculum to improve the gynecological exam experience, increasing patient comfort with a silicone shell and using motorized arm adjustments to make it easily adjustable for each patient, while also incorporating a camera, lights, and machine learning to aid in better diagnosis by gynecologists.

Research for these projects was conducted in the George H. Stephenson Foundation Education Laboratory & Bio-Maker Space. Read the full abstracts and watch the pitch videos for all the 2022 Senior Design projects on the Stephenson Bio-MakerSpace website.

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

Strella Biotechnology Continues Scaling Up

Katherine Sizov (right) and Malika Shukurova (left) earned the 2019 President’s Innovation Prize for their startup, Strella Biotechnology.

“Fruit hacking” startup Strella Biotechnology, founded by students and faculty advisors from the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) and the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), tackles food waste by monitoring fruit ripeness. No stranger to media coverage, Strella and co-founder Katherine Sizov have previously been spotlighted for receiving the 2019 President’s Innovation Prize, which included $100,000 of financial support, a $50,000 living stipend for both awardees, and a year of dedicated co-working and lab space at the Pennovation Center. 

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.”

Read Michael Birnbaum’s Fighting food waste, one apple at a time” for more about Sizov’s motivation, background and process.

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.

Penn Takes Part in National Science Foundation’s First I-Corps Hubs

by Evan Lerner

A decade ago, the National Science Foundation started its Innovation Corps program to help translate academic research into the wider world. Functioning as a national start-up accelerator, I-Corps provides training and funding to researchers who have a vision for applying their ideas, starting businesses and maximizing social impact. 

Several successful start-ups launched by Penn Engineering students, including Strella BiotechnologyInventXYZ, and Percepta AI have participated in the I-Corps program.

Now, to further develop innovation ecosystems and share regional resources, the NSF has launched a network of five I-Corps Hubs.

Penn is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Hub, which will be led by the University of Maryland at College Park, and include Carnegie Mellon University, George Washington University, Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, North Carolina State University, Penn State, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Virginia Tech.

The Penn Center for Innovation is currently accepting applications to join the next I-Corps cohort, which begins in October 2021. Teams will receive up to $2,000 to support their start-up, and can apply online.

This story originally appeared in Penn Engineering Today.

N.B.:  Founded by Penn alumna Katherine Sizov (Bio 2019) and winner of a 2019 President’s Innovation Prize, Strella Biotech seeks to reduce food waste through innovative biosensors, and was initially developed in the George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory, the bio-makerspace and primary teaching lab of the Department of Bioengineering. Read more BE blog stories featuring Strella Biotechnology.

Alumni Spotlight: Jane Shmushkis

Jane graduated in Fall 2017 with both a B.S.E. in Bioengineering (with a Medical Devices Concentration) and M.S.E. in Bioengineering. Jane is currently an Automation Engineer at Mosa Meat (Maastricht, Netherlands) working on laboratory tools to scale up cultured beef production. Formerly, she was a Research & Development Engineer at Opentrons (Brooklyn, New York) working on affordable robots for life sciences research. She is also an instructor with Genspace Community Biology Lab (Brooklyn, New York).

Jane Shmushkis (BSE/MSE 2017)

“While at Penn, I worked in the Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory and Bio-MakerSpace and in the Chow Lab as a student researcher. The educational lab was a free space to mess around with rapid prototyping tools, including 3D printing, laser cutting, Arduino, and much more. The experience in synthetic biology research encouraged me to think of biology with an engineering lens and to have the confidence to plan my own experiments. The people I got to work with at the BioMakerSpace and the Chow Lab kept me optimistic through challenging semesters and excited to learn.

With this excitement to keep learning, I decided to submatriculate into the Bioengineering Master’s program. Because of the program’s flexibility, I could choose from a mix of project-based courses, like Biomechatronics and Modeling Biological Systems, and literature-based courses, like Tissue Engineering and Musculoskeletal Bioengineering. Outside of Bioengineering, I took classes to sharpen skills in part fabrication (Machine Design and Manufacturing) and programming (Computer Vision & Computational Photography). This breadth helped me realize how much I could do with a foundation in coding and mechanical design and an understanding of the life sciences.

Beyond Penn Engineering, I was involved in Penn Dance Company, CityStep Penn, and the Science & Technology Wing. Penn Dance was a necessary break for my body and mind. CityStep was a way to connect with the larger Philadelphia community through performing arts. STWing showed me how playful engineering can be. After a couple years on campus, I also built up the confidence to bike off campus. If you have a good helmet and quick reflexes, I really recommend it to explore more of Philly!”

This post is part of BE’s Alumni Spotlight series. Read more testimonies from BE Alumni on the BE website.