Engineering Diversity

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Ameer Wins 2022 Bioactive Materials Lifetime Achievement Award
Guillermo Ameer | May 16, 2022

Northwestern Engineering’s Guillermo A. Ameer has been named the 2022 Bioactive Materials Lifetime Achievement Award winner by the Bioactive Materials academic journal.

Established in 2021, the annual Bioactive Materials Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes excellence in research and development in the field of bioactive materials. The award is presented to a person judged to have demonstrated excellence and leadership in bioactive materials, including basic science and translation to practice.

Study estimates effectiveness of 2-dose and 3-dose mRNA vaccination against Omicron
Delphine Dean | May 12, 2022

In a recent study posted to the medRxiv* preprint server, researchers estimated the efficacy of two-dose and three-dose regimens of two messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines: Moderna’s mRNA-1273 and Pfizer-BioNTech’s BNT162b2 against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron variant.

Omicron (B.1.1529) has demonstrated higher infectivity compared to other SARS-CoV-2 variants. In addition, studies have reported lower Omicron neutralization by the existing COVID-19 vaccines. Despite this, it is not clear just how much protection the COVID-19 vaccine confers against Omicron infections.

Expanding the Oval and Opening Doors: The Inauguration of Olin President Gilda Barabino
Gilda Barabino | May 9, 2022

On May 5, 2022, Olin College celebrated a milestone event two years in the making—the long-awaited and much celebrated inauguration of its second president and first Black woman president, Dr. Gilda A. Barabino.

Joined by delegates, trustees, students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents and guests from far and wide, the Olin Community gathered on a perfect New England spring day to hear personal stories and words of wisdom from honored guests, and to witness to President Barabino’s formal investiture ceremony.

New Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Education
Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert | May 6, 2022

On July 1, Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert, PhD, will join UW Medicine as the new vice dean for Research and Graduate Education. She succeeds John Slattery, PhD, who is retiring after holding the position since 2005. Her husband, Don Elbert, PhD, will also join UW Medicine as an associate professor in the Department of Neurology.

“I am delighted that Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert has accepted the position of vice dean for Research and Graduate Education,” says Paul Ramsey, MD, CEO of UW Medicine. “She was selected after a national search for her outstanding skills in leading interdisciplinary and translational research and supporting the career development of faculty, staff, trainees and students. I also want to thank John Slattery for his long service and great success in building an internationally renowned research community at UW Medicine to advance biomedical science.”

Alyssa Panitch Chosen as Chair of Coulter BME
Alyssa Panitch | May 3, 2022

Alyssa Panitch, Edward Teller Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of California, Davis, has been selected as the new chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Panitch currently serves as executive associate dean of academic personnel and planning in the College of Engineering at UC Davis. The position oversees the merit and promotion process and all matters related to faculty and academic affairs, including faculty and academic personnel hiring.

Sweat Sensor Makes Big Strides in Detecting Infection Indicators
Shalini Prasad | April 29, 2022

University of Texas at Dallas bioengineers in collaboration with EnLiSense LLC have designed a wearable sensor that can detect two key biomarkers of infection in human sweat, a significant step toward making it possible for users to receive early warnings of infections such as COVID-19 and influenza.

The Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science researchers’ study, published online March 3 in Advanced Materials Technologies, demonstrates that the sweat sensor can identify the biomarkers interferon-gamma-inducible protein (IP-10) and tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). Elevated levels of IP-10 and TRAIL indicate what is known as a cytokine storm, a surge of pro-inflammatory immune proteins generated in the most serious infections.

Raphael C. Lee elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2022
Raphael Lee | April 29, 2022

Seven members of the University of Chicago faculty have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies.

They include Profs. Christopher R. Berry, Raphael C. Lee, Peter B. Littlewood, Richard Neer, Sianne Ngai and Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, and Prof. Emerita Wadad Kadi.

These scholars have made breakthroughs in fields ranging from condensed matter physics to biomedical engineering and the aesthetics of capitalism. They join the 2022 class of 261 individuals, announced April 28, which includes artists, scholars, scientists, and leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors.

In addition to Rossi-Hansberg, AM’98, PhD’02, 13 UChicago alumni were also elected as part of this year’s class.

Plug-and-play organ-on-a-chip can be customized to the patient
Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic | April 27, 2022

Engineered tissues have become a critical component for modeling diseases and testing the efficacy and safety of drugs in a human context. A major challenge for researchers has been how to model body functions and systemic diseases with multiple engineered tissues that can physiologically communicate — just like they do in the body. However, it is essential to provide each engineered tissue with its own environment so that the specific tissue phenotypes can be maintained for weeks to months, as required for biological and biomedical studies. Making the challenge even more complex is the necessity of linking the tissue modules together to facilitate their physiological communication, which is required for modeling conditions that involve more than one organ system, without sacrificing the individual engineered tissue environments.

Novel plug-and-play multi-organ chip, customized to the patient

Up to now, no one has been able to meet both conditions. Today, a team of researchers from Columbia Engineering and Columbia University Irving Medical Center reports that they have developed a model of human physiology in the form of a multi-organ chip consisting of engineered human heart, bone, liver, and skin that are linked by vascular flow with circulating immune cells, to allow recapitulation of interdependent organ functions. The researchers have essentially created a plug-and-play multi-organ chip, which is the size of a microscope slide, that can be customized to the patient. Because disease progression and responses to treatment vary greatly from one person to another, such a chip will eventually enable personalized optimization of therapy for each patient. The study is the cover story of the April 2022 issue of Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Can a blood test help diagnose skin cancer?
Sunitha Nagrath | April 20, 2022

New research in Advanced NanoBiomed Research indicates that testing an individual’s blood can reveal the presence of circulating melanoma cells. Such tests may allow patients to forego invasive skin biopsies to determine whether they have skin cancer.

The test uses what’s called the Melanoma-specific OncoBean platform conjugated with melanoma-specific antibodies. Investigators at the University of Michigan showed that the test can be used not only to diagnose melanoma but also to evaluate whether all cancer cells have been successfully removed after skin cancer surgery.

Tumors partially destroyed with sound don’t come back
Zhen Xu | April 18, 2022

Noninvasive sound technology developed at the University of Michigan breaks down liver tumors in rats, kills cancer cells and spurs the immune system to prevent further spread—an advance that could lead to improved cancer outcomes in humans.

By destroying only 50% to 75% of liver tumor volume, the rats’ immune systems were able to clear away the rest, with no evidence of recurrence or metastases in more than 80% of animals.

“Even if we don’t target the entire tumor, we can still cause the tumor to regress and also reduce the risk of future metastasis,” said Zhen Xu, professor of biomedical engineering at U-M and corresponding author of the study in Cancers.

Innovative Therapy that “Tricks” and Destroys Cancer Cells Advances to Clinical Trial
Kathleen Schmainda | April 8, 2022

A novel therapy studied at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Cancer Center has led to a clinical trial for the treatment of glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, yet the most common primary brain tumor in adults.

Despite decades of research globally, only incremental gains have been made to extend or enhance quality of life for patients with glioblastoma. Treatment options are limited and typically include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Now, a new clinical study open at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin will evaluate an alternative treatment that is administered orally.

Study reveals the dynamics of human milk production
Bonnie Berger | April 5, 2022

For the first time, MIT researchers have performed a large-scale, high-resolution study of the cells in breast milk, allowing them to track how these cells change over time in nursing mothers.

By analyzing human breast milk produced between three days and nearly two years after childbirth, the researchers were able to identify a variety of changes in gene expression in mammary gland cells. Some of these changes were linked to factors such as hormone levels, illness of the mother or baby, the mother starting birth control, and the baby starting daycare.

“We were able to take this really long view of lactation that other studies haven’t really done, and we showed that milk does change over the entire course of lactation, even after years of milk production,” says Brittany Goods, a former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor of engineering at Dartmouth College, and one of the senior authors of the study.

Human Factors Drive Radiology Error Rates
Elizabeth Krupinski | March 25, 2022

In 1949, radiologist Leo Henry Garland, MD, former RSNA president, published his first of several articles on errors in radiology. Among his findings, Dr. Garland discovered that experienced radiologists would miss important findings in approximately 30% of chest radiographs positive for radiologic evidence of disease. The ensuing decades saw the development of contrast agents, the introduction of CT and MRI, and other major advances.

But despite these technological advances, along with vast gains in knowledge about human biology and disease processes, error rates in radiology have remained largely unchanged from Dr. Garland’s time, according to Michael A. Bruno, MD, vice chair for quality and safety, and chief of emergency radiology at Penn State University.

Injectable electrodes could prevent deadly heart arrhythmias
Elizabeth Cosgriff-Hernandez | March 25, 2022

Heart attacks and strokes triggered by electrical misfiring in the heart are among the biggest killers on the planet. Now, researchers have created a “liquid wire” that, when injected into pig hearts, can guide the organs to a normal rhythm.

The results, presented here this week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, are “impressive and really cool,” says Thomas Mansell, a biomolecular engineer at Iowa State University who was not involved with the work. “It’s an exciting study,” agrees Usha Tedrow, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Harvard Medical School, also not involved in the work. If the findings translate to people, she says, it could save thousands of lives each year.

In animal study, implant churns out CAR-T cells to combat cancer
Frances Ligler | March 24, 2022

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed an implantable biotechnology that produces and releases CAR-T cells for attacking cancerous tumors. In a proof-of-concept study involving lymphoma in mice, the researchers found that treatment with the implants was faster and more effective than conventional CAR-T cell cancer treatment.

T cells are part of the immune system, tasked with identifying and destroying cells in the body that have become infected with an invading pathogen. CAR-T cells are T cells that have been engineered to identify cancer cells and destroy them. CAR-T cells are already in clinical use for treating lymphomas, and there are many clinical trials under way focused on using CAR-T cell treatments against other forms of cancer.

Nanotechnology helps soybean growers and the environment
Cristina Sabliov | March 4, 2022

Louisiana farmers rely on herbicides, pesticides and fungicides to protect their crops against weeds, insects and diseases. Even though most farmers try to be good stewards of the environment, some of those chemicals inevitably end up in waterways, or elsewhere, instead of benefiting the plants. To address this problem, LSU Professor Cristina Sabliov is working on technologies for more targeted delivery of agrochemicals to crops, to prevent waste—a cost issue for farmers—while protecting plants, yields and the environment.

Sabliov develops nanoparticles that are smaller than the eye can see—about a thousand times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. These tiny delivery systems can attach to specific parts of a plant, such as the root or the leaves, and deposit a small but significant payload to be released either immediately or over time.

‘Tuning’ gel-forming protein molecules to boost their versatility for biomedical applications
Jin Kim Montclare | February 16, 2022

Self-assembling protein molecules are versatile materials for medical applications because their ability to form gels can be accelerated or retarded by variations in pH, as well as changes in temperature or ionic strength. These biomaterials, responsive to physiological conditions, can therefore be easily adapted for applications where their effectiveness depends on gelation kinetics, such as how quickly and under what stimuli they form gels.

Understanding gelation kinetics for protein hydrogels is important for assessing their utility in medical applications and in the future of biomaterials. For example, fast-gelling systems are clinically useful for in situ gelation for the delivery of drugs or genetic material to target cells or anatomic regions, while slower-gelling systems are applicable for tissue engineering because of their ability to maintain cell viability and their propensity to maintain homogeneity.

Size matters in particle treatments of traumatic injuries
Paula Hammond | February 16, 2022

Traumatic injuries are the leading cause of death in the U.S. among people 45 and under, and such injuries account for more than 3 million deaths per year worldwide. To reduce the death toll of such injuries, many researchers are working on injectable nanoparticles that can home in on the site of an internal injury and attract cells that help to stop the bleeding until the patient can reach a hospital for further treatment.

While some of these particles have shown promise in animal studies, none have been tested in human patients yet. One reason for that is a lack of information regarding the mechanism of action and potential safety of such particles. To shed more light on those factors, MIT chemical engineers have now performed the first systematic study of how different-sized polymer nanoparticles circulate in the body and interact with platelets, the cells that promote blood clotting.

Nola Hylton, PhD Inducted into the National Academy of Engineering
Nola Hylton | February 14, 2022

The UC San Francisco Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging is pleased to announce that Nola Hylton, PhD has been inducted into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), Class of 2022. Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer.

Dr. Hylton is a professor in residence at UCSF Radiology and director of the Breast Imaging Research Group. Dr. Hylton’s impressive accomplishments include being an internationally known leader and recognized authority in the field of breast MRI for over 20 years. Election of new NAE members is the culmination of a yearlong process. A ballot is set in December with the final vote for membership during January. Dr. Hylton was elected to the NAE based on the following.

Rena Bizios elected to National Academy of Engineering
Rena Bizios | February 14, 2022

Rena Bizios, Lutcher Brown Endowed Chair Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) as part of the 2022 induction class.

Election to the NAE is one of the foremost professional accomplishments in the field and is reserved for those who demonstrate significant contributions to the engineering literature and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education”. Professor Bizios was recognized for her “contributions to the theory and applications of cellular tissue engineering, cell/biomaterial interactions, and surface modification biomaterials.

Research advances technology of AI assistance for anesthesiologists
Emery Brown | February 14, 2022

A new study by researchers at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) suggests the day may be approaching when advanced artificial intelligence systems could assist anesthesiologists in the operating room.

In a special edition of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, the team of neuroscientists, engineers, and physicians demonstrated a machine learning algorithm for continuously automating dosing of the anesthetic drug propofol. Using an application of deep reinforcement learning, in which the software’s neural networks simultaneously learned how its dosing choices maintain unconsciousness and how to critique the efficacy of its own actions, the algorithm outperformed more traditional software in sophisticated, physiology-based simulations of patients. It also closely matched the performance of real anesthesiologists when showing what it would do to maintain unconsciousness given recorded data from nine real surgeries.

New tool harnesses immune cells from tumors to effectively fight cancer
Shana Kelley | January 28, 2022

Northwestern scientists have developed a new tool to harness immune cells from tumors to fight cancer rapidly and effectively, published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Their findings showed a dramatic shrinkage in tumors in mice compared to traditional cell therapy methods. With a novel microfluidic device that could be 3D printed, the team multiplied, sorted through and harvested hundreds of millions of cells, recovering 400 percent more of the tumor-eating cells than current approaches.

Achilefu recruited to lead new Department of Biomedical Engineering
Sam Achilefu | January 26, 2022

Molecular imaging expert Samuel Achilefu, Ph.D., will join UT Southwestern Feb. 1 as the first Chair of a new Department of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Achilefu was recruited to UTSW from the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

He worked at Washington University for more than 20 years, most recently as a Professor of Radiology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, and Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics. He also served as Chief of the Optical Radiology Laboratory, Vice Chair for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, and co-leader of the Oncologic Imaging Program of the Siteman Cancer Center. Recently, Dr. Achilefu was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

Researchers pilot ‘itty bitty’ device for earlier ovarian cancer detection
Jennifer Barton | January 18, 2022

Due to a lack of effective screening and diagnostic tools, more than three-fourths of ovarian cancer cases are not found until the cancer is in an advanced stage. As a result, fewer than half of all women with ovarian cancer survive more than five years after diagnosis.

Jennifer Barton, director of the University of Arizona BIO5 Institute and Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Engineering, has spent years developing a device small enough to image the fallopian tubes – narrow ducts connecting the uterus to the ovaries – and search for signs of early-stage cancer. Dr. John Heusinkveld has now used the new imaging device in study participants for the first time, as part of a pilot human trial.

Nanotherapy offers new hope for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes
Guillermo Ameer | January 17, 2022

Individuals living with Type 1 diabetes must carefully follow prescribed insulin regimens every day, receiving injections of the hormone via syringe, insulin pump or some other device. And without viable long-term treatments, this course of treatment is a lifelong sentence.

Pancreatic islets control insulin production when blood sugar levels change, and in Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys such insulin-producing cells. Islet transplantation has emerged over the past few decades as a potential cure for Type 1 diabetes. With healthy transplanted islets, Type 1 diabetes patients may no longer need insulin injections, but transplantation efforts have faced setbacks as the immune system continues to eventually reject new islets. Current immunosuppressive drugs offer inadequate protection for transplanted cells and tissues and are plagued by undesirable side effects.

Accomplished biomedical engineer, academic leader named Brown School of Engineering dean
Tejal Desai | January 12, 2022

Tejal Desai, an accomplished biomedical engineer and academic leader who earned a bachelor’s degree with Brown’s Class of 1994, has been appointed the next dean of Brown University’s School of Engineering.

An expert in applying micro- and nanoscale technologies to create new ways to deliver medicine to targeted sites in the human body, Desai is a professor and a former longtime chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at the University of California San Francisco, and inaugural director of UCSF’s Health Innovations Via Engineering (HIVE) initiative.

Ultrashort-pulse lasers kill bacterial superbugs, spores
Samuel Achilefu | November 23, 2021

Life-threatening bacteria are becoming ever more resistant to antibiotics, making the search for alternatives to antibiotics an increasingly urgent challenge. For certain applications, one alternative may be a special type of laser.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that lasers that emit ultrashort pulses of light can kill multidrug-resistant bacteria and hardy bacterial spores. The findings, available online in the Journal of Biophotonics, open up the possibility of using such lasers to destroy bacteria that are hard to kill by other means. The researchers previously have shown that such lasers don’t damage human cells, making it possible to envision using the lasers to sterilize wounds or disinfect blood products.

A Stunning 3D Map Of Blood Vessels And Cells In A Mouse Skull Could Help Scientists Make New Bones
Warren Grayson | November 19, 2021

Johns Hopkins Medicine scientists have used glowing chemicals and other techniques to create a 3D map of the blood vessels and self-renewing “stem” cells that line and penetrate a mouse skull. The map provides precise locations of blood vessels and stem cells that scientists could eventually use to repair wounds and generate new bone and tissue in the skull.

“We need to see what’s happening inside the skull, including the relative locations of blood vessels and cells and how their organization changes during injury and over time,” says Warren Grayson, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Laboratory for Craniofacial and Orthopaedic Tissue Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His lab focuses on developing biomaterials and transplanting stem cells into the skull to re-create missing bone tissue.

New imaging technology could buy time for pancreatic cancer patients
Marvin Doyley | November 18, 2021

The insidiousness of pancreatic cancer is how it develops without showing any definitive symptoms. In most cases, by the time it is diagnosed, it is beyond cure.

And yet, for 10 to 20 percent of patients, pancreatic cancer is caught soon enough, before it has metastasized. This provides surgeons a narrow window of time to try to treat the tumors, shrinking them enough to safely remove them.

University of Rochester engineers, imaging scientists, surgeons, and immunologists are working together on a novel imaging technology to help surgeons make the most of that narrow time frame before the cancer spreads.

Sylvia Wilson Thomas named interim VP of Research & Innovation
Sylvia Wilson Thomas | November 17, 2021

USF President Rhea Law has named College of Engineering Professor Sylvia Wilson Thomas, a pioneering researcher whose national leadership and advocacy is opening the field of engineering to historically underrepresented students, as interim vice president for USF Research & Innovation.

In her new duties, Dr. Thomas will lead the division of the university responsible for managing research proposals, grants and contracts, as well as USF’s thriving innovation enterprise, which consists of the Technology Transfer Office, the USF Research Park and the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator. Already a member of the USF Research Foundation Board, Dr. Thomas will now serve as the foundation’s president and CEO.

Headband device suitable for use at home with young ADHD patients
Audrey Bowden | November 16, 2021

Vanderbilt biomedical engineering professor has developed a prototype headband to measure brain activity that could have widespread application in studying and ultimately treating ADHD and other neurological disorders.

The device is lightweight, portable, and inexpensive to construct. Prototype components cost less than $250, compared to costs exceeding $10,000 for commercial systems.

Audrey Bowden, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and Hadi Hosseini, a colleague at Stanford University, set out to develop a simple device that children and teens diagnosed with attention deficit disorders could wear at home. Their initial prototype is a single-channel functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) headband. Functional neuroimaging is a general term for technologies that spatially map brain activity over time.

New Synthetic Cancer Immunotherapy Effective in Mouse Study
Jennifer Cochran | November 12, 2021

Stanford researchers have developed a new synthetic molecule, called PIP-CpG, that combines a tumor-targeting agent with a molecule that triggers immune activation. This treatment, can be administered intravenously and can make its way to multiple tumor sites, where it recruits immune cells against cancer.

Three doses of this new immunotherapy prolonged the survival of six of nine laboratory mice with an aggressive triple negative breast cancer. Of the six, three appeared cured of their cancer over the duration of the months long study. A single dose of this molecule induced complete tumor regression in five of ten mice. The synthetic molecule showed similar results in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer.

New chair of UW Department of Bioengineering named
Princess Imoukhuede | November 2, 2021

Princess Imoukhuede, a leader in systems biology research, engineering education, and academic diversity initiatives, has been named the new chair of the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. The department is located in both the UW College of Engineering and the UW School of Medicine. Her appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2022. She will hold the Hunter and Dorothy Simpson Endowed Chair and Professorship. Imoukhuede (pronounced I-muh-KWU-e-de) is currently an associate professor of bioengineering and director of diversity initiatives in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

Seven AIMBE Fellows Elected to National Academy of Medicine
Sam Achilefu et al. | October 18, 2021

AIMBE congratulates the following Fellows that have been recognized as the newest members of the National Academy of Medicine. To date, 101 of AIMBE Fellows have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine. 2021 newly-elected NAM members from AIMBE are:

  • Samuel Achilefu, Ph.D. 
  • Guillermo Ameer, Sc.D.
  • Yuman Fong, MD
  • Andres J. Garcia, Ph.D. 
  • Linda G. Griffith, Ph.D. 
  • Elisa E. Konofagou, Ph.D. 
  • Carla M. Pugh, MD, Ph.D., FACS 

Prototype headband device developed for home use with young ADHD patients
Audrey Bowden | October 18, 2021

A Vanderbilt biomedical engineering professor has developed a prototype headband to measure brain activity that could have widespread application in studying and ultimately treating ADHD and other neurological disorders.

The device is lightweight, portable, and inexpensive to construct. Prototype components cost less than $250, compared to costs exceeding $10,000 for commercial systems.

Ranu Jung to Lead Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research
Ranu Jung | October 13, 2021

Ranu Jung has been named the founding executive director of the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I³R). She will begin in December.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Jung to the University of Arkansas,” said Charles Robinson, interim chancellor. “The Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research will propel the University of Arkansas as a global leader in discovery and applied innovation, and Dr. Jung is the ideal leader to help take us there. She is a world-renowned researcher and visionary.”

Newly developed gel helps improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy in glioblastoma
Frances Ligler | October 9, 2021

Pairing a newly developed gel with immunotherapy that was delivered to post-surgical mouse brains with glioblastoma, a highly malignant and deadly cancer, improved the immunotherapy’s effectiveness, report researchers from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and colleagues. The findings appeared on Oct. 6, 2021, in Science Advances.

The researchers used CAR-T cell (chimeric antigen receptor-T cell) immunotherapy, which involves harvesting immune-system T cells from a patient and genetically re-engineering them in the lab to recognize targets on the surface of cancer cells. In this mouse study, the CAR-T cells and gel were placed to fill in the area where a glioblastoma tumor had just been surgically removed. Previous studies have shown that administering T cells alone have produced limited benefit.

Team to create framework for evaluating AI-based medical imaging
Kyle Myers | October 8, 2021

Artificial intelligence (AI) is showing promise in multiple medical imaging applications. Yet rigorous evaluation of these methods is important before they are introduced into clinical practice.

A multi-institutional and multiagency team led by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis is outlining a framework for objective task-based evaluation of AI-based methods and outlining the key role that physicians play in these evaluations. They also are providing techniques to conduct such evaluations, particularly in positron emission tomography (PET).

Bio-Inspired Autonomous Materials
Megan Valentine | October 5, 2021

Megan Valentine, a professor of mechanical engineering and co-director of the California NanoSystems Institute at UC Santa Barbara, has been awarded a $1.8 million collaborative grant by the National Science Foundation to design and create next-generation materials inspired and empowered by biological cells. Valentine will be working alongside a team of physicists, biologists and engineers, four of whom are women.

Led by Rae Robertson-Anderson, a professor of physics and biophysics at the University of San Diego, the team also includes Jennifer Ross at Syracuse University, Moumita Das at Rochester Institute of Technology, and Michael Rust at the University of Chicago.

Northwestern-invented biomaterial technology moves from lab bench to the orthopaedic market
Guillermo Ameer | September 22, 2021

Northwestern biomedical engineer Guillermo A. Ameer has achieved a rare, major accomplishment. A medical product based on novel biomaterials pioneered in his laboratory will be widely available for use in musculoskeletal surgeries to directly benefit patients.

The biomaterial technology, called CITREGEN™, developed by the start-up company Acuitive Technologies, Inc., is featured in Stryker Corporation’s CITRELOCK™, an innovative device that will debut this week at the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society’s annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C. The CITRELOCK™ Tendon Fixation Device System is used to attach soft tissue grafts to bone in reconstruction surgeries and provides surgeons a differentiated design due to Ameer’s biomaterial. 

Institute Professor Paula Hammond named to White House science council
Paula Hammond | September 22, 2021

Paula Hammond, an MIT Institute Professor and head of MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, has been chosen to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the White House announced today.

The council advises the president on matters involving science, technology, education, and innovation policy. It also provides the White House with scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the U.S. economy, U.S. workers, and national security.

Statistical model defines ketamine anesthesia’s effects on the brain
Emery Brown | September 21, 2021

Neuroscientists at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital develop a statistical framework that describes brain-state changes patients experience under ketamine-induced anesthesia.

By developing the first statistical model to finely characterize how ketamine anesthesia affects the brain, a team of researchers at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and Massachusetts General Hospital have laid new groundwork for three advances: understanding how ketamine induces anesthesia; monitoring the unconsciousness of patients in surgery; and applying a new method of analyzing brain activity.

Plants as mRNA Factories for Edible Vaccines
Nicole Steinmetz | September 17, 2021

University of California-Riverside (UCR) researchers say they are studying whether they can turn edible plants like lettuce into mRNA vaccine factories.

One of the challenges with this new technology is that it must be kept cold to maintain stability during transport and storage. If this new project is successful, plant-based mRNA vaccines, which can be eaten, could overcome this challenge with the ability to be stored at room temperature.

Researchers design sensors to rapidly detect plant hormones
Mary Chan-Park | September 13, 2021

Researchers from the Disruptive and Sustainable Technologies for Agricultural Precision (DiSTAP) interdisciplinary research group of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, and their local collaborators from Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), have developed the first-ever nanosensor to enable rapid testing of synthetic auxin plant hormones. The novel nanosensors are safer and less tedious than existing techniques for testing plants’ response to compounds such as herbicide, and can be transformative in improving agricultural production and our understanding of plant growth.

A fountain of youth for aging muscles
Helen Blau | September 2, 2021

Regenerative medicine could hold the keys to rejuvenating older muscles, and research supporting that will be featured at the Mayo Clinic Symposium on Regenerative Medicine and Surgery. Preclinical research by Helen Blau, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine, discovered a protein that triggers muscle loss and a way to block it to restore youthful muscle strength. Dr. Blau, director of the Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine, will present her research in a virtual keynote speech.

Building a better chemical factory – out of microbes
Kristala Prather | August 24, 2021

Metabolic engineers have a problem: cells are selfish. The scientists want to use microbes to produce chemical compounds for industrial applications. The microbes prefer to concentrate on their own growth.

Kristala L. Jones Prather ’94 has devised a tool that satisfies both conflicting objectives. Her metabolite valve acts like a train switch: it senses when a cell culture has reproduced enough to sustain itself and then redirects metabolic flux—the movement of molecules in a pathway—down the track that synthesizes the desired compound. The results: greater yield of the product and sufficient cell growth to keep the culture healthy and productive.

Revving Up to Advance Battery Research for Electric Vehicles
Esther Takeuchi | August 24, 2021

Stony Brook University’s Institute for Electrochemically Stored Energy, through the Research Foundation of SUNY, has received a major grant from the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) to further develop battery technology that could potentially be used in the creation of more efficient electric vehicles (EVs). The research, led by Esther Takeuchi, PhD, is funded through the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicles Technology Office, and is part of a national research initiative to accelerate advancements in zero-emissions vehicles. The grant totals $2,285,813, effective October 1, 2021, and runs through December 2024.

Locascio Nominated to Return to NIST as Director
Laurie Locascio | July 22, 2021

President Biden announced on July 16 that he is nominating Laurie Locascio to be director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a $1 billion agency within the Commerce Department. Locascio spent most of her career at NIST, joining as a bioengineering researcher in 1986 and ultimately taking on a series of senior leadership roles before leaving the agency in 2017. Since then, she has been vice president for research at the Baltimore and College Park campuses of the University of Maryland.

Pending her confirmation by the Senate, Locascio will return to the agency at a moment when its responsibilities are expanding and lawmakers are proposing it play a substantial role in national innovation initiatives currently under consideration in Congress. The Biden administration is likewise taking a significant interest in NIST, proposing to expand its budget by 45% in the next fiscal year.

A noninvasive test to detect cancer cells and pinpoint their location
Sangeeta Bhatia | July 15, 2021

Most of the tests that doctors use to diagnose cancer — such as mammography, colonoscopy, and CT scans — are based on imaging. More recently, researchers have also developed molecular diagnostics that can detect specific cancer-associated molecules that circulate in bodily fluids like blood or urine.

MIT engineers have now created a new diagnostic nanoparticle that combines both of these features: It can reveal the presence of cancerous proteins through a urine test, and it functions as an imaging agent, pinpointing the tumor location. In principle, this diagnostic could be used to detect cancer anywhere in the body, including tumors that have metastasized from their original locations.