<![CDATA[Machelle Pardue Named Interim Chair of Coulter BME]]> 27446

Professor Machelle Pardue will step in as interim chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, effective Aug. 16.

Pardue is the Department’s associate chair for faculty development and has been a member of the Coulter BME faculty since 2015, when she moved her academic appointment from the Emory University Department of Ophthalmology. She takes over for Susan Margulies, who has been appointed head of the Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation.

“I welcome the opportunity to lead the transition to a new chair for the Coulter Department and to continue to promote the success of our one department on two campuses,” Pardue said. “I am focused on supporting the positive culture of innovation, inclusion, and impact in Coulter BME that we have built together.”

Pardue’s research focuses on developing life-changing treatments for people with vision loss, particularly those with retinal degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and myopia. Her work has been supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and private industry.

“In addition to conducting high-impact research, Machelle has been a tremendous advocate for our faculty by formalizing mentoring programs and advancing initiatives to promote diversity,” said Raheem Beyah, dean of Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering and Southern Company Chair. “I’m thankful for her willingness to lead the Department during this time of transition and confident in her ability to expand programs that serve BME’s students and faculty.”

For more than 20 years, Pardue has been a leading teacher and researcher in Atlanta. In addition to her positions at Emory and Georgia Tech, Pardue is a research career scientist at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and executive associate director of the Atlanta VA Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation.

“With more than 20 years of experience in research and education at Emory, the Atlanta VA, and Georgia Tech, Dr. Pardue’s track record of collaboration and expertise in navigating multiple institutions position her well to lead this joint Department,” said Vikas P. Sukhatme, dean of the Emory School of Medicine and Woodruff Professor.

Pardue earned her doctorate in vision science and biology at the University of Waterloo and completed her postdoctoral training in visual electrophysiology at Loyola School of Medicine and the Hines VA Hospital in Chicago. Her bachelor’s degree is in zoology from the University of Wyoming.

Coulter BME is a unique public-private partnership that combines the resources of a highly respected private medical school and a top-ranked public engineering college. The Department is the linchpin of the many collaborations and partnerships between Emory and Georgia Tech.

Beyah and Sukhatme will appoint a committee in the coming weeks to begin the search for the next permanent chair of the Coulter Department.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1626878155 2021-07-21 14:35:55 1626881537 2021-07-21 15:32:17 0 0 news Pardue is the Department's associate chair for faculty development and a research leader at the Atlanta VA.

2021-07-21T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-21T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-21 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648957 648957 image <![CDATA[Machelle Pardue (vertical)]]> image/jpeg 1626877931 2021-07-21 14:32:11 1626877931 2021-07-21 14:32:11 <![CDATA[Read More: "Susan Margulies Appointed to Lead NSF Engineering Directorate"]]> <![CDATA[Pardue Lab]]>
<![CDATA[Jo’s New NIH Grant Will Help Find Out if HEG1 is the Key to Atherosclerosis]]> 27446 This is what scientists know about atherosclerosis, the buildup of artery-clogging fats and cholesterol in blood vessels: Good blood flow through vessels protects against it, while bad blood flow triggers the disease.

Hanjoong Jo and his team have been working to understand the detailed reasons why — and how — and recently found an interesting protein that could be a key.

The protein, known as HEG1, is found on the endothelial cells lining our blood vessels. It appears to act as a critical blood flow sensor, keeping everything humming along as it should when blood flow is good and turning on inflammatory signals, a critical step toward atherosclerosis, when blood flow is bad.

Jo wants to know just how HEG1 works — with the hope that a deeper understanding could lead to new options for preventing or curing atherosclerotic diseases — and he has the chance with a new $2.68 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

“We are really excited about this flow-sensitive protein, HEG1, because this could be potentially a new sensor that detects how blood is flowing in the vessel — whether it goes one way or multiple directions, at a high speed or low speed — and this flow sensor could then play a very important role in preventing or causing atherosclerosis,” said Jo, Wallace H. Coulter Distinguished Chair and Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “We have shown some evidence, which allowed us to get this grant, that good flow makes more of this HEG1 gene and protein, preventing inflammation. If you have a bad flow, this potential flow sensor is reduced, causing inflammation.”

Jo described the protein produced by the HEG1 gene like a big tree with lots of branches sticking out to catch the wind as it blows. The HEG1 protein has branches jutting out from endothelial cells into arteries to catch the blood flowing by: “It is just perfectly shaped and positioned, but nobody has studied it. So, we are studying it.”

Scientists have known for a while that HEG1 is important. Other researchers removed the gene in zebrafish and mice and the results were catastrophic: blood vessels — normally tightly sealed conduits — started to leak, and hearts without HEG1 grew very large and very fragile. That’s where HEG1 gets its name: It’s the “heart of glass” gene.

The question now is, does HEG1 have another crucial role in cardiovascular disease?

Jo and his team — including M.D./Ph.D. student Ian Tamargo and postdoctoral fellow Aitor Andueza — want to establish the link. If it’s there, it opens up new targets for therapies to treat atherosclerosis, a disease that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.

“We already know how important HEG1 is,” Jo said. “We just don't know whether flow has anything to do with it and whether it really plays a role as a sensor. And if it does act as a sensor, then how does it control the atherosclerosis-related functions? These are all unknown questions.”

In the four-year NIH project, Jo and his team will dive deeply into how HEG1 works. Extending Jo's tree analogy, researchers will trim the tree in different ways to see how cells respond. They may adjust how the roots grow — Jo said the junction between the protein outside the cell and inside of the cell looks like it could be a critical sensing area. Maybe they'll remove the tree altogether, or keep the tree in some areas but not in others. All of that will help them understand the mechanisms of HEG1's functions.

Jo’s collaborators will be key in the investigation, including several Coulter BME researchers: James Dahlman’s lab will help to develop ways to either delete or overexpress various forms of the HEG1 gene in the artery walls of mice; Cheng Zhu’s lab will help with studies to quantify how much and what types of mechanical forces can turn on or off the HEG1 molecule’s response at the single-cell level; Sung Jin Park will study calcium signaling in live cells in response to flow; and Sandeep Kumar will carry out single cell RNA sequencing studies to understand the effect of HEG1 in cells, animals, and human patient tissues with atherosclerosis. Emory cardiologist Kathy Griendling will collaborate on understanding how HEG1 signals inside the cells.

“We will really look inside the cells and explore the inflammatory response that is happening,” Jo said. “If the HEG1 proteins are sensing blood flow, what are the next steps? Are they talking to other proteins? Which ones, and how do they trigger the next events?

“Knowing that detail of the mechanisms will actually help us to figure out how to develop therapeutics.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1626707585 2021-07-19 15:13:05 1626707585 2021-07-19 15:13:05 0 0 news HEG1 appears to act as a blood flow sensor that plays a critical role in preventing or causing atherosclerosis.

2021-07-19T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-19T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-19 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648871 648872 648871 image <![CDATA[Red Blood Cell Illustration]]> image/jpeg 1626706425 2021-07-19 14:53:45 1626706425 2021-07-19 14:53:45 648872 image <![CDATA[HEG1 Atherosclerosis Illustration]]> image/png 1626706587 2021-07-19 14:56:27 1626706587 2021-07-19 14:56:27 <![CDATA[NIH Project Details: "HEG1 in endothelial function and atherosclerosis"]]> <![CDATA[Hanjoong Jo]]>
<![CDATA[Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40 Honors 6 BME Grads]]> 27446 They earned bachelor’s degrees and doctorates. They work in the White House, medical technology, higher ed, and even the United States Army. Yet they’re all changing the world for the better wherever they are — which has earned them a place among the Georgia Tech Alumni Association’s 2021 class of 40 Under 40.

Here are the six alumni from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering on this year’s list:

Mahdi Al-Husseini, PP 2018, BME 2018, MSCS 2020

Aeromedical Evacuations Officer | U.S. Army

“Iron sharpens iron, and my peers at Georgia Tech were certainly of a higher caliber. I remain in touch with many of my former classmates; their success is inspirational,” Al-Husseini says.

Ambika Bumb, BME 2005

President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology | White House

“My initial exposure at Georgia Tech to developing nanotechnology led me to Oxford to do a PhD and then the NIH for two post-docs, all related to nanomedicine. I launched a biotech startup Bikanta from that academic research and for five years enjoyed the nimbleness and innovation that a startup allows for,” Bumb says.

Cory Sago, Ph.D. BME 2019

Senior Director, Head of LNP Discovery | Beam Therapeutics

“As scientists and engineers, many of us are wired to try to understand the facts of our world (the ‘what’). I’d encourage GT students and new graduates to also consciously pursue the ‘why’ behind the world,” Sago says.

Mike Weiler, BME 2010, MSME 2012, Ph.D. BioE 2015 

Cofounder and CEO | LymphaTech

“During grad school at Georgia Tech, I was a recipient of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, a graduate of the NSF Innovation Corps, and a TI:GER Fellow. The TI:GER program was particularly instrumental in my career, as it provided an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of business model generation and customer discovery applied to my dissertation research. The final business plan that we created in the TI:GER program is very similar to the business plan that LymphaTech still follows today,” Weiler says.

Varun Yarabarla, BME 2016

Development Lead | VentLife

“I was honestly a little disappointed that I would be leaving engineering behind when I chose to pursue medical school. However, when there is a will, people can always find a way; in medical school, I still used my engineering-based computer coding skill to land a position in a distinguished neurology lab,” Yarabarla says.

Y. Shrike Zhang, Ph.D. BME 2013

Assistant Professor | Harvard Medical School
Associate Bioengineer | Brigham and Women’s Hospital

“The engineering education at GT is excellent and transdisciplinary,” Zhang says.

See the full 40 Under 40 on the Georgia Tech Alumni Association’s website.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1626370767 2021-07-15 17:39:27 1626373279 2021-07-15 18:21:19 0 0 news These alumni are couseling presidents, flying medevac missions, building startups, teaching, and conducting research.

2021-07-15T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-15T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-15 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648788 648790 648786 648787 648791 648793 648795 648788 image <![CDATA[GT Alumni 40 Under 40 2021 BME Group Graphic]]> image/jpeg 1626367588 2021-07-15 16:46:28 1626387227 2021-07-15 22:13:47 648790 image <![CDATA[40U40 2021 - Mahdi Al-Husseini]]> image/jpeg 1626367695 2021-07-15 16:48:15 1626367695 2021-07-15 16:48:15 648786 image <![CDATA[40U40 2021 - Ambika Bumb]]> image/jpeg 1626367432 2021-07-15 16:43:52 1626367432 2021-07-15 16:43:52 648787 image <![CDATA[40U40 2021 - Cory Sago]]> image/jpeg 1626367500 2021-07-15 16:45:00 1626367500 2021-07-15 16:45:00 648791 image <![CDATA[40U40 2021 - Mike Weiler]]> image/jpeg 1626367853 2021-07-15 16:50:53 1626367853 2021-07-15 16:50:53 648793 image <![CDATA[40U40 2021 - Varun Yarabarla]]> image/jpeg 1626367925 2021-07-15 16:52:05 1626367925 2021-07-15 16:52:05 648795 image <![CDATA[40U40 2021 - Y. Shrike Zhang]]> image/jpeg 1626367998 2021-07-15 16:53:18 1626367998 2021-07-15 16:53:18 <![CDATA[Georgia Tech Alumni Association's 2021 40 Under 40]]>
<![CDATA[Sendi Wins Mini-Grant to Gather Better Data on Effects of Brain Stimulation for PTSD Patients]]> 27446 Ph.D student Mohammad Sendi has won a grant from Bio-Medical Instruments and the Foundation for Neurofeedback and Neuromodulation Research to support his work applying neuromodulation to treat brain disorders.

Specifically, Sendi proposed adding portable EEG brain scans to an existing study looking at the effectiveness of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for patients experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The goal is to better understand the functional changes in the brain from the stimulation, which induces a small, safe electrical current in targeted areas.

“Despite the significant impact of TMS in treating PTSD patients, an unresolved issue is that the response varies across individuals,” said Sendi, who is pursuing his doctorate in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “Quantifying transcranial magnetic stimulation’s functional and neurophysiological effects and their link to changes in symptom severity is an essential step towards understanding TMS’s neural mechanisms and developing more effective, and individualized, TMS therapies.”

The $3,000 mini-grant was designed to support projects with the potential of enhancing knowledge of basic processes involved in neuromodulation methods or understanding the clinical effects of those methods, especially in under-researched areas.

Sendi will integrate his portable EEG approach before, during, and after brain stimulation treatments that are part of the ongoing Grady Trauma Project at Emory. He’ll work with Sanne van Rooij, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory, and Jeffrey Malins, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Georgia State University.

“Optimizing TMS protocol and individualizing TMS treatment parameters can substantially benefit patient-specific therapy of PTSD and restore function and induce longer-lasting results,” Sendi said.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1626276909 2021-07-14 15:35:09 1626276909 2021-07-14 15:35:09 0 0 news Ph.D. student Mohmmad Sendi plans to integrate portable brain activity scans in an ongoing study in the Grady Trauma Project at Emory.

2021-07-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-14 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648748 648748 image <![CDATA[Mohammad Sendi (vertical)]]> image/jpeg 1626276084 2021-07-14 15:21:24 1626276084 2021-07-14 15:21:24 <![CDATA[Bio-Medical Instruments-FNNR Mini-Grants]]> <![CDATA[Grady Trauma Project]]>
<![CDATA[Sheft Earns Spot in Fulbright Canada Summer Research Program]]> 27446 Biomedical engineering student Maxina Sheft is spending her last summer as an undergraduate working as a researcher with the support of the Fulbright Canada program.

Sheft has joined Melanie Martin’s lab at the University of Winnipeg to work on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to determine the diameter of axons in the human brain. Axons are the long, thin part of nerve cells that transmit impulses, and diameter influences how fast the information is conducted. She’s one of two undergraduates from Georgia Tech selected for the program this summer.

“I was attracted to the program by the variety of project opportunities and the availability of researchers in my field of interest,” said Sheft, who is entering her fourth year of studies in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory.

Sheft was able to select several potential projects from faculty members across Canada. She interviewed with Martin’s lab and was invited to join in their work. Though she wasn’t able to travel to Canada because of the ongoing pandemic, she’s been deeply involved in data analysis and writing papers and grants.

Sheft said she’s planning to graduate in December and will be applying to Ph.D. programs in the fall — making the Fulbright Canada program a valuable experience.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1626276468 2021-07-14 15:27:48 1626276468 2021-07-14 15:27:48 0 0 news Undergraduate Maxina Sheft is working on a project at the University of Winnipeg using MRI techniques to determine the diameter of axons in the brain.

2021-07-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-14 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648750 648750 image <![CDATA[Maxina Sheft (vertical)]]> image/jpeg 1626276174 2021-07-14 15:22:54 1626276174 2021-07-14 15:22:54 <![CDATA[Fulbright Canada]]> <![CDATA[Melanie Martin Lab – University of Winnipeg ]]>
<![CDATA[Using Advanced 3D Printing, Undergrad Designs Adjustable Golf Putter]]> 27446 For many golfers, pros and weekend warriors alike, their trusty old putter can be like a reliable friend — comfortable, predictable, solid.  The thought of changing it? Well, let’s not even go there.

Yet, an undergraduate in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University has been working on a project that could make it easier to experiment with putter characteristics. The project’s goal is to allow golfers to adjust parts of their club to find a better stroke, rather than having to buy a new club. It also could help equipment manufacturers reimagine their prototyping and design process.

For the last year and a half, Caroline Means has been designing a putter using an advanced metal-depositing 3D printer that is usually used to make aircraft parts. Working with Jud Ready, principal research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, the idea was to be able to adjust the putter’s key characteristics, toe hang and loft, and explore new kinds of face materials.

“We wanted to design a club that was able to be customized to a golfer in those three areas without having to get a new club or go to a professional and have them bend your club, and without significantly and permanently altering the structure or composition of the club,” said Means, a fourth-year student who has pursued the idea as part of a President’s Undergraduate Research Award at Tech. “There hasn't been as much innovation in the area of putter heads, and so, we decided to take on that challenge.”

The team’s prototype putter is made from stainless steel (eventually they’ll explore a multi-material composition), with an innovative shaft attachment method that allows for continuous adjustment of the toe hang. Its face inserts are made of either metal or a polymer created by Carbon, a California-based 3D-printing company. The inserts come in a variety of angles to adjust the club’s loft. They can be combined or stacked and easily removed via a unique attachment system Means and Ready created.

“The 3D printing in collaboration with mechanical engineering associate professor Chris Saldana gives us an advantage to create structures that could not be machined through traditional methods,” Means said. “That means that after it's been manufactured, a golfer can pick what face surface material they want for the putter. They can decide how many degrees of loft is best for the green conditions that day. As their swing changes and improves, they are able to adjust the toe hang of the golf club.”

Perhaps it’s worth pausing for a quick putter primer: Toe hang is a measure of the center of gravity of the putter, which affects how the clubhead moves during a stroke. The idea is to hit the ball with the putter’s face squared up, but every golfer’s stroke is different, and most rotate the face during their swing. Changing the toe hang can help the putter and the golfer’s swing work together for improved directional control of the ball.

Loft is the angle of the putter face when it rests on the green — usually just a degree or two. Too little loft, and the ball is pushed into the green when the putter hits it, slowing it down; too much, and the ball may hop at contact instead of rolling. All of that affects whether the ball reaches its intended target: the bottom of the cup.

To create their patent-pending design, Means and Ready contacted the golf pros at Atlanta’s historic Bobby Jones Golf Course. They also enlisted a pretty famous Georgia Tech alumnus who knows a thing or two about golf clubs.

“I come from a unique perspective on things like product development and innovation,” said Stewart Cink, a former Tech golfer and eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, including two wins in 2021. “I've got the on-course experience and knowledge, and I've been through a lot of product innovation with companies that I've worked with in the past. Jud had no way of knowing that it would be something that I would like really like, but this is part of my job that I really enjoy doing.”

After many months of design and a nearly day-long printing operation with the help of Saldana’s graduate students Elliott Jost and Jaime Berez in Tech’s Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility, Cink and his son Reagan tested the putter this summer at Bobby Jones Golf Course. The Cinks were hooked up to a system that collects mountains of data to help the pros at the course teach golfers about their stroke and where they can improve.

Cink said the adjustable putter could help golfers explore new putter configurations that might help their game without breaking the bond they have with their club.

“One of the biggest challenges with the pros and their putters is how to go from something that's really cozy and warm and comfortable to something that has a little bit different specs,” Cink said. “What their putter does is, it gives you the chance to take the old baby and change a little bit about it at a time. If you decide you want to go back to the other way, just change it back.”

So how does a biomedical engineering student end up elbows-deep in golf putter design?

Means met Ready when she took two of his courses, including Materials Science and Engineering of Sports.

“Caroline was a stand-out student,” said Ready, who also leads innovation initiatives at the Georgia Tech Institute for Materials. “She asked great questions, got good grades, had wonderful oral presentation and organizational skills — so I offered her a job after the semester was over.”

In the class, Ready’s class visited Georgia Tech’s Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility, where they learned about Saldana’s 3D printer that uses metal powder and lasers to build metal objects. Before long, Ready and Means were thinking about golf clubs and how they might be able to innovate while exploring the potential of the machine.

“My background in biomedical engineering really came in strong. We spend a lot a lot of time focused on learning how to put users at the center of the design process,” Means said. “I talked to professionals at Bobby Jones Golf Course to learn what makes a person come back to a putter. Our team wanted to know what kind of things they have to account for when they're fitting a club to someone, and how we can make this something that is unique and that people will want to use.”

This spring, Means and Ready were joined by Brittan Pero, a second-year student in mechanical engineering and an avid golfer who played for Oglethorpe University before transferring to Georgia Tech. He’s been helping with the testing, and he has secured his own President’s Undergraduate Research Award to continue the project.

“I've always wanted to design golf clubs, and I saw that Dr. Ready taught a class on engineering of sports equipment, so I figured I'd email him see if there was an internship or maybe undergrad research somewhere in the field,” Pero said. “It turned out that he had the exact field that I wanted to be in — putter design — which is crazy.”

While Pero works on refining the putter head to get it closer to a market-ready design, Means is off doing an internship this summer in pursuit of a career in medical device design. She said she hopes their testing data will show the idea is viable and they can create a small startup or even use some of their collaborators’ connections to club-makers to interest them in the concepts.

“Caroline will be back in the fall, and I expect the two of them to make even greater advancements as a team,” Ready said. “I can’t wait for Caroline’s patent to get fully prosecuted, and for Britt to file his own.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1626110046 2021-07-12 17:14:06 1626206916 2021-07-13 20:08:36 0 0 news The project’s goal is to allow golfers to adjust parts of their club to find a better stroke rather than having to buy a new club.

2021-07-12T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-12T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-12 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648694 648695 648696 648697 648694 image <![CDATA[3D Printed Putter Closeup]]> image/jpeg 1626102187 2021-07-12 15:03:07 1626102187 2021-07-12 15:03:07 648695 image <![CDATA[3D Printed Putter Data Analysis]]> image/jpeg 1626102296 2021-07-12 15:04:56 1626102296 2021-07-12 15:04:56 648696 image <![CDATA[3D Printed Putter Group]]> image/jpeg 1626102425 2021-07-12 15:07:05 1626102425 2021-07-12 15:07:05 648697 image <![CDATA[3D Printed Putter Testing]]> image/jpeg 1626102659 2021-07-12 15:10:59 1626102659 2021-07-12 15:10:59 <![CDATA[Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility]]> <![CDATA[Bobby Jones Golf Course]]> <![CDATA[Carbon]]> <![CDATA[Stewart Cink]]> <![CDATA[Jud Ready]]> <![CDATA[President's Undergraduate Research Awards]]>
<![CDATA[InQuBATE Training Program Integrates Modeling and Data Science for Bioscience Ph.D. Students]]> 27446 A new five-year, $1.27 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will help transform the study of quantitative- and data-intensive biosciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The grant will create the Integrative and Quantitative Biosciences Accelerated Training Environment (InQuBATE) Predoctoral Training Program at Georgia Tech. InQuBATE is designed to train a new generation of biomedical researchers and thought leaders to harness the data revolution.

“We want to improve and enhance the training of students to focus on biological questions while leveraging modern tools, and in some cases developing new tools, to address foundational challenges at scales from molecules to systems,” said Joshua Weitz, professor and Tom and Marie Patton Chair in the School of Biological Sciences. Weitz is co-leading the program with Peng Qiu, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Biology is undergoing a transformation, according to Weitz and Qiu, requiring a new educational paradigm that integrates quantitative approaches like computational modeling and data analytics into the experimental study of living systems.

“Our intention is to develop a training environment that instills a quantitative, data-driven mindset, integrating quantitative and data science methods into all aspects of the life science training pipeline,” added Weitz, founding director of Tech’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Quantitative Biosciences (QBioS).

The roots of InQuBATE go back to the fall of 2016, shortly after QBioS was launched. Weitz saw an opportunity to augment what he was teaching in his cornerstone course, Foundations of Quantitative Biosciences, in which students model living systems from the molecular level up through cells, organisms, populations, and ecosystems. In doing so, students “got a brief introduction to implementing high-dimensional data analytics, visual analytics, clustering, and modern machine learning methods. But we couldn’t cover allthose topics in detail,” Weitz said.

So, he reached out to Qiu, who was teaching data analytic methods in his Machine Learning in Biosciences course: “Instead of us developing that class, we started strongly encouraging QBioS students to take Peng’s class,” Weitz said.

“For me, this was a great opportunity to work with students from the biology side who had real interests in learning data mining and machine learning, as well as students from the engineering side,” said Qiu, principal investigator in the Machine Learning and Bioinformatics Lab in Coulter BME. “We could see that it was a great learning environment and the QBioS students really excelled in the class. That gave us confidence. Now we’re building this [InQuBATE] training program, and hope it will foster even greater cross pollination.”

The training program is designed to do exactly that, bringing together students and faculty from three Georgia Tech colleges: computing, engineering, and sciences. That combination of expertise is reflected in the leadership team. In addition to principal investigators Weitz (College of Sciences) and Qiu (College of Engineering), the faculty leadership team includes Elizabeth Cherry (School of Computational Science and Engineering, College of Computing), Eva Dyer (Coulter BME, College of Engineering and Emory School of Medicine), and Marvin Whiteley (School of Biological Sciences, College of Sciences).

The InQuBATE program will ultimately support 15 Ph.D. students over five years. The first cohort — prioritizing second-year Ph.D. students — will be selected in August. Next spring, the program will begin soliciting applications from first-year Ph.D. students.

“The program will extend the breadth of student training without adding time to the Ph.D.,” Weitz said. “For students on the engineering or computing side, InQuBATE will augment their living systems research experience. For students on the living systems side, the program will augment their training in modeling and data analytics.”

Weitz, Qiu, and their collaborators also are developing a series of semester-long and short-form (a week or less) courses that will be available to other graduate students, in addition to the InQuBATE cohorts.

“We intend to make programmatic offerings available to a broader community,” Weitz said. “In the long term, we hope InQuBATE takes on a central role in shaping the culture of integrative approaches in the study of living systems at Georgia Tech.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1625770446 2021-07-08 18:54:06 1708028886 2024-02-15 20:28:06 0 0 news The NIH-funded program is designed to train a new generation of biomedical researchers and thought leaders to harness the data revolution.

2021-07-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-08 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648644 648645 648644 image <![CDATA[Peng Qiu & Joshua Weitz]]> image/jpeg 1625769462 2021-07-08 18:37:42 1625769462 2021-07-08 18:37:42 648645 image <![CDATA[Marvin Whiteley, Eva Dyer, Elizabeth Cherry]]> image/jpeg 1625769915 2021-07-08 18:45:15 1625769915 2021-07-08 18:45:15 <![CDATA[Integrative and Quantitative Biosciences Accelerated Training Environment]]> <![CDATA[Joshua Weitz]]> <![CDATA[Peng Qiu]]> <![CDATA[Elizabeth Cherry]]> <![CDATA[Eva Dyer]]> <![CDATA[Marvin Whiteley]]>
<![CDATA[Grad Student Keshav Shah Takes on the Jeopardy! Big Board]]> 27446 Clue: A biomedical engineering student at Emory University and Georgia Tech who will be one of three contestants on the game show Jeopardy! July 7.

Correct response: Who is Keshav Shah?

“Competing on Jeopardy! is something that I feel very fortunate to have been able to do. It's obviously a high-stakes affair and is exhausting, because they tape an entire week's worth of shows in one day. However, the entire Jeopardy! crew was super energetic and friendly and they helped make the experience memorable,” said Shah, a first-year Ph.D. student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

“My experience was a bit different than usual because of Covid-19 protocols, but I loved getting to meet the other contestants and hear their stories. They're all so bright and come from such different backgrounds,” he said.

Shah has been trying for a few years to make it through the highly competitive screening process to appear on Jeopardy! Of the thousands who try, only about 400 make it to the stage each season. He passed the online test in the fall and had an audition over Zoom earlier this year. It wasn’t the first time he’d made it that far in the process: he passed the test and auditioned in-person for the College Championship and the regular show as a second-year undergraduate at Virginia Tech. Aspiring contestants only remain in the active pool for 18 months after an audition, however, and he never got the call back then.

This time, it was only a few weeks before producers invited him to Los Angeles for a taping.

“Being on stage honestly feels a bit surreal, and it is very different compared to playing along at home,” Shah said. “It's so easy to sit at home and say, ‘Wow, I can't believe none of the contestants answered that clue correctly,’ but Jeopardy! is nerve-wracking, and things on TV sometimes don't always go smoothly. The host may misspeak, or the judges may have to make a lengthy ruling on an answer. All those little things can interrupt what viewers perceive as a constant flow of the game.”

There’s also that famed buzzer — which Shah called the “great equalizer.” Contestants who buzz in before the host finishes reading the clue are locked out for a fraction of a second. That’s all it takes to lose a shot at providing a response. Like many contestants, Shah said he spent a great deal of time practicing his buzzer technique at home with a clicker pen.

In a fun twist, Shah’s appearance coincided with the guest-hosting stint of fellow Atlantan and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

“His easygoing personality was great for the show. He is definitely someone I admire and have looked up to for his work as a medical professional and correspondent for CNN,” Shah said. “Meeting him was a dream come true.”

Shah works with Professor Johnna Temenoff, where he is focused on biomaterial- and stem-cell-based strategies to treat muscle degeneration after rotator cuff injuries.

Of course, there’s one answer we don’t know: how well Shah did in his turn behind a Jeopardy! podium. We’ll all have to watch July 7 to find out.

UPDATE: Shah started slow but stormed to the lead and entered Final Jeopardy! ahead of his two competitors. However, he wagered almost all of his money and missed the final clue, so he ended the game in third.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1625587204 2021-07-06 16:00:04 1626705790 2021-07-19 14:43:10 0 0 news Biomedical engineering Ph.D. student is one of three contestants on the game show Jeopardy! July 7.

2021-07-06T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-06T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-06 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648565 648566 648565 image <![CDATA[Keshav Shah - Jeopardy]]> image/jpeg 1625586612 2021-07-06 15:50:12 1625586660 2021-07-06 15:51:00 648566 image <![CDATA[Keshav Shah and Sanjay Gupta - Jeopady]]> image/jpeg 1625586841 2021-07-06 15:54:01 1625586841 2021-07-06 15:54:01 <![CDATA[Jeopardy!]]> <![CDATA[Temenoff Lab]]>
<![CDATA[Susan Margulies Appointed to Lead NSF Engineering Directorate]]> 27446 When the call to service came, Susan Margulies just couldn’t say no. Which should be no surprise to anyone who has worked with her during her time as professor and chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.

Margulies will step down as chair in August to answer that call — as head of the Directorate of Engineering at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). She is the first biomedical engineer to lead the directorate, which supports fundamental research, enhances the nation’s innovation through a range of initiatives, and is a driving force behind the training and development of the United States’ engineering workforce. Margulies appointment at the NSF begins in mid-August.

“Susan’s NSF appointment will impact the nation, and I congratulate her on this high honor,” said Vikas P. Sukhatme, dean of the Emory School of Medicine and Woodruff Professor. “Her leadership at Coulter BME over the last four years has been transformative. I have enjoyed working closely with her and respect the high standards she has set for all our missions.”

Margulies has been chair of Coulter BME since August 2017, overseeing a unique collaboration between a leading public engineering school and a highly respected private medical school that graduates more women and underrepresented students than any other biomedical engineering program in the nation. She is the first woman to chair a basic science department in the Emory School of Medicine and the second woman chair in the history of Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering.

Though she’s stepping down as chair of the Coulter Department, Margulies will remain a member of the Emory and Georgia Tech faculties.

“I congratulate Susan on this incredible honor and opportunity to serve our nation at the National Science Foundation," said Raheem Beyah, dean and Southern Company Chair of Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering. “She has served as a pioneer while leading BME, diligently working to increase access and diversity, while also strengthening our cross-university collaboration with a sincere commitment to research excellence. I look forward to continuing the College’s partnership with the NSF as Susan and the Foundation expand its engineering goals and initiatives.”

As chair, Margulies worked to building a deeper sense of community in Coulter BME, including increasing shared governance with faculty, staff, and students and convening a 50-member committee charged with developing and implementing programs to boost the Department’s community, diversity, and inclusion. Margulies helped raise $41 million in philanthropic gifts to support the Department; led development of a new strategic plan for Coulter BME to increase impact, enhance engagement, and enrich community; and provided leadership to campus-wide strategic planning efforts at both Emory and Georgia Tech.

“The opportunity to serve the NSF resonates with my values — catalyzing impact through innovation, rigor, partnership, and inclusion. It’s an irresistible invitation, and it has to be to pull me away from my Coulter BME family,” Margulies said. “I’m so proud to have worked alongside this unmatched group of students, staff, and faculty in our shared drive to improve health and well-being.”

Building on initiatives she developed at the University of Pennsylvania, Margulies prioritized career development for faculty members and Ph.D. graduates during her years leading Coulter BME. She added dedicated staff to help doctoral students prepare for increasingly popular career paths outside of academia. The Department increased the diversity of Ph.D. students and improved faculty diversity at all ranks during her tenure. Margulies oversaw hiring of 20 new faculty members and launched formalized mentoring for early career professors, including creating a new associate chair position dedicated to faculty development.

Margulies also introduced a new leadership position, executive director of learning and training, to formalize the integration of pioneering teaching methods developed through federal and foundation grants. These initiatives infuse elements of story-driven learning across the curriculum and build inclusive environments in required courses and research labs.

Margulies’ popular weekly office hours with the chair were a year-round forum for students to share their ideas and consult with her one-on-one on all kinds of topics. Those weekly hours became one of her favorite parts of the job.

“Our students inspire me, and these conversations emboldened students to create their unique pathways to integrate who they are with their studies in biomedical engineering — to become who they want to be,” she said.

Much as she has in the Coulter Department and throughout her career, Margulies said, she plans to forge partnerships in her new role across industry, foundations, academia, and around the world to help NSF address some of the most pressing challenges in science and engineering.

"Susan Margulies' extensive experience and expertise is a valuable addition to the National Science Foundation's work to advance the frontiers of science and engineering research,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “Her strong leadership combined with her deep knowledge of research translation will help accelerate our nation's progress to be at the vanguard of discovery and innovation. I am looking forward to her insights and perspectives.”

Margulies is a renowned scholar in pediatric traumatic brain injury and lung injury associated with mechanical ventilators, where she has worked to open avenues for prevention, intervention, and treatment. Her career has been marked by interdisciplinary research and education, thanks in part to her training in mechanical and aerospace engineering, bioengineering, and physiology and biophysics. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering.

She has conducted more than $35 million in research with funding from the NSF, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and industry sources. Her research group has trained dozens of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students who’ve gone on to careers in consulting, federal agencies, industry, academia, and startups. She is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Interim leadership for the Department will be announced soon, along with more details on a search to find the next permanent chair of Coulter BME.

UPDATE JULY 21: Machelle Pardue has been named interim chair of the Coulter Department, starting Aug. 16.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1625159452 2021-07-01 17:10:52 1626881796 2021-07-21 15:36:36 0 0 news Margulies has been chair of Coulter BME since August 2017 and will be the first biomedical engineer to lead the directorate.

2021-07-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-01 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648488 648488 image <![CDATA[Susan Margulies 2020 (vertical)]]> image/jpeg 1625087327 2021-06-30 21:08:47 1625087327 2021-06-30 21:08:47 <![CDATA[NSF selects Susan S. Margulies to head the Engineering Directorate]]> <![CDATA[National Science Foundation Directorate of Engineering]]> <![CDATA[Susan Margulies]]>
<![CDATA[From BME Grad Student to Venture Capitalist]]> 28153 As a naturally inquisitive person, Melissa Lokugamage has satisfied her diverse interests with a steady diet of new experiences.

A native of Sri Lanka who moved to Kansas City, Missouri, with her family as a young girl, she grew up playing the piano and violin, and danced in a local ballet company, shaping an abiding appreciation of the arts and culture.

Lokugamage discovered a love of science while an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, which she satisfied with a degree in bioengineering. Perhaps more significantly, she said, “I also found a passion for community outreach, activism, and mentorship.”

And now that she’s earned a Ph.D. from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, Lokugamage is ready for the next new experience on her polymathic journey. She’ll make the transition this summer from graduate researcher in a university lab to venture capital associate for Massachusetts-based Alloy Therapeutics.

“As a graduate researcher, I was taught to think critically about data,” she said. “This thinking can help me evaluate and identify promising new technology. Joining Alloy will allow me to apply my deep understanding of drug delivery to new biotech company development.”

Atypical Path

Her Ph.D. advisor James Dahlman is confident in what Lokugamage brings to the table, even though going into venture capital straight from a research Ph.D. isn’t a typical path.

“I’m not surprised Melissa was able to do it,” said Dahlman, assistant professor in the Coulter Department. “She can see around corners, so to speak, meaning she is great at identifying large scale trends before others. At the same time, she can evaluate the nitty gritty details of the science.”

That attention to the details, the kind of investigative skills developed over years in a lab, will allow Lokugamage, “to predict whether a company’s scientific foundation is sturdy enough to survive the valley of death between early stage science and the clinic,” Dahlman added. “I can’t wait to see what world-changing technologies she helps develop at Alloy.”

With her colleagues in Dahlman’s lab, Lokugamage’s Ph.D. research focused on RNA drug delivery. Now she wants to expand on that.

“While I enjoyed my time as a scientist and researcher, I was ready to use my understanding of drug delivery and medicine in a new way,” Lokugamage said.

She didn’t really have a career in mind when she entered Missouri, where Lokugamage also earned a minor in women’s and gender studies that nurtured her interest in service and community.

“It started when I took a course on women’s health and history,” she said. “The subject was interesting, the students were thoughtful, and it felt deeply personal as a woman of color. I continued to fill my schedule with courses like this. I learned the importance of intersectionality and the role it plays in my life and my career. From there, I started joining service organizations.”

Scientific Journey

Meanwhile, an influential professor provided Lokugamage with the tools to constructively pose important scientific questions, treating her as if she already was a grad student. Early and often, he sent her to speak at conferences. He encouraged her to apply for a summer internship at NASA, where she participated in the space agency’s Space Life Science Training Program. At the Ames Research Center in California, she was as a member of the BioSentinel Team, working on development of a biosensor to monitor the long-term effects of radiation on DNA.

She worked in an RNA-focused lab at Missouri, exploring the theory that RNA was the precursor molecule to DNA in the origin of life — and falling hard for the biomolecule. As she considered grad schools, Coulter BME was interesting because, while she’d been studying RNA in a more exploratory manner, “the Dahlman lab was applying RNA therapies to treat diseases. This felt like a way for me to continue working in the RNA space but grow as well,” she said.

Looking back on it, joining Dahlman’s research group was almost like a ground-floor opportunity — he’d only been on the Georgia Tech campus a year at the time, “and they were building a novel barcoding platform from the ground up,” she said. “It was really exciting. Dr. Dahlman provided the necessary support and guidance I needed to thrive during my Ph.D. The mistakes I made and the insight I gained in that type of environment were invaluable.”

Along the way, she developed a deep expertise in drug delivery, according to Dahlman.

“Melissa is a rising star, and that expertise will be critical as clinicians work with emerging companies to develop new gene therapies for patients,” he said.

Another new interest, another new experience, and Lokugamage is ready for it.

“The space of venture capital and investing are very new to me,” she said. “My biggest goal is to learn as much as possible. This new role is my chance to absorb as much information as possible, provide my assistance to a new team, and create new tech.”


Related Links

James Dahlman Lab

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1625054925 2021-06-30 12:08:45 1625066879 2021-06-30 15:27:59 0 0 news Melissa Lokugamage Joins VC Firm to Guide Biotech Startups

2021-06-30T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-30T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-30 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

648461 648461 image <![CDATA[Melissa Lokugamage]]> image/jpeg 1625051443 2021-06-30 11:10:43 1625067060 2021-06-30 15:31:00
<![CDATA[LaPlaca, Singh Invited to Join NIH Grant Review Panels]]> 27446 Two biomedical engineering professors are joining the standing groups of accomplished researchers who review applications for National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants.

Michelle LaPlaca was invited to serve on the Acute Neural Injury and Epilepsy Study Section, which primarily reviews patient-oriented research into central nervous system injuries caused by concussion, stroke, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, and spinal cord injury. As a member of the Cellular and Molecular Technologies Study Section, Ankur Singh will consider applications focused on developing and applying new methods, tools, and techniques for studying cellular processes. LaPlaca is a professor and Singh is an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

“It’s truly an honor to serve the NIH. Membership on a study section is a major commitment of professional time and energy as well as a unique opportunity to contribute to the national biomedical research effort,” said Singh, who also is a Woodruff Faculty Fellow and a member of the faculty in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Tech.

The study sections review grant proposals and make recommendations to the agency’s national advisory council. Members are selected based on their research accomplishments and demonstrated expertise. Singh said the panels provide great value to biomedical research in the United States.

“Service on a study section also requires mature judgment and objectivity as well as the ability to work effectively in a group, which was quite attractive to me,” Singh said. “I look forward to serving the NIH and the research community in best possible ways.

LaPlaca’s work focuses on traumatic brain injury — understanding injury mechanisms to develop better diagnostics and strategies for protection and repair from neurological trauma.

Singh’s research centers on creating biomaterials-based “living” immune organoids or on-chip tissues that mimic lymph node structure and function with application to infectious diseases, inflammatory diseases, and cancer.

They’ll serve as members of the study sections for a four-year term.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1624990001 2021-06-29 18:06:41 1624990001 2021-06-29 18:06:41 0 0 news The panels, called study sections, review grant applications and make recommendations to the agency’s national advisory council

2021-06-29T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-29T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-29 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648442 648442 image <![CDATA[Ankur Singh and Michelle LaPlaca composite]]> image/jpeg 1624989675 2021-06-29 18:01:15 1624989675 2021-06-29 18:01:15 <![CDATA[Acute Neural Injury and Epilepsy Study Section]]> <![CDATA[Cellular and Molecular Technologies Study Section]]> <![CDATA[Michelle LaPlaca]]> <![CDATA[Ankur Singh]]>
<![CDATA[Dasi, Wang Selected for Tech's Emerging Leaders Program]]> 27446 The sixth cohort of Georgia Tech’s Emerging Leaders Program has been selected, and it includes two professors in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Lakshmi Prasad Dasi and May Wang will join 14 other faculty members in an intensive, year-long leadership journey. Wang is a professor and Dasi is professor and associate chair for undergraduate studies in the Coulter Department.

Starting in Fall 2021 and continuing through Spring 2022, the group will participate in a variety of leadership development activities, including a fall weekend workshop, monthly workshops, small-group work, and a 360-degree assessment.

“I’m excited to welcome the sixth cohort of the Emerging Leaders Program,” said Steven W. McLaughlin, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “The program supports faculty invested in pursuing their leadership journey, which benefits the Institute’s strategic plan goals and the Georgia Tech community as a whole.”

The Emerging Leaders Program started in 2016 and is designed for associate and full professors who have earned tenure. The program is a collaboration between the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research, the Institute for Leadership and Social Impact, and the Office of Graduate Education and Faculty Development. 

The sixth cohort reflects many of Georgia Tech’s Schools and Colleges. The full group:

College of Design

Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts 

College of Sciences 

College of Engineering

Learn more about the Emerging Leaders Program.


]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1624658036 2021-06-25 21:53:56 1624659534 2021-06-25 22:18:54 0 0 news The sixth cohort of Emerging Leaders will take part in a year of leadership development work.

2021-06-25T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-25T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-25 00:00:00 Office of the Provost


648394 648394 image <![CDATA[Lakshmi Prasad Dasi and May Dongmei Wang]]> image/jpeg 1624658018 2021-06-25 21:53:38 1624658018 2021-06-25 21:53:38 <![CDATA[Georgia Tech Emerging Leaders Program]]>
<![CDATA[New Grad SGA VP PJ Jarquin Balances Service, PhD Research]]> 27446 Biomedical engineering Ph.D. student PJ Jarquin has always been passionate about serving his campus and his fellow students. He has a significant chance to do that this year as executive vice president of the Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) at Georgia Tech.

It may seem like a big responsibility on top of the all-consuming work of pursuing a doctorate, but it’s the kind of thing Jarquin has been doing his whole college career — first as an undergraduate and then as an executive cabinet member in Tech’s Graduate SGA last year.

“Research and lab work and classes are important, but GSGA is something for me to kind of get away from all the research while still being productive with my time and making a positive impact,” said Jarquin, who is entering his third year of doctoral work in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “I really enjoy working to make campus a better place, and SGA has always been my avenue or outlet.”

Jarquin was elected this spring alongside Stephen Eick, a Ph.D. student in computer science. They’ll serve over the next year in what Jarquin said is a critical time as more people return to campus and find ways to reconnect and rebuild some of the community that has been lost during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Definitely our main priorities center around student well-being and mental health. There are grad students, and of course also undergrads, who really never got to interact with their peers as much. The biggest challenge is, how do we transition safely to more meaningful interactions that aren't virtual,” Jarquin said, noting that returning to large in-person events will be an adjustment — albeit an important one.

Jarquin said the pandemic has underscored the importance of mental health for students, so he expects he and Eick will work with campus leaders to ensure services meet students where they are.

“It's not just adding counselors,” he said, praising the satellite counseling program that has put a therapist right in the Whitaker building and other academic spaces to improve access for students. “There are particular populations of students that, for counseling sessions, it’s important to see someone who understands your specific struggles or specializes in what you're dealing with. It'd be nice, maybe, for you to have profiles of the counselors and what they specialize in, what they look like, and the kind of experience they have, to select a particular counselor who suits your unique needs.

“We’re going to develop a lot of initiatives around supporting mental health for students, well-being, and engagement.”

Of course, Jarquin will continue to push forward on his graduate work with Coulter BME Professor Sakis Mantalaris and Emory Associate Professor Nicki Panoskaltsis, who co-lead the Biological Systems Engineering Lab. Jarquin studies the process of red blood cell formation called erythropoiesis using a unique 3D model that mimics the architecture of bone marrow and produces functional cells so the team can study the linkages between the marrow microenvironment and the cells.

“The only kind of model that usually can do that is a mouse model. So being able to link that to the human condition really interests me,” Jarquin said. In particular, he focuses on anemia and is using the model to find possible treatment targets for the disease. “It's mainly the unknown — and I guess that's science in general — it's just that there are a lot of unknowns or unanswered questions, and that is what interests me the most about it.”

Jarquin came to Coulter BME after studying biomedical engineering at Mississippi State University. He said he was drawn to the Mantalaris and Panoskaltsis lab because of the collaboration between a bioprocess engineer and a clinician — a hallmark of the Department he discovered early on in his search for graduate programs.

In fact, it was a talk by Coulter BME Associate Professor Manu Platt at the Biomedical Engineering Society conference in Atlanta that stuck with Jarquin as he was exploring programs.

“One of the first things that he stressed was that the research isn't as important as whoever is going to be guiding you through that research,” Jarquin said, “so that's the approach I took [looking for an advisor and a lab].”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jarquin already has an idea of how he’ll blend service and uncovering the unknown even after he leaves Emory and Georgia Tech. He plans to pursue a career as a research scientist at a federal agency, where he wants to ensure underrepresented voices are heard.

“For me, it's like serving the country,” he said. “You're not doing it for a financial gain for a company; the research that's being done belongs to the people, belongs to us.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1624548608 2021-06-24 15:30:08 1624569618 2021-06-24 21:20:18 0 0 news Working with the Student Government Association has always been Jarquin's chance to get out of the lab and still have a positive impact

2021-06-24T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-24T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-24 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648332 648332 image <![CDATA[BME Ph.D. Student PJ Jarquin]]> image/jpeg 1624548029 2021-06-24 15:20:29 1624548053 2021-06-24 15:20:53 <![CDATA[Read More: "SGA Welcomes New Executives For Upcoming Year"]]> <![CDATA[Graduate Student Government Association]]> <![CDATA[Sakis Mantalaris]]> <![CDATA[Nicki Panoskaltsis]]> <![CDATA[Biological Systems Engineering Lab]]>
<![CDATA[Making Room for Innovation]]> 27446 By Zoe Elledge

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of five Georgia Tech students decided to apply what they had learned about data science in their classes to help those affected by the pandemic.

Undergraduate biomedical engineering students Davis White, Thomas Beckler, and Jaime Vera teamed with Ricardo Meizoso (ME), Leonardo Ricci (CS) and Nicolas Mirchandani (ID) to take a data science-focused approach to social distancing and pandemic regulations and created a transit car Automated Passenger Counter.

The team’s device tracks the number of people moving in and out of public transit cars and was inspired by pre-Covid-19 technology used on college campuses to track movement patterns across major buildings, such as libraries and dining halls. Their plans for the Automated Passenger Counter device led to enrolling in the MIT Covid-19 Challenge hackathon, winning their division, and creating their startup, PopTracker. The desire to help communities and use the classroom skills to enact change has been a constant in the team’s journey from hackathon competitors to a student-led startup.

“I knew some of the skills that Georgia Tech taught me could help make a difference in communities if applied them the right way, and so Thomas Beckler and I organized a team full of people that wanted to do something,” said White, who has finished his biomedical engineering degree and is now CEO and project lead of the company, now called Elbowroom.

Elbowroom’s Technical Development

The team wanted to create a device that acted as a low-cost Automated Passenger Counter and could be put in transit or train cars to count the number of people in a given space and report the data in real time to a transit application, such as Google Maps or WAZE. To accomplish this, the Elbowroom device uses WiFi sensors and Bluetooth sniffing, which are common methods of counting devices in a certain area; however, the number of devices in a train car does not usually equate to the exact number of passengers, which is where the team’s novel machine learning algorithms came into play.

“We’re taking a data science approach to solve the inaccuracy that WiFi and Bluetooth sniffing brings up,” White said. “We use machine learning algorithms to take in not only the data we’ve collected from the sensors, but also data from other disparate data streams to get more accurate estimates of how many people are in a train car.”

CREATE-X Startup Launch

After the Elbowroom team created the idea for their device along with a prototype of a Bluetooth sensor, they applied for Georgia Tech’s Startup Launch, a 12-week program where students “intern” to launch their startups. Teams are provided with seed funding, legal services, makerspace, mentorship, and intellectual property protection.

"Launch provides students an incredible opportunity to create real startups,” said Raghupathy "Siva" Sivakumar, director of CREATE-X. “We have helped launch more than 230 companies over the last six years. This is easily the largest number of student startups launched by any college campus in the country over this period.”

“Elbowroom is a great example of how student founders can bring a fresh and scrappy approach to solving real problems while utilizing the latest technology in a cost-effective way,” said Rahul Saxena, associate director of CREATE-X. “The team identified a societal need that they were highly motivated to solve, unencumbered by legacy or bureaucracy.”

Through Startup Launch, Elbowroom gained access to invaluable resources, such as lawyers and community connections, and they learned how to network, give pitch deck presentations, and continue to develop their device. White also emphasized his newfound interest in networking and highlighted its importance for PopTracker’s development and visibility.

“The biggest thing I learned from the Startup Launch program was how to be a more businesslike and startup-oriented leader,” White said. “I feel so much more comfortable being part of the startup space going forward.”

According to White, the most difficult part of the group's journey toward becoming a startup has been the technical development of the physical device and the device-related pitfalls the team has experienced. Additionally, the company found that they had to interface with other businesses to add certain data streams into their counting algorithms. This process was new to White and the team, and it was a complicated process to which the company had to adjust. Startup Launch gave the team the tools and connections necessary to adapt and develop as a company.

MARTA Pilot Program

To test their device and its ability to take in different data streams, Elbowroom established a developmental pilot program with MARTA – the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. They were introduced though one of the team’s mentors, Melissa Heffner, VentureLab program manager, and pitched their idea — putting devices on some of their trains to test the algorithms and use the data it collects to further the development of the device.

“Through networking and our mentor’s connection to MARTA, I eventually found someone at MARTA who listened to our crazy idea and saw the value in it, and realized that as engineers, we had the technical expertise to build something worthwhile,” White said.

The pilot program entailed setting up four of Elbowroom’s devices on MARTA train cars. After the team finishes development on the program they are currently working on, they hope to use the validation statistics obtained from their data to bolster Elbowroom and begin to branch out and work with other transit agencies.

Additionally, with the data from their devices on MARTA trains, the new company plans to market to transit applications that could use and broadcast the data collected by Elbowroom devices.

“The problem is not a lack of transit apps,” White said. “The problem is that there are no data producers because this type of technology is too expensive for general public transport. We’re going to develop an enterprise software through which agencies can access the transit car data in a way that’s helpful for them to broadcast.”

Looking to the Future

In the short-term, White said the company plans on collecting and utilizing the data from the MARTA devices, ensuring that their algorithm is fully operational, and eventually securing funding from venture capitalists. Moving forward, though, he’s confident Elbowroom can survive in the multibillion-dollar worldwide Automated Passenger Counter industry and help people even as the pandemic begins to come to an end.

The team is still active in student startup competitions such as the Student IoT Innovation Challenge at Tech’s Center for the Development and Application of Internet of Things Technologies, where they placed second.

Through the process of co-founding and being the public face of Elbowroom, White is interested in the possibility of combining his passion for biomedicine and biotech research with the startup space in his future career.

“Elbowroom has made me realize that I really love starting organizations, coordinating teams, and creating new products,” White said. “I’ve always been interested in research, but the application of that research and translational engineering is what I want to do, and I’d love the opportunity to organize teams or even a biotech startup in the future.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1624393711 2021-06-22 20:28:31 1625012706 2021-06-30 00:25:06 0 0 news Student startup Elbowroom piloting passenger counting tech with Atlanta’s MARTA

2021-06-22T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-22T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-22 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648287 648288 648289 648287 image <![CDATA[MARTA Train]]> image/jpeg 1624392975 2021-06-22 20:16:15 1624392975 2021-06-22 20:16:15 648288 image <![CDATA[PopTracker MARTA Pilot Install]]> image/jpeg 1624393125 2021-06-22 20:18:45 1624393125 2021-06-22 20:18:45 648289 image <![CDATA[PopTracker Team Composite]]> image/jpeg 1624393361 2021-06-22 20:22:41 1624393361 2021-06-22 20:22:41 <![CDATA[MARTA]]> <![CDATA[CREATE-X]]>
<![CDATA[Park Aims to Develop Better Model of Our Heartbeats with Heart Association Career Development Grant]]> 27446 Existing models of the complex tissues involved in the beating of our hearts typically comprise isolated cells or small groups of a single kind of cell. They’re created from stem cells, and often they function only for a month or two.

Sung Jin Park is working to create a better model of this complex process, one that includes all the different kinds of cells and tissues involved in autonomous cardiac contractions and better reproduces the functions of the sinoatrial node responsible for heart beats. The American Heart Association is investing in the project with a three-year career development award — a highly selective grant intended to recognize and support promising researchers just beginning their careers.

“I want to recapitulate the unique structure of the sinoatrial node so we can overcome this kind of transient pacemaker behavior,” said Park, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

To create his model, Park plans to a use a kind of tissue manufacturing that’s a bit like the inverse of 3D printing. Rather than depositing lines of cells in layer after layer to bioprint tissues, Park aims to create a layer of cells and then sculpt or etch them using light. By repeating the process with layer after layer of different kinds of cells, he aims to create functional, multicellular organoids that replicate the sinoatrial node.

“The career development award presents a great opportunity for me to build my career in cardiac research,” said Park, whose training is in mechanical and electrical engineering. “It’s a stepping stone toward pursuing future research grants from the National Institutes of Health or other significant funding agencies.”

The American Heart Association has designed the career development award to help early career scientists develop their skills and prepare them to pursue and win more significant grants. As part of the program, Park built a team of mentors to help him — senior faculty members who will offer counsel and help guide his scholarship. Park’s mentoring team includes Coulter BME faculty members Hee Cheol Cho, Hanjoong Jo, and Shuichi Takayama.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1624033422 2021-06-18 16:23:42 1624033422 2021-06-18 16:23:42 0 0 news Sung Jin Park plans to a use a kind of tissue manufacturing that sculpts or etches layers of cells using light to create functional, multicellular organoids that replicate the functions of the sinoatrial node.

2021-06-18T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-18T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-18 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648222 648222 image <![CDATA[Sung Jin Park (horiz)]]> image/jpeg 1624032936 2021-06-18 16:15:36 1624032936 2021-06-18 16:15:36 <![CDATA[American Heart Association Career Development Award]]> <![CDATA[Sung Jin Park]]>
<![CDATA[Platt Tells STAT News NIH Plan to Address Structural Racism is Promising]]> 27446 Praising the federal agency for acknowledging the problem and taking steps to address it, Manu Platt suggested there’s still more work to do after the National Institutes of Health released a plan June 10 to close gaps in the funding awarded to white and minority biomedical researchers.

Platt told health news site STAT, “I love that they are doing things. I like they are saying the word racism.” But he cautioned that the agency may not be moving fast enough to fix structural problems that result in Black scientists receiving far fewer grants, which are critical to supporting faculty members and earning them tenure.

“It’s very difficult out there,” he told STAT’s Usha Lee McFarling. “Funding Black investigators needs to be the linchpin.”

Platt, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, was one of several advocates who told STAT the plan released in the journal Cell was an important step, but perhaps not enough.

“As scientists, administrators, staff, and leaders at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), we take this opportunity to acknowledge that structural racism has been a chronic problem in our society, and biomedical science is far from free of its stain,” a group of agency leaders, including director Francis Collins, wrote. “Structural racism has significantly disadvantaged the lives of many people of color across our society, including those who conduct or support the science funded by NIH.”

The leaders pledged to “enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion and using every tool at our disposal to remediate the chronic problem of structural racism.”

From STAT:

Platt, who was recently asked to advise the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering on diversity issues, said his experience serving on funding review panels showed him that systemic racism plays a clear role, even though race is not listed on grant applications. “They look at where people trained, who they trained with, and what institution they’re at. If you’re at an HBCU (historically Black college and university) or a smaller institution, you get penalized,” he said. “And structural racism may be playing a role in why people are not being hired at those larger institutions to begin with. It all feeds forward.”

The NIH could easily prioritize funding for scientists from underrepresented groups, Platt said, as it does for early-career scientists to help them establish a funding track record and improve their chances of success and tenure. He said such a program would be a more direct route to increasing racial parity in funding than running programs to help improve the skills of minority scientists, such as grant-writing workshops.

“I’d like to see more programs that don’t want to fix the investigators but want to fix the system,” he said.

Read McFarling’s full story in STAT.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1623419909 2021-06-11 13:58:29 1623419909 2021-06-11 13:58:29 0 0 news Platt and other advocates cautioned, however, that the agency may not be moving fast enough to fix longstanding problems

2021-06-11T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-11T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-11 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

648080 648080 image <![CDATA[STAT News - NIH Racism Plan screenshot]]> image/jpeg 1623418893 2021-06-11 13:41:33 1623418893 2021-06-11 13:41:33 <![CDATA[STAT News: "NIH releases a plan to confront structural racism. Critics say it’s not enough"]]> <![CDATA["Affirming NIH’s commitment to addressing structural racism in the biomedical research enterprise"]]> <![CDATA[Manu Platt]]>
<![CDATA[Petit Institute Seed Grants Awarded to Two Interdisciplinary Teams]]> 35403 Two interdisciplinary research teams have been awarded 2021 Petit Institute Seed Grants.

The program annually selects sets of researchers from the Petit Institute as co-principal investigators, providing early-stage funding opportunities that serve as a catalyst for bio-related breakthroughs.

The teams and their projects are:

Shu Jia (assistant professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University) and Alberto Stolfi (assistant professor, School of Biological Sciences) are working on a project called, “Super-Resolution Scanning Micros- copy for Studying Neuronal Cell Biology in vivo,” a new collaboration linking novel biological discovery and imaging technology. This project will transform existing imaging infrastructure, laying a critical intellectual foundation for broader science, engineering, and technology advances. 

Costas Arvanitis (assistant professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University) and Liang Han (assistant professor, School of Biological Sciences) submitted a project called, “Ultrasonic actuation of mechanosensitive ion channels.” This interdisciplinary team will explore new ways to balance and control sound and vibration and study how it interacts with cell membrane proteins. Their long-term goal is to advance research in the field of neurosciences through the discovery of new tools for noninvasive, focal, and at depth manipulation of brain activity.

The Petit Institute Seed Grants provide year-one funding of $50,000 with equivalent year-two funding contingent on submission of an NIH R21/R01 or similar collaborative grant proposal within 12 to 24 months of the year-one start date (July 1, 2021).

]]> Carly Ralston 1 1623164943 2021-06-08 15:09:03 1623176147 2021-06-08 18:15:47 0 0 news 2021-06-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-08 00:00:00 647978 647979 647978 image <![CDATA[Liang Han and Costas Arvanitis]]> image/jpeg 1623164532 2021-06-08 15:02:12 1623164532 2021-06-08 15:02:12 647979 image <![CDATA[Shu Jia and Alberto Stolfi]]> image/jpeg 1623164678 2021-06-08 15:04:38 1623164678 2021-06-08 15:04:38
<![CDATA[A Breakthrough in the Physics of Blood Clotting ]]> 35692 Heart attacks and strokes – the leading causes of death in human beings – are fundamentally blood clots of the heart and brain. Better understanding how the blood-clotting process works and how to accelerate or slow down clotting, depending on the medical need, could save lives. 

New research by Georgia Tech and Emory University published in the journal Biomaterials sheds new light on the mechanics and physics of blood clotting through modeling the dynamics at play during a still poorly understood phase of blood clotting called clot contraction.

“Blood clotting is actually a physics-based phenomenon that must occur to stem bleeding after an injury,” said Wilbur A. Lam, W. Paul Bowers Research Chair, in the Department of Pediatrics and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology. “The biology is known. The biochemistry is known. But how this ultimately translates into physics is an untapped area.”

And that’s a problem, argues Lam and his research colleagues, since blood clotting is ultimately about “how good of a seal can the body make on this damaged blood vessel to stop bleeding, or when this goes wrong, how does the body accidentally make clots in our heart vessels or in our brain?”

How Blood Clotting Works

The workhorses to stem bleeding are platelets – tiny 2-micrometer cells in the blood in charge of making the initial plug, said Lam. The clot that forms is called fibrin, which acts as a glue scaffold that the platelets attach to and pull against. Blood clot contraction arises when these platelets interact with this fibrin scaffold. To demonstrate the contraction, the researchers embedded a three-millimeter-sized Jell-O mold of a LEGO figure with millions of platelets and fibrin to recreate a simplified version of a blood clot.

“What we don't know is ‘How does that work?' ‘What's the timing of it so all these cells work together -- do they all pull at the same time?’ Those are the fundamental questions that we worked together to answer,” Lam said.

Lam’s Lab collaborated with Georgia Tech’s Complex Fluids Modeling and Simulation Group headed by Alexander Alexeev, professor and Anderer Faculty Fellow in The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, to create a computational model of a contracting clot. The model incorporates fibrin fibers forming a three-dimensional network and distributed platelets that can extend filopodia, or the tentacle-like structures that extend from cells so they can attach to specific surfaces, to pull the nearby fibers. 

Model Shows Platelets Dramatically Reducing Clot Volume 

When the researchers simulated a clot where a large group of platelets was activated at the same time, the tiny cells could only reach nearby fibrins because the platelets can extend filopodia that are rather short, less than 6 micrometers. “But in a trauma, some platelets contract first. They shrink the clot so the other platelets will see more fibrins nearby, and it effectively increases the clot force,” Alexeev explained. Just due to the asynchronous platelet activity, the force enhancement can be as high as 70% leading to an 90% decrease of the clot volume. 

“The simulations showed that the platelets work best when they’re not in total sync with each other,” said Lam. “These platelets are actually pulling at different times and by doing that they’re increasing the efficiency (of the clot).”

This phenomenon, dubbed by the team, asynchronous mechanical amplification, is most pronounced “when we have the right concentration of the platelets corresponding to that of healthy patients,” Alexeev said.

Research Could Lead to Better Ways to Treat Clotting, Bleeding Issues

The findings could open medical options for people with clotting issues, said Lam, who treats young patients with blood disorders as a pediatric hematologist in the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. 

“If we know why this happens, then we have a whole new potential avenue of treatments for diseases of blood clotting,” he said, emphasizing that heart attacks and strokes occur when this biophysical process goes wrong. 

Lam explained that fine tuning this contraction process to make it faster or more robust could help patients who are bleeding from a car accident, or in the case of a heart attack, make the clotting less intense and slow it down.  “Understanding the physics of this clot contraction could potentially lead to new ways to both treat bleeding problems and clotting problems.”

Alexeev added that their research also could lead to new biomaterials such as a new type of Band-Aid that could help augment the clotting process.

First author and Georgia Tech PhD candidate Yueyi Sun says the coolest aspect of this research was the simplicity of the model and the fact that the simulations allowed her and the team to understand how the platelets work together to contract the fibrin clot as they would in the body.

“When we started to include the heterogeneous activation suddenly it gave us the correct volume contraction,” she said. “Allowing the platelets to have some time delay so one can use what the previous ones did as a better starting point was really neat to see. I think our model can potentially be used to provide guidelines for designing novel active biological and synthetic materials.” 

Sun agreed with her research colleagues that this phenomenon might occur in other aspects of nature. For example, multiple asynchronous actuators can fold a large net more effectively to enhance packaging efficiency without the need of incorporating additional actuators.

“It theoretically could be an engineered principle,” said Lam. “For a wound to shrink more, maybe we don't have the chemical reactions occur at the same time – maybe we have different chemical reactions occur at different times. You gain better efficiency and contraction when one allows half or all of the platelets to do the work together.”

Building on the research, Sun hopes to examine more closely how a single platelet force converts or is transmitted to the clot force, and how much force is needed to hold two sides of a graph together from a thickness and width standpoint. Sun also intends to include red blood cells in their model since red blood cells account for 40% of all blood and play a role in defining the clot size. “If your red blood cells are too easily trapped in your clot, then you are more likely to have a large clot, which causes a thrombosis issue,” she explained.

This work is funded by the National Science Foundation (DMR Awards 1809566 and CAREER 1255288) and the National Institutes of Health (Awards R35HL145000, R21EB026591, and R01HL155330).  

CITATION: Y. Sun, et.al., “Platelet heterogeneity enhances blood clot volumetric contraction: An example of asynchrono-mechanical amplification.” (Biomaterials 274, 120828, 2021)  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.120828

The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.
The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning.

As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

Writer: Anne Wainscott-Sargent

]]> Anne Sargent 1 1623088322 2021-06-07 17:52:02 1623160394 2021-06-08 13:53:14 0 0 news During trauma, certain platelets (tiny 2-micrometer cells in the blood in charge of making the initial plug) contract first. They shrink the clot so the other platelets will see more fibrins nearby, effectively increasing the clot force. The simulations showed that the platelets work best when they’re not in total sync with each other. The platelets pull at different times -- increasing the efficiency of the clot.

2021-06-07T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-07T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-07 00:00:00 Research News

Anne Wainscott-Sargent 

Tracey Reeves 
647946 647947 647946 image <![CDATA[Yueyi Sun]]> image/jpeg 1623085479 2021-06-07 17:04:39 1623085479 2021-06-07 17:04:39 647947 image <![CDATA[Blood clotting modeling researchers]]> image/jpeg 1623085554 2021-06-07 17:05:54 1623085554 2021-06-07 17:05:54
<![CDATA[Coulter BME Appoints Five New Distinguished Faculty Fellows]]> 28153 Five faculty members have received fellowships this spring from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The three-year distinguished fellowships offer discretionary funding that allows faculty members to explore new areas of research, support students, purchase key equipment, or cultivate new industry and research relationships, and conduct pilot studies.

The new faculty fellows are:

“Each of these fellowships recognizes the ongoing and outstanding impactful contributions of these faculty members to Coulter BME — and the biomedical engineering profession, writ large,” said Susan Margulies, Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Department. “They are national and international leaders, scholars, and mentors.”


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1622700874 2021-06-03 06:14:34 1623101641 2021-06-07 21:34:01 0 0 news 2021-06-03T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-03T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-03 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

647902 647902 image <![CDATA[BME Faculty Fellows]]> image/jpeg 1622700648 2021-06-03 06:10:48 1626384555 2021-07-15 21:29:15 <![CDATA[Jaydev Desai]]> <![CDATA[Gabe Kwong]]> <![CDATA[Manu Platt]]> <![CDATA[Peng Qiu]]> <![CDATA[May Dongmei Wang]]>
<![CDATA[BME Grad Students Veronica Montgomery and Elisa Nieves receive Tau Beta Pi Fellowships]]> 28153 Two women from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University are among the 28 engineering students receiving Tau Beta Pi Fellowships for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Veronica Montgomery and Elisa Nieves each receive cash stipends of $10,000 as part of the engineering honor society’s newest class of fellows, whose selection is based on academic performance, campus leadership and service, and the promise of future contributions in their fields.

“I was an officer in my Tau Beta Pi chapter as an undergrad, and it was a fabulous experience,” said Montgomery, who studied biological engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before entering Coulter BME in 2016. “It is such a great honor now to receive the fellowship as a grad student.”

Always an analytical thinker with a creative mindset, she entered college intent on making, “a clear and obvious impact on society. That led me to biomedical engineering.”

Her undergraduate research in a large drug delivery lab inspired her to pursue that route as a Ph.D. student. Montgomery – born and raised in Dallas, Texas – admitted the climate difference between Boston and Atlanta played a part in her decision to come to Coulter BME.

“I was excited to move to a warmer state,” she said, adding pragmatically, “but I decided to come to Georgia Tech and Emory because it’s such a great program, with several labs working on drug delivery research. I knew I’d have a lot of great options when joining a lab.”

She joined the lab of Mark Prausnitz who, in addition to being the J. Erskine Love Jr. Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is director of the Center for Drug Design, Development and Delivery – CD4 – at Georgia Tech.

“I was very lucky that Dr. Prausnitz gave me a thesis project perfectly suited to my interests,” said Montgomery, whose research is focused on engineering the skin microbiome for drug delivery. “I have a lot of intellectual freedom to explore the fields that I’m most interested in, and it’s been a great opportunity to prepare for my career.”

With plans to graduate in the summer of 2022, Montgomery is intent on doing similar research in the biotech industry with an emphasis on health care and disease prevention. But she’s also planning to use the community-focused skillsets she developed while at Tech.

“There are a lot of science outreach opportunities here, and participating in that has been significant for me because I have realized how important and fun science communication is,” she said. “Science communication and science outreach have become a major interest of mine, and I’d like to continue working on that in the future, either as a part of my job or as a side interest.”

Outreach also has been one of the key drivers for Nieves, but so has her life experience. She grew up surrounded by medical professionals in Naples, Florida – her parents are a phlebotomist and a physician’s assistant.

“Hearing their stories from work first sparked my interest in the medical field,” said Nieves, who studied biomedical engineering as an undergraduate at the University of Florida. “I love how interdisciplinary this field is. It’s constantly challenging me to learn new material and apply that knowledge for creative solutions.”

While at UF, she had the opportunity to present her research on tissue scaffolds at two national conferences for minority students as well as the Biomedical Engineering Society’s Annual Meeting. She also worked as a trainee in a program designed to support minority students interested in pursuing a Ph.D.

“These experiences were very influential on my decision to apply for graduate school and motivated me to apply for the Georgia Tech Summer Undergraduate Research Experience,” said Nieves, who studied in the Coulter BME lab of Assistant Professor Vahid Serpooshan, work that advanced 3D bioprinting techniques and inspired her to return to Tech for her graduate studies.

But it was Tau Beta Pi’s emphasis on community service that really caught her attention as an undergrad.

“I wanted to inspire the next generation of engineers and become a role model to females and underrepresented minorities interested in STEM careers,” said Nieves, who held several officer posts at the UF chapter, where she coordinated outreach events and facilitated creation of instructional videos aimed to increase the retention rate of first-year engineering students.

But nothing could have prepared her for the past year.

“It’s not how I expected to finish my bachelor’s degree and start my graduate program,” said Nieves, a nod to the challenging circumstances of a global pandemic during a time of critical transition.

“That being said, I am unbelievably grateful for the resilience of my new department and university,” she added. “Georgia Tech has stepped up during a time of crisis and provided an incredible amount of support for its students.”

In her own case, Nieves said that a number of faculty have been staunch advocates, including Coulter BME’s Serpooshan and Manu Platt, and her current principal investigator, Andrés García, executive director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. “They’ve helped me achieve several awards and fellowships during my short time at Georgia Tech,” she said.

But sometimes it’s the basic things in the day-to-day work of science that matter most. She remembered a few weeks after joining the García lab.

“I was able to pick up a pipette for the first time in six months,” she said. “And by the end of my first semester, I had a new set of wet lab skills and confidence in my ability to learn from my experiments and make a plan to move forward.”

In addition to Montgomery and Nieves, a third Georgia Tech graduate student – Abraham Atte, Aerospace Engineering – also earned a fellowship from Tau Beta Pi, which has initiated more than 615,000 members since it was founded in 1885 at Lehigh University. The fellowship program has awarded more than 1,736 fellowships and more than $8 million since the program began in 1929.



Tau Beta Pi: The Engineering Honor Society


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1622666970 2021-06-02 20:49:30 1622701310 2021-06-03 06:21:50 0 0 news Engineering Honor Society introduces 88th class of graduate fellows

2021-06-02T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-02T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-02 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

647904 647904 image <![CDATA[Tau Beta Pi Fellows]]> image/jpeg 1622701184 2021-06-03 06:19:44 1622701264 2021-06-03 06:21:04
<![CDATA[Seed Grants Fund Foundational Work on Diseases Disproportionately Affecting Black Americans]]> 28153 A year from now, four Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering faculty members will have new tools to help understand diseases that disproportionately affect Black Americans.

Those tools will be animal models specifically designed to replicate risk factors prevalent among people with African ancestry or to mimic social determinants of health experienced by Black Americans. The work is made possible by a seed grant program developed by Coulter BME faculty members Edward Botchwey and Johnna Temenoff that has awarded $25,000 to each of the four projects.

The grants are the product of conversations over the last year about ways that Coulter BME — and the broader campus community, for that matter — could harness the commitment to address structural racism that crystallized after the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and others in 2020.

“What I personally hope is one of the outcomes of this is that we all in BME, and the broader bioscience community at Georgia Tech, can realize that we have something to contribute to solving the problems of healthcare disparities, and that it is something that's important not just for the Black and underrepresented minority community but it's important for all of us,” said Botchwey, associate professor in the Department.

The projects cover a wide range of health problems, from traumatic brain injury to alopecia and breast cancer to glaucoma. Botchwey said that range demonstrates the different ways researchers in the Department can make a real difference in addressing disparate outcomes.

“Some may be more obvious — say, in glaucoma, where you’re addressing a disease whose prevalence has a known and disparate impact on the African American community,” he said. “Others might be in an area, like traumatic brain injury, that maybe the impact is not statistically as disparate as in some other injuries and diseases, but there may be really important underlying pathological mechanisms in place that have to be understood in order to provide better care and outcomes for African Americans and other underrepresented minorities.”

The seed-grant model is designed to address a gap that faculty members often face as they consider applying for federal research grants: they need preliminary data to show agency reviewers.

“Our faculty members helped us identify that we might not even have the models yet to generate the preliminary data,” said Susan Margulies, Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Department. “The important piece of this is really about providing seed funds with the goal of using it over the next 12 months to develop these models, verify them, and, ideally, gather a little bit of preliminary data so that our teams can subsequently pursue federal grants.”

Botchwey added: “Part of our motivation, in fact, was that, through the success of this seed grant and the dialogue that we're having here at Georgia Tech, we could really spur extramural funding agencies into action to put a much larger set of resources in place to address the healthcare disparities in the U.S. Through our seed grants, we can really show how those types of investments can pay off.”

The four funded projects propose developing new models for:

Glaucoma – C. Ross Ethier: The incidence of glaucoma — the most common cause of blindness — is four to six times greater for people of African ancestry than in other racial groups, and African Americans develop the disease earlier and have more severe cases than white Americans. This project will capitalize on a recent discovery of a gene associated with glaucoma in those of African ancestry but not in white or Asian populations. Collaborators include Michael Anderson, University of Iowa, and Michael Hauser, Duke University.

Breast Cancer – Karmella Haynes: Triple negative basal-like breast cancer affects pre-menopausal African American women disproportionately, and this highly metastatic cancer is the most prevalent type of breast cancer for obese Black women. The relationship between obesity and cancer remains unclear, particularly because social factors like income and access to healthcare and quality food are often related to obesity and can impact cancer survival. This project will develop a model to untangle those complications. Co-investigator: Curtis Henry, Pediatrics, Emory University.

Traumatic Brain Injury – Michelle LaPlaca: African Americans with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are more likely to have complications, greater disabilities, and less rehabilitation services. They also are more likely to die from the injury than white patients. This project will work to understand how chronic stressors present for some underrepresented groups influence poor outcomes for TBI patients. This kind of lasting, unpredictable, mild stress can lead to disruption of normal physiological processes and exaggerated responses to disease, but it has not been applied to animal models of TBI. Co-investigator: Levi Wood, Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech.

Alopecia Areata – Cheng Zhu: Alopecia areata, complete or partial hair loss on parts of the body that normally have hair, is more common in women of African descent that white women over the course of their lives. The disease is one of the most common autoimmune disorders in the world, but it manifests very differently for patients, so it is difficult to study and treat. What’s more, many studies have lacked enough Black participants. This project will work to understand the mechanisms that lead to alopecia areata and open new avenues of research to develop more targeted treatments. Co-investigator: Loren Krueger, Dermatology, Emory University

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1622551883 2021-06-01 12:51:23 1623100518 2021-06-07 21:15:18 0 0 news Four BME faculty developing new tools to bridge the research gap

2021-06-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-01 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

647844 647844 image <![CDATA[Stethoscope]]> image/jpeg 1622551392 2021-06-01 12:43:12 1622551392 2021-06-01 12:43:12 <![CDATA[Edward Botchwey]]> <![CDATA[C. Ross Ethier]]> <![CDATA[Karmella Haynes]]> <![CDATA[Michelle LaPlaca]]> <![CDATA[Cheng Zhu]]>
<![CDATA[COLOR Magazine Honors Haynes with Innovator in STEM Award]]> 27446 COLOR Magazine has recognized Karmella Haynes as a leading innovator in science, technology, engineering, and math at its inaugural Women of COLOR STEM Achievement Awards.

Haynes was one of the eight women celebrated at a virtual ceremony in late May. The Innovator in STEM is “a leader who identifies, supports, and promotes innovative practices that address important challenges in expanding access to quality STEM education,” according to the magazine. Award nominations came from scientists and health professionals across the country.

“I am honored to receive this year’s Women of COLOR STEM Achievement Award for innovation in STEM,” Haynes said in her acceptance remarks. “Thank you to the award committee for this great opportunity.”

Haynes is an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, where she uses engineering and molecular biology to design and build proteins that target and control cancer cells. She’s especially focused on triple-negative breast cancer, which disproportionately affects Black women.

Haynes also has created the AfroBiotech Conference to showcase the innovation, contributions, and leadership of the diverse engineering community and to inspire the next generation of students and scholars. In its two years, Haynes said the conference has highlighted innovations from more than 200 young and established Black scientists.

“Beyond my own research, I hope to grow a biotech community here in the Southeast that offers more lucrative and flexible opportunities to our marginalized community,” she said.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1622210784 2021-05-28 14:06:24 1622210784 2021-05-28 14:06:24 0 0 news Coulter BME assistant professor recognized as leader who works to expand access to quality STEM education

2021-05-28T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-28T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-28 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

602068 602068 image <![CDATA[Karmella Haynes, Ph.D. (vertical)]]> image/jpeg 1518030773 2018-02-07 19:12:53 1622210932 2021-05-28 14:08:52 <![CDATA[Karmella Haynes]]> <![CDATA[Women of Color STEM Achievement Awards]]> <![CDATA[AfroBiotech Conference]]>
<![CDATA[Platt Appointed to Lead Coulter BME Grad Programs]]> 27446 Manu Platt has been named the new associate chair for graduate studies in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Platt officially takes on his new responsibilities July 1, though he already has been working with current associate chair Michael Davis on a seamless transition.

“I am thrilled that is Manu taking on this new role in the Department. He has proven to be a talented and enthusiastic advocate for our programs, and I look forward to tapping his creativity and leadership in a new way,” said Susan Margulies, Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Department. “I’m also deeply grateful to Mike Davis for his guidance and dedication over the last five years. He has been a tireless champion for our students and graduate programs.”

Platt said he will build on a long tradition of success that includes a true commitment to diversity and inclusion, engaging and empowering students to chart their own unique path, and preparing graduates for success across a variety of careers.

“As an alumnus of this Ph.D. program, I take great pride in this program,” Platt said. “I truly believe that we have the best program in the country, and I am grateful for the opportunity to build on our many strengths and long tradition of success.”

Platt has led the Department’s graduate admissions and recruiting efforts for the last four years, helping establish Coulter BME as a leader in attracting and retaining students from historically underrepresented backgrounds. He also serves as deputy director of the interdisciplinary bioengineering graduate program at Georgia Tech.

Platt said his priorities as associate chair will include adding greater structure to the student-advisor matching process, creating more opportunities for new students to meet and interact with faculty members, and improving mental health training to help students distinguish between transient issues and more severe problems. He said he would like to use thesis and dissertation committees to foster new connections and collaborations among faculty members. And he plans to offer more professional development and career planning guidance for students.

“While an academic career is rewarding and exciting, the truth is that a number of our graduates will not pursue this pathway. Preparation for success in all career paths empowers students to choose their own adventures — whether industry, government, nonprofit, entrepreneurship, and more. This is a critical component of developing the whole biomedical engineer that we must retain and strengthen,” he said.

Platt has been a member of the Coulter BME faculty for more than a decade. His research focuses on understanding how cells sense, respond to, and remodel their immediate mechanical and biochemical environments for tissue repair and regeneration. He also leads two programs aimed at improving access and inclusion for underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and math. Project ENGAGES focuses on students at several high schools in Atlanta; GT-ESTEEMED is a National Institutes of Health-funded program for undergraduates.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1622125234 2021-05-27 14:20:34 1622125234 2021-05-27 14:20:34 0 0 news Platt officially takes on his new responsibilities July 1

2021-05-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-27 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

647770 647770 image <![CDATA[Manu Platt (horiz)]]> image/jpeg 1622124875 2021-05-27 14:14:35 1622124875 2021-05-27 14:14:35 <![CDATA[Manu Platt]]> <![CDATA[Coulter BME Graduate Programs]]> <![CDATA[GT-ESTEEMED]]> <![CDATA[Project ENGAGES]]>
<![CDATA[Understanding How Violet Light Can Stop Myopia Progression]]> 27446 An international team of researchers has taken an important step toward understanding a powerful potential treatment for myopia, which is fast becoming a public health crisis in Asia.

Previous work found that violet light can stop the progression of myopia, an elongation of the eye between the cornea and the retina that results in nearsightedness where far-away objects appear blurry. Now researchers at Keio University in Japan, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Emory University have discovered that the protective effects of violet light depend on a newly discovered photoreceptor protein in the eye called OPN5, or neuropsin, which was known to be sensitive to violet light.

“Among all the light that reaches our eyes, we have known for sure that violet light is special,” says Toshihide Kurihara, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at Keio University in Japan. “The human eye seems to use it as a clue to control its size, whereas we knew neither the mechanism nor the necessity behind this phenomenon. We believe to elucidate this mystery might be the key to stop myopia pandemic and worked on it for years.”

A few years ago, the Keio team reported that violet light could prevent myopia progression. Violet light is abundant in outdoor sunlight but largely absent indoors, where it’s not emitted by artificial lights and ultraviolet protective coatings on windows also filter out violet light wavelengths.

In a paper published online May 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research team explained the molecular mechanism behind this violet light effect on myopia progression and presented a new function of the OPN5 protein. OPN5 is part of a group of photoreceptor proteins called opsins found in the membranes of cells that are not involved in forming visual images but that play other important roles in the eye.

The researchers used an established mouse model of myopia to demonstrate that without OPN5, violet light did nothing to halt elongation of the eye. Mice without the OPN5 protein also saw continued thinning of the choroid, a vascular layer that decreases in thickness in myopic eyes.

At Cincinnati Children’s, Richard Lang, Ph.D., has played a key role in detailing unexpected roles that opsins play in the skin and the brain in addition to the eye. Some of his previous work has shown that Opsin 5  could regulate dopamine levels in the eye.

Because dopamine has a role in myopia development, he says, “it then became obvious that Opsin 5 was likely to be the light sensor that explained the observations of the Keio group — that violet light could suppress myopia. When we approached Machelle Pardue, Toshi Kurihara, and Kazuo Tsubota, they were keen to assess this question. My group has been delighted to take part in this collaboration.”

Understanding how violet light protects against worsening myopia is key as the condition’s prevalence accelerates. Already, roughly a third of people around the world are myopic, and some projections suggest nearly 5 billion people will have the condition by 2050. Nearsightedness typically begins in school-age children, and it’s often not considered a significant problem since it can be corrected with glasses. Yet, in China, myopia is the second-leading cause of blindness.

Slowing or stopping the changes in the eye that lead to myopia will limit the number of people who develop what’s called high myopia—elongation so severe that it can lead to detached retinas, glaucoma, and other problems that cause vision loss. A 2016 study in the journal Ophthalmology predicted nearly 10% of the world’s population will have high myopia by 2050.

“This study really does point to the fact that violet light is protective, and now there's a mechanism, this OPN5, that may underlie that,” says Machelle Pardue, Ph.D., professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory and a co-author of the study. “Next is to understand how you could use violet light to be protective in the human population. There are still some mechanistic aspects that need to be investigated to really understand how OPN5 may be doing this. This process is complex — if OPN5 is detecting violet light, it still has to have some sort of signaling molecule that's telling the eye to grow excessively.”

The time of day of any potential violet-light therapy for myopia also could matter. The researchers exposed mice to the light at different times of day, and their data showed treatment in the evening hours seemed to be most effective.

This research was supported by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (grant No. 18K09424); the Tsubota Laboratory, Inc.; the United States National Eye Institute (grant Nos. EY016435, EY027077, EY027711; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (grant No. IK6 RX003134; and the Emma and Irving Goldman Scholar Endowed Chair at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any funding agency.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1621950246 2021-05-25 13:44:06 1621950246 2021-05-25 13:44:06 0 0 news International team uncovers the mechanism in eyes that allows violet light to stop the progression of myopia.

2021-05-25T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-25T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-25 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

647714 647726 647727 647714 image <![CDATA[OPN5 Expression in Mouse Retina]]> image/jpeg 1621900332 2021-05-24 23:52:12 1621900332 2021-05-24 23:52:12 647726 image <![CDATA[OPN5 Violet Light Illustration]]> image/png 1621949766 2021-05-25 13:36:06 1621949766 2021-05-25 13:36:06 647727 image <![CDATA[Machelle Pardue (horiz)]]> image/jpeg 1621949862 2021-05-25 13:37:42 1621949862 2021-05-25 13:37:42 <![CDATA["Violet light suppresses lens-induced myopia via neuropsin (OPN5) in mice"]]> <![CDATA[Toshihide Kurihara]]> <![CDATA[Richard Lang]]> <![CDATA[Machelle Pardue]]>
<![CDATA[Early Feasibility Study Shows Flickering Lights and Sound Could Be New Weapon Against Alzheimer’s]]> 28153 For the past few years, Annabelle Singer and her collaborators have been using flickering lights and sound to treat mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease, and they’ve seen some dramatic results.

Now they have results from the first human feasibility study of the flicker treatment, and they’re promising.

“We looked at safety, tolerance, and adherence, and several different biological outcomes, and the results were excellent — better than we expected,” said Singer, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory.

Singer shared preliminary results of the feasibility study in October at the American Neurological Association annual meeting. Now she is a corresponding author with Emory neurology researcher James Lah of a paper outlining their findings in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions.

The flicker treatment stimulates gamma waves, manipulating neural activity, recruiting the brain’s immune system, and clearing pathogens — in short, waging a successful fight against a progressive disease that still has no cure.

Previous research already had shown that sensory areas in the human brain will entrain to flickering stimuli for seconds to hours. But this was the first time Singer and her team were able to test gamma sensory stimulation over an extended period of time.

The study included 10 patients with Alzheimer’s-associated mild cognitive impairment, which required them to wear an experimental visor and headphones that exposed one group to light and sound at 40 hertz for an hour a day over eight weeks, and another group for four weeks after a delayed start.

“We were able to tune the devices to a level of light and sound that was not only tolerable, but it also successfully provoked an underlying brain response,” Lah said.

As they hoped and expected, Singer said, “there was widespread entrainment.” That is, brain activity – in this case, gamma waves – synchronized to the external stimulation.

Gamma waves are associated with high-level cognitive functions, like perception and memory. Disruptions to these waves have been found in various neurological disorders, not just Alzheimer’s.

The human feasibility study showed that the gamma flicker treatment was safe and tolerable. And perhaps most surprising, patients followed the full treatment schedule.

“Adherence was one of our major concerns,” Singer said. “When we sent the device home with the participants, would they use it? Would they use it for a couple of days, and that would be it? We were pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case.”

Adherence rates hovered around 90 percent, with no severe adverse effects reported during the study or the 10-month open label extension (some patients even volunteered to continue being monitored and assessed after the study, though this data wasn’t part of the published research).

Some participants reported mild discomfort that could have been flicker related — dizziness, ringing in the ears, and headaches. But overall, Singer said, the device’s safety profile was excellent. She also reported some positive biological outcomes.

“We looked at default mode network connectivity, which is basically how different brain regions that are particularly active during wakeful rest and memory, interact with each other,” Singer said. “There are deficits in this network in Alzheimer’s, but after eight weeks [of treatment], we found strengthening in that connectivity.” This may indicate stronger interactions and therefore better communication between these regions.

In previous animal studies, the 40Hz of flicker stimulated mouse gamma waves, significantly reducing some Alzheimer’s pathogenic hallmarks and recruited microglia to the cause – these are the primary immune cells in the brain. But in the human study, there were no clear changes in the presence of pathogens amyloid beta or p-Tau.

However, as with the mouse studies, “we are getting immune engagement in humans,” Singer said. The flicker treatment sparked the activity of cytokines, proteins used in cell signaling — a sign that flicker had engaged the brain’s immune system.

“That is something we want to see, because microglia do things like clear out pathogens. Some people think that part of what’s going wrong in Alzheimer’s is a failure of this clearance mechanism,” Singer said.

She and Lah have wondered if a longer human trial would make a difference — would there be reduced amyloid activity, for example.

“So far, this is very preliminary, and we’re nowhere close to drawing conclusions about the clinical benefit of this treatment,” Lah said. “But we now have some very good arguments for a larger, longer study with more people.”


The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health (grant No. R01-NS109226-01S1), by the Packard Foundation, the Friends and Alumni of Georgia Tech, the Lane Family, the Wright Family, and Cognito Therapeutics. Any findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the researchers and not necessarily of the sponsors.

Competing interests: Annabelle Singer owns shares in Cognito Therapeutics, which funded the human study at Emory Brain Health Center. Cognito aims to develop gamma stimulation-related products. These conflicts are managed by Georgia Tech’s Office of Research Integrity Assurance.


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1621871343 2021-05-24 15:49:03 1621879521 2021-05-24 18:05:21 0 0 news Safety, tolerance, adherence get high scores in first human trial

2021-05-24T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-24T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-24 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

647695 647695 image <![CDATA[Annabelle Singer]]> image/jpeg 1621871010 2021-05-24 15:43:30 1621871010 2021-05-24 15:43:30 <![CDATA[“A feasibility trial of gamma sensory flicker for patients with prodromal Alzheimer's disease"]]> <![CDATA[Annabelle Singer]]> <![CDATA[James Lah]]>
<![CDATA[Zhu Lab Explains the Inhibitory Role of World’s Most Famous Molecule]]> 28153 A so-called “checkpoint” protein found on the immune system’s all-important T cells called PD-1 might be the most famous molecule on the planet. It was an anti-PD-1 drug, along with radiation therapy, that disintegrated former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s brain tumors in 2015.

Under normal conditions, PD-1 serves an important role as an off-switch, preventing well-intentioned T cells from running amok and attacking normal, healthy cells by mistake. It does this by binding with a protein called PD-L1, found on some normal and some cancer cells. This interaction basically signals the T cell to leave the other cell alone. Unfortunately, sometimes the other cell is cancer, which then goes unbothered because PD-1 told the T cell to stand down.

The immunotherapy drug used to treat President Carter, Keytruda, is a checkpoint inhibitor. It inhibited PD-1, freeing the T cells to do their job and destroy the brain tumor. Since then, research into the molecule has expanded and PD-1 blockade continues its evolution as a promising treatment against solid tumors. The Japanese scientist who discovered the protein in 1992, Tasuku Honjo, won the Nobel Prize in 2018.

“It has become a very hot molecule,” said Cheng Zhu, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Tech. “But only a minor fraction of cancer patients — about one third of the melanoma patients who have been treated with the blockade therapy — are responsive, indicating an incomplete understanding of how PD-1 works.”

Zhu and his colleagues are particularly interested in explaining how PD-1 inhibits T-cell activity, and they unravel one part of the mystery in a new paper in Nature Communications. Using technology Zhu developed decades ago that measures the biochemistry on live cell membranes, the researchers discovered that PD-1 disrupts the recruitment of CD8, a protein co-receptor that partners in T cell signaling and activation.

“The results of our study identify a PD-1 inhibitory mechanism that disrupts cooperative molecular interactions and prevents CD8 from augmenting antigen recognition,” Zhu said. “This explains the molecule’s potent inhibitory function regarding T cell activation and also explains its value as a target for clinical intervention.”

The lead author on the paper is Kaitao Li, a research scientist in Zhu’s Cellular and Molecular Biomechanics Lab, who focused on PD-1 for his Ph.D. dissertation in 2016. Li’s interest in the molecule has only grown through his friendship with Rafi Ahmed’s lab at Emory. Ahmed is a co-author of the new Nature Communications paper.

“I was taking an immunology class at Emory in 2010, and it was the first time I came across the PD-1 molecule,” Li recalled. “A friend of mine was a grad student in Rafi’s lab, and eventually, I became very inspired by their work.”

Ahmed’s lab identified PD-1 as a major mediator of T cell dysfunction during chronic infection, work that ultimately translated into human clinical studies of blockade therapy. Meanwhile, the Zhu lab had been focusing mainly on the basic science of on T cell activation and T cell receptors – TCR, a protein complex used by T cells for recognizing invading antigens.

“What excites me most is that [this study] reinforces and extends the work that Dr. Zhu did 10 years ago on the sequence of events leading up to T cell activation, but now it brings PD-1 into the story, revealing how PD-1 dampens T cell activation,” explained Simon Davis, paper co-author, whose immunology lab at the University of Oxford has studied PD-1 and other proteins for about 20 years. “We had proposed a long time ago that the activation sequence is dictated by the relative strengths of protein interactions involves, but Dr. Zhu’s lab was able to tease all this apart.”

While Zhu’s lab is rich in basic science, there is a translational aspect to this work. A biotech company that spun out Davis’ work is interested in Zhu’s discoveries, particularly the series of interactions among all of these critical molecules engaged in the immune response, Davis said.

And it’s bound to get more interesting going forward. Zhu and Li, who collaborated on PD-1 research for a paper in 2017, said they are planning two more studies focusing on the notable molecule, now the target of a hopeful treatment regimen that still has plenty of room for improvement.

“There has certainly been some clinical success even though we don’t fully understand the mechanism behind it,” Zhu said. “But there is still a long way to go because two thirds of the patients are not responding successfully. Why? We have another study planned to try to answer that question.”


This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants U01CA214354, R01CA243486, and U01CA250040 (to C.Z. and R.A.).

CITATIONS: Kaitao Li, Zhou Yuan, Jintian Lyu, Eunseon Ahn, Simon J. Davis, Rafi Ahmet, Cheng Zhu, “PD-1 suppresses TCR-CD8 cooperativity during T-cell antigen recognition” (Nature Communications, May 2021)

Related Links:

PD-1 suppresses TCR-CD8 cooperativity during T-cell antigen recognition” (Nature Communications, May 2021)

Cellular and Molecular Biomechanics Laboratory

Jimmy Carter’s Cancer Immunotherapy Story

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1621373875 2021-05-18 21:37:55 1621956568 2021-05-25 15:29:28 0 0 news New research teases apart the mechanisms behind the checkpoint protein PD-1

2021-05-18T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-18T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-18 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

647578 647581 647578 image <![CDATA[Zhu Lab Tech]]> image/jpeg 1621373088 2021-05-18 21:24:48 1621373088 2021-05-18 21:24:48 647581 image <![CDATA[Cheng and Kaitao]]> image/jpeg 1621373514 2021-05-18 21:31:54 1621373514 2021-05-18 21:31:54
<![CDATA[Gleason Turns Tragedy into a Passion for Global Health]]> 27446 Rudy Gleason’s singular focus on using bioengineering innovation to combat grand challenges in global health comes from a deeply personal place.

Gleason and his wife were in the process of adopting a young girl from Ethiopia in 2009 named Kennedy. Before they could bring her home, however, she died — the result, Gleason said, of a seemingly preventable combination of malnutrition and diarrhea.

That personal tragedy changed everything for Gleason, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

“This loss shifted my passion and redirected both my personal activities and my academic teaching, research, and service activities at Georgia Tech,” Gleason said.

As a result, he has mentored dozens of students on trips to sub-Saharan Africa. He has developed courses focused on global health challenges and bioengineering. He has built research collaborations with scientists and clinicians in developing countries. And he mentors teams of Capstone Design students who focus on projects to improve health and medicine in Ethiopia.

Now his work is being recognized with the Steven A. Denning Award for Global Engagement from the Office of the Vice Provost for International Initiatives at Tech. The award honors a faculty member who has demonstrated sustained outstanding achievement and commitment to the advancement of the Institute’s global engagement.

“Receiving the Denning Award is a tremendous honor,” Gleason said. “It is my hope that this award will provide a platform for me to continue to engage students, faculty, and international students and scholars in research, teaching, and service activities at the interface of bioengineering and global health to reduce disparities in health around the world.”

In Ethiopia, that work is focused on developing resource-appropriate biomedical devices to reduce maternal and child mortality. As Gleason has learned — and as his students learn, too — the challenges are not always about resources or technology; sometimes, the challenges are about culture and social norms. He has been supported in his efforts by a variety of funders, including the Fulbright Scholars Program, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

On campus, Gleason developed a course called Engineering for Global Health and Development to teach students how to use their skills to address economic and health disparities in the developing world.

He also helped create a special section of the Coulter BME Capstone Design course focused on creating solutions for the developing world. One of the projects from those design teams, a device to prevent neonatal hypothermia in Ethiopia, is the subject of pending grant applications to the NIH and the Gates Foundation.

Gleason’s passion for this work stretches beyond his professional life. He and his wife have started a nonprofit that focuses on women and family empowerment and child development in vulnerable families in Ethiopia. It’s called Because of Kennedy. They also continued to pursue adoption, and they have two daughters who are now 11 and 12 years old.

As Gleason sees it, though, the work is just beginning.

“In the years ahead, I hope to broaden collaborations between Georgia Tech students and faculty and international researchers in the developing world,” he said. “I hope to explore the development of research and teaching centers aimed at translating bioengineering innovation to the developing world and joint biomedical engineering institutes between Georgia Tech and universities in the developing world.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1620939908 2021-05-13 21:05:08 1620939908 2021-05-13 21:05:08 0 0 news Associate Professor Rudy Gleason wins Georgia Tech’s Denning Award for work on health disparities in sub-Saharan Africa

2021-05-13T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-13T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-13 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

614002 614002 image <![CDATA[Rudy and kids]]> image/jpeg 1541686976 2018-11-08 14:22:56 1541686976 2018-11-08 14:22:56 <![CDATA[Steven A. Denning Award for Global Engagement ]]> <![CDATA[Rudy Gleason]]>
<![CDATA[Targeting Radiation Resistance: Why Some Tumors Are So Stubborn]]> 28153 Radiation therapy has been — and will be — a cornerstone of cancer treatment for good reason: It works.


Currently, more than half of cancer patients receive radiation as part of their treatment. But 20 percent of them, give or take, will find that they need different options because their tumors are resistant to radiation therapy. It’s a bad place to be: They may still face the potential side effects without the therapeutic benefit, and they’ve lost precious time.

What if clinicians had a way to predict and possibly improve radiosensitivity for individual patients? A team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University is working on something with that ultimate goal in mind.

“There still isn’t a great understanding of why some tumors don’t respond well to radiation, and it’s a significant hurdle to the long-term survival of many patients,” noted Joshua Lewis, who sought answers to the radiation resistance question while a graduate student in the lab of Melissa Kemp in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Together, they’ve taken steps to begin to understand the underlying metabolism and build a tool to predict whether specific tumors will be one of the stubborn ones that doesn’t respond. In back-to-back papers, with Lewis as lead author, Kemp said they created a new pipeline, “in which you can automatically take data, plug it into our whole cell modeling of metabolism, and actually predict the way certain tumors of various cancer types, from various patients, are going to respond.”

She added: “This is the first example of really asking, with respect to radiation resistance, why there are differences that manifest themselves in tumor metabolism.”

In January, they published the first study with collaborators from Wake Forest and Indiana University in the journal Cell Systems. The newest research appears this month in Nature Communications. Lewis based the studies on his Ph.D. thesis, “Genome-Scale Modeling of Redox Metabolism and Therapeutic Response in Radiation-Resistant Tumors,” which he defended a year ago.

Shortly after Lewis began grad school, Wake Forest researcher Cristina Furdui approached the Kemp lab with the radiation resistance problem, “asking us to apply our expertise in systems biology,” he said. “It’s a more holistic approach than working with individual molecules or proteins, taking into account many different factors and their interactions, seeing if that leads to a particular response to radiation therapy.”

Lewis used a well-established type of cellular modeling called “flux balance analysis,” in which, “you try to model the entire metabolism of a cell — all the different chemical reactions. We model them using different biochemical equations.” The researchers then plug those equations into a computer. Within seconds, they can accurately analyze about 13,000 different metabolic reactions.

“We came up with our own approach for making more accurate flux balance analysis models by integrating multiple different types of omics data,” said Lewis, now pursuing his medical degree in the Emory MD/PhDProgram. “Omics” measure characteristics of molecules like genes, proteins, or metabolites, which comprise the cells of an organism.

By integrating genomics, transcriptomics, and metabolomics data, the researchers could model redox metabolism – the process of oxidation and reduction reactions, or the loss and gain of electrons – in cancer cells, “and use that to accurately predict how certain tumors react to radiation therapy,” said Lewis, who mined data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA).

“We looked for metabolic enzymes or metabolic targets where, if you tweaked them, it could affect a tumor’s radiosensitivity,” Lewis said. “So, imagine if you’re giving a patient radiation therapy, and you could also give them a chemotherapeutic at the same time that inhibits the action of a particular enzyme to make a tumor more sensitive to radiation.”

That is, essentially, the first paper. In the second — written only by Lewis and Kemp — the researchers integrated machine learning with genome-scale metabolic modeling, “to see if we can better predict what sort of biological features are associated with a patient’s response to radiation.”

One main challenge for the researchers in either paper, Lewis said, was in the datasets they used from TCGA. They had good genomics and transcriptomics data, but their metabolomics data was incomplete. The computational models they developed for the Cell Systems paper helped fill in the blanks, making metabolomic predictions. They fed the data from those models into a machine learning model to better identify biomarkers of radiation resistance.

“We can think clinically of a patient giving a blood sample, and from that blood you’re able to measure the levels of different metabolites and determine if the patient would be a good candidate for radiation therapy, or whether we should go ahead and think of other therapies,” Lewis said.

That speaks directly to what Lewis is training for now in his M.D. program. He wants to be a pathologist and better understand how patients respond to different therapies.

“I’d like to help bridge the gap between research and the clinic,” he said.

He’s off to a good start, and it’s exciting for Kemp.

“Josh’s computational platform turns easy-to-acquire data into a model representation of hard-to-acquire attributes, like metabolic fluxes and metabolite changes, that are otherwise very challenging to measure with the scale it takes to cover many different patients,” she said.


This research was supported by a National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute fellowship (F30 CA224968), an NIH/NCI U01 grant (CA215848), and the Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center (NIH/NCI P30 CA12197).

CITATIONS: Joshua Lewis, Tom E. Forsha, David A. Boothman, Cristina Furdui, Melissa Kemp, “Personalized Genome-Scale Metabolic Models Identify Targets of Redox Metabolism in Radiation-Resistant Tumors ” (Cell Systems, 2021)

Joshua Lewis, Melissa Kemp, “Integration of machine learning and genome-scale metabolic modeling identifies multi-omics biomarkers for radiation resistance” (Nature Communications, 2021).


Related Links:

“Personalized Genome-Scale Metabolic Models Identify Targets of Redox Metabolism in Radiation-Resistant Tumors ” (Cell Systems, 2021)

“Integration of machine learning and genome-scale metabolic modeling identifies multi-omics biomarkers for radiation resistance” (Nature Communications, 2021).



]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1620758284 2021-05-11 18:38:04 1621956794 2021-05-25 15:33:14 0 0 news Kemp lab uses genome-scale modeling to understand tumor metabolism and predict tumors’ responses to radiation therapy

2021-05-11T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-11T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-11 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

647360 647360 image <![CDATA[Kemp and Lewis]]> image/jpeg 1620757729 2021-05-11 18:28:49 1620757729 2021-05-11 18:28:49
<![CDATA[Yoganathan, Platt Win AIMBE Professional Impact Awards]]> 27446 Two faculty members in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering have earned national praise for their impact on education and diversity.

The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, or AIMBE, has honored Ajit Yoganathan with its Professional Impact Award for Education and Manu Platt with a Professional Impact Award for Diversity. They were recognized in late March at a virtual awards ceremony alongside five other winners from around the nation.

Yoganathan’s award cites his long record of innovation in development of biomedical engineering education as well as his involvement in developing international standards in cardiovascular devices. In the 1990s, Yoganathan helped create Georgia Tech’s cross-disciplinary bioengineering Ph.D. and then the unique joint Georgia Tech-Emory University Ph.D. program. He also helped develop the Master of Biomedical Innovation and Development.

“I am extremely proud of what we have done in this space, because there was really nothing at Tech in the bio space when I started,” said Yoganathan, Regents Professor Emeritus and Wallace H. Coulter Distinguished Faculty Chair in Biomedical Engineering. “The impact I've seen — how it impacts the graduate students that we've developed — and the students’ contributions makes me extremely proud.”

Platt, associate professor in the Department, was honored for “visionary leadership and an established track record of improving diversity and inclusion” in biomedical engineering, according to AIMBE. He was cited for “changing the culture for historically underrepresented students and faculty across the nation.”

Among his work, Platt leads Project ENGAGES at Georgia Tech, a high school science education program that works with seven minority-serving public schools in Atlanta. He also runs a National Institutes of Health-funded initiative at Tech to build a pipeline of future researchers in biomedical engineering and biomedical sciences from groups that are historically underrepresented in the field.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1620673561 2021-05-10 19:06:01 1620673561 2021-05-10 19:06:01 0 0 news The organization is honoring Ajit Yoganathan with its Professional Impact Award for Education and Manu Platt with a Professional Impact Award for Diversity.

2021-05-10T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-10T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-10 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

647325 647325 image <![CDATA[Yoganathan-Platt Composite]]> image/jpeg 1620672836 2021-05-10 18:53:56 1620672836 2021-05-10 18:53:56 <![CDATA[Professional Impact Awards - American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering]]> <![CDATA[GT-ESTEEMED]]> <![CDATA[Project ENGAGES]]> <![CDATA[Bioengineering Ph.D. Program]]> <![CDATA[Manu Platt]]> <![CDATA[Ajit Yoganathan]]>
<![CDATA[Commencement 2021: Brielle Lonsberry’s Passions for Public Health, Helping People Merge as SGA President]]> 27446 Brielle Lonsberry and her running mate Kyle Smith had all sorts of plans for their potential tenure as undergraduate student body president and vice president when they were campaigning in the spring of 2020.

But those plans disintegrated as the coronavirus pandemic upended life around the globe just before students voted. And when Lonsberry won that election, she and Smith realized quickly where their focus had to be.

“Kyle and I and our whole campaign team, we had a whole platform that we were so excited to be able to focus on this last year. Of course, when Covid hit, we said, ‘That's not our priority anymore; we have to focus on Covid,’” Lonsberry said recently, fresh from handing the reins over to a new team of student leaders.

Lonsberry estimates probably half of her Student Government Association (SGA) time was focused on Covid-19 and helping campus leaders as they worked to get students safely back in classes and figure out how to operate campus. Twice a week, she joined the Georgia Tech recovery task force meetings to hear the latest and represent students while offering the hands and voice of SGA for the work that had to be done.

“I keep joking that when I graduate, I'm expecting my bachelor's in BME, but also my master's in public health,” Lonsberry said, “because I have learned so much about public health this last year.”

As she prepared to graduate with her bachelor’s degree this weekend, the biomedical engineering student said it was certainly a difficult time to be SGA president — but perhaps the most rewarding time, too.

“Even before Covid, I was interested in public health,” Lonsberry said. “I've learned that I really am passionate about public health. And [this year] confirms that I do want a career in public health.”

As things have calmed somewhat this spring, Lonsberry and her team in SGA have been able to revisit some of those original pre-pandemic ideas. She said her team worked to hold the line on mandatory student fees, working with the committee that sets the fees to make adjustments without increasing the total amount. Lonsberry said she’s been most proud of their work on Title IX policy in Georgia, which had to be updated based on new federal guidance for responding to complaints of sexual misconduct on campuses.

“I was able to work closely with some of my cabinet members, and we started a University System of Georgia-wide SGA campaign to make sure that the new Title IX policy written and adopted by the state was very survivor-focused. That was a really cool part of this year,” she said.

That is a lot of impact for someone who had no connection to Georgia, Georgia Tech, or Emory University a few years ago. Lonsberry is originally from West Palm Beach, Florida, and she knew biomedical engineering would nicely blend her interests in math and science with her passion for people and their health. She also knew the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering was one of the nation’s best programs.

“I was really able to fall in love with the school on my own and decide, this is the place that I love. I love the culture, I love the people, I love the opportunities that I'll be able to have on this campus,” she said. Looking back four years later, she said she was right: “I've been able to experience more and accomplish more at Georgia Tech than I ever thought that I would and could.”

To wit: Lonsberry has served as a student ambassador and a member of the Coulter BME Undergraduate Student Advisory Board. She studied abroad in the BME Galway Summer Program in Ireland, and she traveled to Eastern Europe through the Leadership for Social Good Study Abroad Program. She joined a sorority and added a minor in leadership studies.

In other words, she squeezed every drop out of her years at Tech.

As she celebrates what’s to come, Lonsberry is also been reflecting on what she’s learned, especially over the challenging past year — that her voice is more powerful than she realizes sometimes; that how she approaches people and problems really does matter; and that things that seem really crazy and scary sometimes aren’t that crazy and scary when you have the right people supporting you. And she thinks a lot about something a Tech administrator she’s worked with this year told her: “He said, ‘Brielle, when you win, who wins with you?’ That's really powerful.”

After graduation, Lonsberry has a job lined up as an associate at Boston Consulting Group in Atlanta, and she already has her eye on getting that master’s degree in public health down the road.

“I've loved every second of being at Georgia Tech,” she said. “It has not been easy. It has definitely been very challenging at times, and life has thrown crazy curveballs. But I have never been prouder to be a Yellow Jacket. And I'm so proud to have been a part of the BME Department.”


Do you have any key memories from your years here that have stuck with you?

I think what I'll value most about the last four years are, of course, my friendships with people my age, but then also the relationships I've been able to build with faculty and administrators here on campus. Especially within the BME Department, being able to get to know my professors really well, like Dr. [Wendy] Newstetter. We would just hang out and get coffee and just catch up and talk about careers and random things.

One cool memory that I've been thinking about the last few days is about Austin [Stachowski] on my Capstone Design team. We were in our very first class ever at Georgia Tech together — so, Monday at 8 a.m., we were in that class together. And now we were in our very last class at Georgia Tech together. It is really cool to see some of the friendships that have just stayed throughout all four years.

Was there a particular class or a professor that had a significant impact on you?

Professor Bill Todd. I'm very close with him. He's actually a professor of the practice in Scheller [College of Business]. I took his Management in the Healthcare Sector course, and I've been able to do a practicum with him at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. He's just been such a great mentor to me. He’s like the go-to person if you're interested in public health and want a career in public health, and so, he's been great in helping me merge my BME degree with what I'm passionate about and [giving me] exposure to public health while I'm here at Georgia Tech. I can't give him enough kudos. He's amazing.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1620309914 2021-05-06 14:05:14 1620310115 2021-05-06 14:08:35 0 0 news Graduating BME senior reflects on study abroad, the people who've made an impact on her, and the rewards of serving her fellow students

2021-05-06T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-06T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-06 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

647207 647206 647208 647209 647207 image <![CDATA[Brielle Lonsberry Cap and Gown]]> image/jpeg 1620308679 2021-05-06 13:44:39 1620308679 2021-05-06 13:44:39 647206 image <![CDATA[Lonsberry - Capstone Team]]> image/jpeg 1620308491 2021-05-06 13:41:31 1620308491 2021-05-06 13:41:31 647208 image <![CDATA[Brielle Lonsberry in Iceland]]> image/jpeg 1620308833 2021-05-06 13:47:13 1620308833 2021-05-06 13:47:13 647209 image <![CDATA[Brielle Lonsberry in Jerusalem]]> image/jpeg 1620309021 2021-05-06 13:50:21 1620309021 2021-05-06 13:50:21 <![CDATA[Undergraduate Student Government Association]]> <![CDATA[BME Summer Program in Galway, Ireland]]> <![CDATA[Leadership for Social Good Study Abroad Program]]> <![CDATA[Minor in Leadership Studies]]> <![CDATA[Read More: Tool to Assess Newborns’ Ability to Breastfeed Takes Top BME Prize in Spring Capstone Expo]]>
<![CDATA[Coulter BME Recognizes Students with 2021 Leadership Awards]]> 27446 The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering has announced the winners of the Department’s 2021 student leadership awards.

The highly competitive honors go to students who’ve demonstrated outstanding leadership in research, entrepreneurship, service, and academics. Department faculty and staff nominate students, who then submit applications and letters of recommendation.

In announcing this year’s winners, the selection committee noted that the awards represent only a small fraction of the great things that happen in the course of a year in Coulter BME and that the committee had to make difficult decisions among a group of talented and worthy nominees.

The 2021 winners are:

Ana Cristian

Outstanding Academic Service

This award honors a graduating senior who has challenged themselves through involvement both inside and outside the classroom and contributed to the student educational experience at Georgia Tech. Cristian served as a PLUS mentor, a FOCUS tutor, a teaching assistant for Quantitative Engineering Physiology Laboratory (BMED 3110), a BME Peer Advising Leader (PALS), and an Undergraduate Research Ambassador.


Anabel Alonso

Outstanding Community Service

This award honors a graduating senior who has made service an integral part of their college experience through their commitment and significant contributions to the community. Alonso co-founded ABLE Alliance, a new student organization dedicated to improving disability inclusion on campus. The group was voted Best New Organization by the Georgia Tech Student Government Association in 2020.


Julia Woodall

Outstanding Research

This award honors a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding research skills and has shared their work with the broader research community through presentations at local, regional, or national conferences, or through one or more peer-reviewed publications. Woodall contributed to multiple articles, presented at conferences, and held several leadership positions as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador for three years.


Austin Stachowski

Outstanding Industrial Experience

This award honors a graduating senior who has performed exceptional work in, and demonstrated significant commitment to, the biomedical engineering industry through internships, cooperative education, or international work experiences. Stachowski interned for five semesters, including stints at MiMedx Group, MD Innovate, and Edwards LifeSciences. He also received a certificate in business strategy and innovation.


Michael Pullen

Outstanding Entrepreneur

This award recognizes a student or student team who has demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and initiative and who has made significant progress toward turning their innovative ideas into reality. Pullen is co-founder and CEO of LZRD Tech LLC, an apparel company based on internationally patented grip-enhancing technology.


Amanda Wijntjes

Outstanding Senior

This award honors a student who has exemplified all-around excellence through their significant accomplishments in several of the following categories of activities: service, academics, research, industry, and entrepreneurship. Candidates for this award must have a GPA of at least 3.75. Wijntjes completed two internships, conducted research during several semesters, co-authored a publication, and completed a minor in computer science. Wijntjes also served as vice president of finance for the Society of Women Engineers and volunteered as a BME FUTURES Ambassador and a HealthReach volunteer. Her Capstone Design team won the top BME award at the Spring 2021 Capstone Design Expo with their screening device to assess the ability of newborns to properly breastfeed.  


Jared Meyers

Outstanding Academic Achievement

In addition to his biomedical engineering degree, Meyers has minored in computer science and co-founded Augment Health, which is developing a device to replace urine collection bags for patients with catheters. Meyers completed three internships, performed research for several semesters, was co-author on a publication, and served as president for the Medical Robotics Club. He also was a team member of COVIDx, which finished in the top three at the national TechStars Startup Weekend 2020.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1620247417 2021-05-05 20:43:37 1620261990 2021-05-06 00:46:30 0 0 news The highly competitive honors go to students who’ve demonstrated outstanding leadership in research, entrepreneurship, service, and academics

2021-05-05T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-05T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-05 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

647200 647200 image <![CDATA[Trophies]]> image/jpeg 1620261366 2021-05-06 00:36:06 1620261366 2021-05-06 00:36:06
<![CDATA[Commencement 2021: Brady Bove Finds Home and Lifelong Connections]]> 27446 Before beginning her undergraduate degree on campus — majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in leadership studies and a certificate in cognitive psychology — Brady Bove was unsure what her time at Georgia Tech would be like. Growing up in Franklin, Tennessee, Bove says she didn’t even consider applying to the Institute until her mother encouraged her. From there, she joined a campus tour and was quickly drawn to the collaborative and innovative atmosphere — and decided to attend. 

Since then she has earned a major, minor, and certificate across the College of EngineeringIvan Allen College of Liberal Arts, and College of Sciences, respectively. She also just completed her senior BME Capstone project on an all-female team working on the National Security Innovation Network’s X-Force Fellowship

And although her last year before graduation was unexpectedly altered by the pandemic, Bove made good use of a hybrid schedule and some extra time to write and publish a collection of poems that seeks to show the joy of human connection — an especially relevant theme in a year that lacked a lot of direct human contact. 

“I am passionate about helping people — about forming connections with those around me,” she shares about her poetry book, “A Day of Humanity,”  which she published last summer. “I am passionate about showing people that they are not alone.” Bove gathered “touching stories from a wide variety of people — stories of anxiety, of love, of childhood pains, of friendship” for the book, which features 56 poems across a trio of themes: morning, day, and night. 

Now, as she gets ready to turn a tassel and begin the next chapter of her life, Bove reflects on the spirit of connection and community at Tech, where she says she’s found a home in many ways — on campus and in the classroom, where she’s met peers and professors who have challenged and encouraged her — and through a number of clubs and organizations where she’s made friends and relationships for life. Bove met her husband, Alejandro Muñoz, B.S. MSE 2019, while they were both studying at Georgia Tech. 

“I've grown in every single dimension of my life — emotionally, mentally, spiritually, intellectually,” she says. “I met my husband here. I met lifelong friends here. I've fallen in love with the sound of the Whistle on a sunny fall day. I love Tech.” 

Bove recently joined us virtually for a Q&A on her time as a student and what’s next: 

So, how have your initial expectations of Georgia Tech compared to your actual experience? 

I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of Georgia Tech when I first enrolled in 2016. I had never heard of Tech until my mom introduced me to it during my college search. I fell in love with the collaborative and innovative atmosphere and decided that I would call GT my home for the next four (which then turned to five) years. I still am surrounded by collaboration and innovation, but I found Tech to be so much more than that, too. I think the biggest shock was the level of success and experience each student brought to the table, and the way everyone really pushes you to be your best. 

What is the most important thing you've learned at Georgia Tech? 

The most important thing that I’ve learned here is the power of asking for help. Georgia Tech is a hard school that really pushes you. One of the ways I think it pushes you is to leave your comfort zone and lean on those around you. It is easy to “stay still” in your frustration and run around a problem over and over in your head without going anywhere — but what is more fruitful is to turn to the person next to you and work together to move forward. That was a really important lesson that allowed me to really engage with my studies. 

What is your proudest achievement at Georgia Tech? 

Georgia Tech has helped me grow so much and become proud of who I am and what I have done. I am especially proud of my senior design project. I worked with a team of four other amazing female biomedical engineers. We started our project in the summer as a part of the National Security Innovation Network’s X-Force Fellowship. We were partnered with the Army Rangers and were tasked with investigating traumatic brain injury in the military.  

This was an exciting project because it allowed me to incorporate some of the insights from my psychology courses as we spent an entire summer conducting interviews and performing a literature review. During the fall semester, we took our findings and designed a “blast attenuator” device for a mortar weapon system that would direct the damaging blast away from the brains of the service members firing the weapon. This design will hopefully be further refined by future teams.  

We also designed an experiment to measure the physiological and cognitive effects and the exact magnitude of the mortar weapon systems’ blasts upon firing. We were able to travel to Fort Benning to conduct this experiment.  

We have won two presentation awards for our work at different conferences and now are working on a research article to publish our findings. I am especially proud of this project, not because of the awards that we have won or for the possibility of having my name in an established research journal, but because my team worked well together and because we are making a real impact in the lives of those who serve us. 

Which professor or class made a big impact on you? 

A class that made a huge impact on me was The Art of Telling Your Story (BMED 4000), taught by Janece ShafferJoe Le Doux, and Cristi Bell-Huff. This class was so impactful because it showed me that the science world doesn’t have to be 100% technical — and that soft skills, like effective communication, are essential. After taking and being inspired by the connections formed in this class, I have been a teaching assistant for it for the past two semesters. Each semester I learn something new from the instructional team and from the students in the class. I have a passion for sharing stories, as a poet, and love being a part of this course. 

What is your most vivid memory at Georgia Tech? 

I have had so many amazing memories at Georgia Tech! One of my most vivid memories at Tech is actually one from my first semester. I was in a freshmen lounge with a few other people from my Classical Physics I course.  

We had a test that week and were trying to work through some problems that we didn’t understand. The white board was covered with acceleration and velocity equations, and across the room was an older student who didn’t appear to be paying any attention to us. After some time, we looked up from the problem we were working on to realize he had left. We continued to discuss the best equation to use for the problem we were working on.  

About thirty minutes later, we heard the door to the lounge creak open and then quickly shut. One of the people with me walked over towards the door to investigate. On the floor sat a bright blue box scribbled on with Sharpie: “Because every 1st year studying on Friday night deserves a donut! #stayhype.” Inside were a dozen Sublime Doughnuts.  

In this moment, I fell in love with Georgia Tech even more. It showed me that we are all looking out for each other and willing to help and support each other, any way we can. Georgia Tech is full of caring, smart, and passionate people — and that is why I love it. 

Where are you headed after graduation? 

After graduation I am getting married to another Tech graduate, Alejandro Muñoz, and we are moving up to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. I will be joining 3M as an optimized operations engineer.

At Georgia Tech, I fell in love with learning, and I wanted to be sure my future job would provide continuous education opportunities. I am excited for my role at 3M since I will be joining their Optimized Operations Developmental Program. This will allow me to grow and expand upon the lessons I have learned at Tech. I also hope to continue writing and sharing poetry. 

Are you joining Commencement festivities? 

I will be attending Commencement! I am most looking forward to walking across the stage, and feeling the peace that I have actually done it come over me. My family and fiancé will be in the stands — and I know how proud they are of me. 

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1620163618 2021-05-04 21:26:58 1620163734 2021-05-04 21:28:54 0 0 news Brady Bove reflects on biomedical engineering, meeting friends and her fiancé, and a box of Sublime Doughnuts on a Friday night

2021-05-04T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-04T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-04 00:00:00 Grace Pietkiewicz
Communications Assistant

647024 647025 647027 647028 647026 647029 647024 image <![CDATA[Brady Bove is a graduating student majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in leadership studies and a certificate in cognitive psychology.]]> image/png 1619667917 2021-04-29 03:45:17 1619667917 2021-04-29 03:45:17 647025 image <![CDATA[Bove with her poetry book, "A Day of Humanity," which she published last summer.]]> image/jpeg 1619667977 2021-04-29 03:46:17 1619667977 2021-04-29 03:46:17 647027 image <![CDATA[Bove completed her senior BME Capstone project on an all-female team working on the National Security Innovation Network’s X-Force Fellowship.]]> image/png 1619668227 2021-04-29 03:50:27 1619668227 2021-04-29 03:50:27 647028 image <![CDATA[Bove volunteering with her Management in the Healthcare Sector class.]]> image/png 1619668297 2021-04-29 03:51:37 1619668297 2021-04-29 03:51:37 647026 image <![CDATA[Bove at the USAT Collegiate Nationals with the Georgia Tech Triathlon Club Team.]]> image/png 1619668051 2021-04-29 03:47:31 1619668051 2021-04-29 03:47:31 647029 image <![CDATA[While studying for a Classical Physics I course, a friendly observer motivated Bove and her classmates by dropping off a box of Sublime Doughnuts.]]> image/jpeg 1619668390 2021-04-29 03:53:10 1619668390 2021-04-29 03:53:10 <![CDATA[Exploring Blast Exposure and the Brain]]>
<![CDATA[Breaching the Blood-Brain Barrier to Deliver Precious Payloads]]> 28153 RNA-based drugs have the potential to change the standard of care for many diseases, making personalized medicine a reality. This rapidly expanding class of therapeutics are cost-effective, fairly easy to manufacture, and able to go where no drug has gone before, reaching previously undruggable pathways.


So far, these promising drugs haven’t been very useful in getting through to the well-protected brain to treat tumors or other maladies.

Now a multi-institutional team of researchers, led by Costas Arvanitis at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, has figured out a way: using ultrasound and RNA-loaded nanoparticles to get through the protective blood-brain barrier and deliver potent medicine to brain tumors.

“We’re able to make this drug more available to the brain and we’re seeing a substantial increase in tumor cell death, which is huge,” said Arvanitis, assistant professor in the Wallace H, Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) and Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering (ME).

Arvanitis, whose collaborators include researchers and clinicians from Emory’s School of Medicine and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, is the corresponding author of a new paper published in the journal Science Advances that describes the team’s development of a next-generation, tunable delivery system for RNA-based therapy in brain tumors.

“Our results were very positive, but if you think I’m excited, you haven’t talked to oncologists – they’re 10 times as excited,” Arvanitis said.

The roots of this project go back to when he and the paper’s lead author, ME grad student Yutong Guo, arrived at Georgia Tech in August 2016.

“From the start, I was very interested in the application of ultrasonics in treating brain disease,” said Arvanitis, who linked up with Emory physician Tobey MacDonald, director of the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Program at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, and one of the paper’s co-authors. “Our main question was, can we use ultrasound to deliver drugs to tumors? Because that is a major challenge.”

RNA drugs have two major weaknesses: limited circulation time and limited uptake by cells. To overcome these challenges, the drugs are packaged in robust nanocarriers, typically 100 nm in size, to improve their bioavailability. Still, these nanocarriers have typically been too large to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, the tightly-connected and selective endothelial cells surrounding blood vessels in the brain, until now a locked door to RNA drugs.

But now, Arvanitis and his colleagues have discovered a safe way to get the drug safely across.

Using mouse models, the team deployed a modified version of ultrasound, the diagnostic imaging technique that uses sound waves to create images of internal body structures, such as tendons, blood vessels, organs and, in the case of pregnant women, babies in utero. The researchers combined this technology with microbubbles — tiny gas pockets in the bloodstream, designed as vascular contrast agents for imaging — which vibrate in response to ultrasound waves, changing the permeability of blood vessels.

“Focusing multiple beams of ultrasound energy onto a cancerous spot caused the microbubbles’ vibrations to actually stretch, pull, or shear the tight junctions of endothelial tissue that make up the blood-brain barrier, creating an opening for drugs to get through,” Guo said.

It’s a technique that biomedical ultrasound researchers have been refining for more than a decade, and recent clinical trials have demonstrated its safety. But there hasn’t been much evidence for selective and effective delivery of nanoparticles and their payloads directly into brain tumor cells. But even when blood borne drugs succeed in penetrating the blood-brain barrier, if they are not taken up by the cancer cell, the job isn’t complete.

Arvanitis and his team packaged siRNA, a drug that can block the expression of genes that drive tumor growth, in lipid-polymer hybrid nanoparticles, and combined that with the focused ultrasound technique in pediatric and adult preclinical brain cancer models. Using single-cell image analysis, they demonstrated a more than 10-fold improvement in delivery of the drug, reducing harmful protein production and increasing tumor cell death in preclinical models of medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor in children.

“This is completely tunable,” Arvanitis said. “We can fine tune the ultrasound pressure to attain a desired level of vibration and by extension drug delivery. It’s non-invasive, because we are applying sound from outside the brain, and it’s very localized, because we can focus the ultrasound to a very small region of the brain.”

Current standard treatments for brain tumors come with potentially awful side effects, Arvanitis said, “however, this technology can provide treatment with minimal side effects, which is very exciting. Now we are moving forward to try and identify what components are missing to translate this technology to the clinic.”

Citation: Y. Guo, H. Lee, Z. Fang, A. Velalopoulou, J. Kim, B. Thomas, T. Kim, A. F. Coskun, D. P. Krummel, S. Sengupta, T. McDannold, and C. D. Arvanitis. “Single-cell analysis reveals effective siRNA delivery in brain tumors with microbubble-enhanced ultrasound and cationic nanoparticles” Science Advances, April 2021.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant No. R00 EB016971 and grant No. R37 CA239039; and the CURE Foundation.

Related Links

Arvanitis Lab

“Single-cell analysis reveals effective siRNA delivery in brain tumors with microbubble-enhanced ultrasound and cationic nanoparticles”



]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1619815224 2021-04-30 20:40:24 1619815224 2021-04-30 20:40:24 0 0 news Georgia Tech and Emory researchers use ultrasound to develop delivery system for potent RNA drugs

2021-04-30T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-30T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-30 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

647088 647088 image <![CDATA[Yutong and Costas]]> image/jpeg 1619810931 2021-04-30 19:28:51 1619810931 2021-04-30 19:28:51
<![CDATA[Borodovsky Explains Vaccine Advances to Atlanta Jewish Times]]> 27446 The mRNA technology that allowed rapid development of vaccines for Covid-19 could one day lead to the development of vaccines for cancer, according to researchers.

The Atlanta Jewish Times explored the possibilities and turned to Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering Regents Professor Mark Borodovsky to explain how the technology works:

Borodovsky, who first came to Atlanta in the first wave of Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union in 1990, has been at the forefront of this rapidly developing frontier of modern medicine.

As the founder and director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics at Georgia Tech, he has been instrumental in developing new ways of sequencing the genome, the key to the foundational building blocks of all human life.

His work has been supported by The Marcus Foundation, funded by the cofounder of Home Depot Bernie Marcus.

In 2006, Marcus gave the university $15 million to build a research center to explore what are called nano particles, the small building blocks of all matter. He also established the Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing to develop new medical initiatives in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

According to Dr. Borodovsky, recent medical advances and the COVID vaccines are simply technology urged on by the world’s medical needs, catching up with basic science.

“It can take 30 years to come up with a concept and get this concept up to realization in a technological sense. So now we talk about several months.”

Read the full story in the Atlanta Jewish Times.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1619799944 2021-04-30 16:25:44 1619800365 2021-04-30 16:32:45 0 0 news Regents Professor shares insight on mRNA technology and genome sequencing

2021-04-30T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-30T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-30 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

647085 647085 image <![CDATA[Atlanta Jewish Times Cancer Vaccine Screenshot]]> image/png 1619799553 2021-04-30 16:19:13 1619799553 2021-04-30 16:19:13 <![CDATA[Full Story: "After COVID, Cancer Vaccine on Horizon" (Atlanta Jewish Times)]]> <![CDATA[Mark Borodovsky]]>
<![CDATA[Jarquin Wins 2 Years of Support from Hematology Society]]> 27446 Heading into his third year of doctoral studies in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, PJ Jarquin has his eyes on a career as a scientist at a federal research agency.

Now he has the support of the American Society of Hematology to help him get there. Jarquin has won a 2021 Minority Hematology Graduate Award, which includes two years of funding from the professional society for stipends and research costs along with connections to mentors and other researchers studying blood and blood disorders.

“This award gives me a chance to conduct independent research that will hopefully lead to a career in transforming hematological research into engineered solutions to treat hematological disorders,” Jarquin said. “I see this as a stepping stone for enhanced mentoring and professional activities that are usually more difficult for Hispanic students, like myself, to access.”

The Minority Hematology Graduate Award encourages graduate students from historically underrepresented minority groups to pursue careers in academic hematology, according to the society. It comes with society membership, invitations to present research, and opportunities to meet leaders in the field.

Jarquin studies red blood cell development in health and disease with Coulter BME Professor Sakis Mantalaris and Nicki Panoskaltsis in the Emory University School of Medicine. He previously received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and an Emory Centennial Scholars Fellowship.

“What makes my training in the field of hematology and biomedical engineering unique is the partnership between my mentors — Dr. Panoskaltsis is a physician practicing hemato-oncology and Dr. Mantalaris is a bioprocess engineer — a partnership that is made possible by our joint BME program between Georgia Tech and Emory,” Jarquin said. “The unique mentor setup of tackling complex hematological processes from both a clinical standpoint and an engineering standpoint was a highlight in why I was given the award.”

As Jarquin uses this latest award to work toward his goal of a federal research position, he’s also keeping his eyes on his true mission: to make a real difference in the lives of Hispanic Americans.

“There is a lack of minority scientists in [federal agency research] roles, which leads to gaps in the research areas pursued,” he said. “With more minority scientists at the helm in our federal government, this will lead to more equitable research being pursued and, then, better health outcomes for these populations.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1619702303 2021-04-29 13:18:23 1619702303 2021-04-29 13:18:23 0 0 news The Minority Hematology Graduate Award encourages graduate students from historically underrepresented minority groups to pursue careers in the study of blood and blood disorders

2021-04-29T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-29T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-29 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

647042 647042 image <![CDATA[PJ Jarquin vertical (BME)]]> image/jpeg 1619701765 2021-04-29 13:09:25 1619701765 2021-04-29 13:09:25 <![CDATA[Minority Hematology Graduate Award]]> <![CDATA[Sakis Mantalaris]]> <![CDATA[Nicki Panoskaltsis]]>
<![CDATA[Tool to Assess Newborns’ Ability to Breastfeed Takes Top BME Prize in Spring Capstone Expo]]> 27446 A screening tool to help make sure newborns can properly breastfeed took top honors among the biomedical engineering projects at the Spring 2021 Capstone Design Expo April 27.

Breastfeeding is widely recognized for its health benefits, but many mothers and babies have difficulty in the first few days after birth. The Milk Maid measures how well an infant is able to create the negative pressure necessary to properly draw in milk, giving doctors clinical data to decide if medical intervention is necessary or if other issues, like technique, are at play.

“There are so many experts, all with different opinions about the potential problems in breastfeeding, but there’s no objective evidence,” said Brielle Lonsberry, a senior from West Palm Beach, Florida.

Team Milk Maids was one of 30 solutions presented by Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering undergraduates at the expo. More than 180 teams showcased their work in a virtual version of the event that typically packs Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion each fall and spring to show off senior design projects.

The team worked with their sponsors at Emory Healthcare to develop a device to fill that gap. They also reached out to physicians at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for expertise, and before long, they had a whole cadre of doctors there helping to refine their ideas.

“Our novel device offers exactly what clinicians identified as the greatest need: quantifying infants’ sucking ability,” said team member Simran Dhal from Milton, Georgia.

The team has filed a provisional patent on the screening tool they created, with hopes that it could progress to a clinical trial — even if they’re not involved.

“We all really view this as the first step in quantifying breastfeeding, to helping doctors feel like they’re really able to support their patients better,” said Austin Stachowski, another member of the team from Milton. “This is one quantification that opens the door to so much more and to better treatment.”

Team Milk Maids also included Emma Kate Costanza from Columbus, Georgia and Amanda Wijntjes from Annapolis, Maryland. Wijntjes said they’ve all known each other since their first year on campus, but they never had the chance to work together — until now. She said it has been an appropriate culmination of everything they’ve done over the last four years.

The overall best project at the spring expo went to Team StrideLink, an interdisciplinary team that included biomedical engineering student Cassandra McIltrot. They designed a simple, cheap, wearable device for gait analysis.

Other biomedical engineering teams included some work on gait — developing a virtual reality game to help people with difficulty walking improve their gait. Teams also created a robotically assisted knee rehabilitation device, built a machine to make at-home hemodialysis easier for patients, and much more. (See all of their work in the Coulter BME Virtual Expo.)

Working with Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Team ScolAlign created a system to help doctors accurately measure the position of a patient’s spine during spinal realignment surgery. They developed a deep learning algorithm that automatically detects markers and calculates two key measurements of spine alignment, the Cobb angle and plumb line. It sets up quickly and reduces the need for X-rays in the operating room.

“ScolAlign has developed a fully integrated system that measures spinal curvature and spinal balance with no radiation — all with just the click of a button,” said Yoel Alperin, a senior from Sandy Springs who worked on the project with Sindhu Kannappan from Marietta; Parth Gami from York, Pennsylvania; and Kelly Qiu from Cranbury, New Jersey.

The team said the device proved more than 90% accurate in their testing.

“Surgeons will no longer have to use makeshift gadgets to measure spinal alignment, expose themselves to more radiation than needed, or risk the patient developing an infection due to surgery length,” Alperin said.

Two other projects tackled issues that have come to the forefront during the coronavirus pandemic. One group developed a system for putting on and removing powered respirators that are critical personal protective equipment for hospital workers. The other created a tool to help doctors collect physiological data during telemedicine visits.

The PAPR MagStand uses magnets and an adapted design of the Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) hood to allow health professionals to quickly suit up. Designed by Abby Kettle and Maria Luna from Atlanta; Gianni Natale from Allendale, New Jersey; Dwayne Watkins from McDonough; and Ming Wen from Shenzhen, China, the MagStand uses magnets to hold the hood, which has metal strips on the side, and a small shelf for the purifier’s battery pack. The design minimizes contact and potential contamination.

“Since the start of Covid-19, there have been no adaptations of the PAPR to the fast-paced environment that healthcare workers face on a day-to-day basis in hospitals. There are no specific instructions on donning and doffing procedures, much less decontamination procedures for the PAPR itself,” Natale said. “The MagStand presents the quickest and most effective solution in reducing risk of contamination for healthcare workers.”

Team HeartThrobs tackled a key limitation of virtual doctor visits: the inability to touch patients or listen to their heart, lungs, and other organs. This practice, called auscultation, usually requires listening through a stethoscope. Ram Akella from Lilburn; Keval Bollavaram from Snellville; Ahdil Gill from Roswell; and Atharv Marathe and Sil Savla from Johns Creek came up with a way to stretch that stethoscope across the virtual miles with their AusculBand.

“The AusculBand improves the physician’s diagnostic capabilities by enabling audio recordings and real-time audio transmission that can be sent directly from the patient to his or her physician,” Gill said.

Savla added: “Our device underwent rigorous frequency-response testing to ensure it captures all critical sounds. We conducted noise-comparison tests against the competition and even redesigned our stethoscope head to maximize sound clarity. Our results show that the sound we captured is over 50% clearer than the leading digital stethoscope.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1619575062 2021-04-28 01:57:42 1619575308 2021-04-28 02:01:48 0 0 news Device was one of 30 solutions presented by Coulter BME undergraduates at the spring Capstone Design Expo

2021-04-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-27 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

646957 646958 646959 646960 646961 646957 image <![CDATA[Team Milk Maids - Spring 2021 Capstone Expo]]> image/jpeg 1619573813 2021-04-28 01:36:53 1619573831 2021-04-28 01:37:11 646958 image <![CDATA[Milk Maid Prototype (BME)]]> image/jpeg 1619573940 2021-04-28 01:39:00 1619575285 2021-04-28 02:01:25 646959 image <![CDATA[ScolAlign Prototype (BME)]]> image/jpeg 1619574168 2021-04-28 01:42:48 1619574168 2021-04-28 01:42:48 646960 image <![CDATA[PAPR MagStand Prototype (BME)]]> image/jpeg 1619574456 2021-04-28 01:47:36 1619574742 2021-04-28 01:52:22 646961 image <![CDATA[AusculBand Prototype (BME)]]> image/jpeg 1619574643 2021-04-28 01:50:43 1619574643 2021-04-28 01:50:43 <![CDATA[Coulter BME Digital Capstone Expo - Spring 2021]]> <![CDATA[Team Milk Maids]]> <![CDATA[Capstone Design Expo]]>
<![CDATA[The Science of Sound, Vibration to Better Diagnose, Treat Brain Diseases ]]> 35692 A team of engineering researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology hopes to uncover new ways to diagnose and treat brain ailments, from tumors and stroke to Parkinson’s disease, leveraging vibrations and ultrasound waves. 

The five-year, $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) project initiated in 2019 already has resulted in several published journal articles that offer promising new methods to focus ultrasound waves through the skull, which could lead to broader use of ultrasound imaging — considered safer and less expensive than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.  

Specifically, the team is researching a broad range of frequencies, spanning low frequency vibrations (audio frequency range) and moderate frequency guided waves (100 kHz to 1 MHz) to high frequencies employed in brain imaging and therapy (in the MHz range).

“We’re coming up with a unique framework that incorporates different research perspectives to address how you use sound and vibration to treat and diagnose brain diseases,” explained Costas Arvanitis, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “Each researcher is bringing their own expertise to explore how vibrations and waves across a range of frequencies could either extract information from the brain or focus energy on the brain.”

Accessing the Brain Is a Tough Challenge

While it is possible to treat some tumors and other brain diseases non-invasively if they are near the center of the brain, many other conditions are harder to access, the researchers say. 

“The center part of the brain is most accessible; however, even if you are able to target the part of the brain away from the center, you still have to go through the skull,” Arvanitis said.

He added that moving just 1 millimeter in the brain constitutes “a huge distance” from a diagnostic perspective. The science community widely acknowledges the brain’s complexity, each part associated with a different function and brain cells differing from one to the other.  

According to Brooks Lindsey, a biomedical engineering assistant professor at Georgia Tech and Emory, there is a reason why brain imaging or therapy works well in some people but not in others. 

“It depends on the individual patient’s skull characteristics,” he said, noting that some people have slightly more trabecular bone —  the spongy, porous part of the bone that makes it more difficult to treat. 

Using ultrasound waves, the researchers are tackling the challenge on multiple levels. Lindsey’s lab uses ultrasound imaging to assess skull properties for effective imaging and therapy. He said his team conducted the first investigation that uses ultrasound imaging to measure the effects of bone microstructure — specifically, the degree of porosity in the inner, trabecular bone layer of the skull.

“By understanding transmission of acoustic waves through microstructure in an individual’s skull, non-invasive ultrasound imaging of the brain and delivery of therapy could be possible in a greater number of people,” he said, explaining one potential application would be to image blood flow in the brain following a stroke.

Refocusing Ultrasound Beams on the Fly   

Arvanitis’ lab recently found a new way to focus ultrasound through the skull and into the brain, which is “100-fold faster than any other method,” Arvanitis said. His team’s work in adaptive focusing techniques would allow clinicians to adjust the ultrasound on the fly to focus it better.

“Current systems rely a lot on MRIs, which are big, bulky, and extremely expensive,” he said. “This method lets you adapt and refocus the beam. In the future this could allow us to design less costly, simpler systems, which would make the technology available to a wider population, as well as be able to treat different parts of the brain.”

Using ‘Guided Waves’ to Access Periphery Brain Areas

Another research cohort, led by Alper Erturk, Woodruff Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, and former Georgia Tech colleague Massimo Ruzzene, Slade Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, performs high-fidelity modeling of skull bone mechanics along with vibration-based elastic parameter identification. They also leverage guided ultrasonic waves in the skull to expand the treatment envelope in the brain. Erturk and Ruzzene are mechanical engineers by background, which makes their exploration of vibrations and guided waves in difficult-to-reach brain areas especially fascinating. 

Erturk noted that guided waves are used in other applications such as aerospace and civil structures for damage detection. “Accurate modeling of the complex bone geometry and microstructure, combined with rigorous experiments for parameter identification, is crucial for a fundamental understanding to expand the accessible region of the brain,” he said. 

Ruzzene compared the brain and skull to the Earth’s core and crust, with the cranial guided waves acting as an earthquake. Just as geophysicists use earthquake data on the Earth’s surface to understand the Earth’s core, so are Erturk and Ruzzene using the guided waves to generate tiny, high frequency “earthquakes” on the external surface of the skull to characterize what comprises the cranial bone.

Trying to access the brain periphery via conventional ultrasound poses added risks from the skull heating up. Fortunately, advances such as cranial leaky Lamb waves increasingly are recognized for transmitting wave energy to that region of the brain.

These cranial guided waves could complement focused ultrasound applications to monitor changes in the cranial bone marrow from health disorders, or to efficiently transmit acoustic signals through the skull barrier, which could help access metastases and treat neurological conditions in currently inaccessible regions of the brain. 

Ultimately, the four researchers hope their work will make full brain imaging feasible while stimulating new medical imaging and therapy techniques. In addition to transforming diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases, the techniques could better detect traumas and skull-related defects, map the brain function, and enable neurostimulation. Researchers also see the potential for uncovering ultrasound-based blood-brain barrier openings for drug delivery for managing and treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

With this comprehensive research of the skull-brain system, and by understanding the fundamentals of transcranial ultrasound, the team hopes to make it more available to even more diseases and target many parts of the brain. 

This work is funded by the National Science Foundation (CMMI Award 1933158 “Coupling Skull-Brain Vibroacoustics and Ultrasound Toward Enhanced Imaging, Diagnosis, and Therapy”).  

CITATIONS: C. Sugino, M. Ruzzene, and A. Erturk, “Experimental and Computational Investigation of Guided Waves in a Human Skull.” (Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, 2021) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2020.11.019

M. Mazzotti, E. Kohtanen, A. Erturk, and M. Ruzzene, “Radiation Characteristics of Cranial Leaky Lamb Waves.” (IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control, 2021) https://doi.org/10.1109/TUFFC.2021.3057309 

S. Schoen, C. Arvanitis, “Heterogeneous Angular Spectrum Method for Trans-Skull Imaging and Focusing.” (IEEE Xplore, 2020) https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8902167 

B. Jing, C. Arvanitis, B. Lindsey, “Effect of Incidence Angle and Wave Mode Conversion on Transcranial Ultrafast Doppler Imaging.” (IEEE Xplore, 2020)   https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9251477 

The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.
The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning.

As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

Writer: Anne Wainscott-Sargent

]]> Anne Sargent 1 1619534807 2021-04-27 14:46:47 1619560045 2021-04-27 21:47:25 0 0 news A team of engineering researchers at the Georgia Tech hopes to uncover new ways to diagnose and treat brain ailments, from tumors and stroke to Parkinson’s disease, leveraging vibrations and ultrasound waves. The five-year, $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) project initiated in 2019 already has resulted in several published journal articles that offer promising new methods to focus ultrasound waves through the skull, which could lead to broader use of ultrasound imaging — considered safer and less expensive than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.  


2021-04-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-27 00:00:00 Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Atlanta, Georgia  30332-0181  USA

Media Relations Contacts: Anne Wainscott-Sargent (404-435-5784) (asargent7@gatech.edu) or Tracey Reeves (404-660-2929) (tracey.reeves@gatech.edu) 

646921 646922 646927 646921 image <![CDATA[Close up of skull imaging]]> image/jpeg 1619529520 2021-04-27 13:18:40 1619529520 2021-04-27 13:18:40 646922 image <![CDATA[Graduate researchers measure vibration response in skull]]> image/jpeg 1619529676 2021-04-27 13:21:16 1619529676 2021-04-27 13:21:16 646927 image <![CDATA[Multidisciplinary researchers focus on full brain imaging]]> image/jpeg 1619533229 2021-04-27 14:20:29 1619533229 2021-04-27 14:20:29
<![CDATA[Undergrad Kettle Wins Health IT Society Scholarship]]> 27446 Abby Kettle already knew she was headed to grad school, ready to pursue a master’s degree in health systems. Now, she’ll have some help paying for it, courtesy of the professional organization for healthcare IT.

Kettle has received a David Cowan Scholarship from the Georgia Chapter of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) for her commitment to the future of healthcare information management and health information technology. The scholarship is named for a now-retired Georgia Tech senior research scientist.

“This scholarship means a lot for me, because it will help me afford the master’s program and allow me to continue my education,” said Kettle, who will graduate in May with her biomedical engineering bachelor’s degree.

Interestingly, Kettle had never heard of the society or the scholarship until its namesake, David Cowan, encouraged her to apply. Kettle had taken Cowan’s Healthcare Design of the Future course, and it turned out the society was a great resource for her. After graduate school, Kettle said she hopes to work for a hospital, where she can use her training to help improve the efficiency and flow of patient care.

She said other students also would benefit from the network of 1,600 Georgia members from some of the state’s largest hospitals and healthcare facilities.

“HIMSS is a great society with many opportunities for anyone interested in healthcare, and I think it could be a good society to join for BME students,” Kettle said.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1619450148 2021-04-26 15:15:48 1619450148 2021-04-26 15:15:48 0 0 news Abby Kettle will pursue her master's in health systems with the support of the Georgia Chapter of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

2021-04-26T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-26T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-26 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

646880 646880 image <![CDATA[Abby Kettle, BME undergrad]]> image/jpeg 1619449812 2021-04-26 15:10:12 1619449812 2021-04-26 15:10:12 <![CDATA[David Cowan Scholarship – Georgia Chapter of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society]]>
<![CDATA[Study Shows Brain’s Internal Replay Goes Awry in Alzheimer’s]]> 28153 When you try to remember the name of an acquaintance, the replay that happens in your brain is a bit like the replay of the touchdown on TV.

The slow-motion TV replay shows how the receiver made a difficult catch and still managed to keep his toes inbounds. It’s instant replay for instant effect.

In a healthy brain, as you scratch your head and try to place the face, your neurons fire in the same order as when you first met this person, reactivating familiar neural patterns that happen during a behavior, connecting the dots, and helping you conjure the right name and store the whole experience for later recall.

It’s extended replay for extended effect. A new study from a team of Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University researchers shows that defects in this replay activity is indicative of brain disease, a discovery that could lead to better screening or diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s disease.

Led by principal investigator Annabelle Singer, the team got the April 2021 cover story in the journal Cell Reports with research that links defective replay with synaptic dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. What’s more, the team measured these two things for the first time in vivo in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s, “in awake mice, during behavior,” said Singer, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory and corresponding author of the paper.

“We know that synapses are important for neural activity: those connections are how neurons talk to each other. But we hadn’t really put deficits in replay — neural activity essential for memory — and synaptic dysfunction together before,” Singer said. “Synapse dysfunction is one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s, and it happens long before cells are lost to the disease. It predicts cognitive decline.”

According to lead author of the paper, Stephanie Prince, a grad student in Singer’s lab, “we used an established method for measuring the extracellular electrophysiological data.” Basically, electrodes are used to measure electrical activity coming from adjacent neurons, in this case, in mice that were fully awake and navigating virtual reality tasks.

Information in a healthy brain is passed from cell to cell via trillions of synapses with high precision. Part of the synapses’ job also involves the targeted inhibition of neural activity — a way of regulating information sharing. A neural activity like replay requires the coordinated work of many neurons at once, and synapses, Singer said, “are part of what gives you this precise timing of replay, organizing cells to fire together in short time windows.”

When looking over the data, “we found that the replay was basically missing, and the inhibitory synapses were weakened,” Singer said. “Synaptic dysfunction and replay dysfunction are conceptually different, but related because they co-occur. That suggests a synaptic cause that underlies deficits in network activity for memory, such as replay. So this work makes a connection between synaptic and neural activity deficits in Alzheimer’s for the first time.”

Their discoveries could lead to new screening or diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s, perhaps based on technology Singer’s lab has been working on for the past few years. The technology uses flickering lights and pulses of sound (delivered through a visor and headphones) to stimulate gamma waves, cutting down on amyloid beta proteins, which are an early hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Gamma waves are associated with high-level cognitive functions, like perception and memory.

Singer expects to soon publish the findings of the first human feasibility study using her flicker treatment. She reported promising results from the trial last fall at the American Neurological Association annual meeting. Now her lab is studying how to use the non-invasive technology to address synaptic issues.

“We’re working right now on developing therapeutic options to rescue these dysfunctions in synapses and replay,” she said. “We’re seeing some intriguing results, but we’ve got more work to do.”

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant No. R01-NS109226, the Lane Family, and the Wright Family. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any funding agency.


“Alzheimer’s pathology causes impaired inhibitory connections and reactivation of spatial codes during spatial navigation”

Singer Lab

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1619034977 2021-04-21 19:56:17 1622207262 2021-05-28 13:07:42 0 0 news New research from BME’s Annabelle Singer links synaptic dysfunction with neural activity essential to memory

2021-04-21T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-21T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-21 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

646725 646724 646725 image <![CDATA[Cell Reports Cover]]> image/jpeg 1619030867 2021-04-21 18:47:47 1619038153 2021-04-21 20:49:13 646724 image <![CDATA[Prince and Singer]]> image/jpeg 1619030672 2021-04-21 18:44:32 1619030672 2021-04-21 18:44:32
<![CDATA[Tech Honors Fernandez for Teaching Excellence]]> 27446 Lecturer Todd Fernandez has won the 2021 Undergraduate Educator Award from Georgia Tech’s Center for Teaching and Learning — recognition of his dedication to his students and excellence in the classroom.

The award honors two non-tenure-track faculty members every year who make outstanding contributions to undergraduate education.

“This award means the world to me, because it is a recognition of what is most important to me in my job: the well-being, success, and learning of the people in my courses,” Fernandez said. “I want to thank the students who wrote amazing letters of recommendation and whose words and time mean a lot to me.”

Fernandez teaches the foundational BMED 1000 course, Introduction to Biomedical Engineering, as well as BMED 2400, Introduction to Bioengineering Statistics. He’s also one of the learning scientists in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Third-year student Cassandra McIltrot took BMED 1000 with Fernandez. In a letter supporting Fernandez’s nomination, she said her experience in the course helped her find confidence.

“His classroom was a safe space where I knew my voice was heard and my ideas were important. I was challenged in collaborative settings with my classmates and was able to build my definition of what it means to be an engineer through my own creativity and reflection,” wrote McIltrot, who later became a teaching assistant in the course. “There was no longer a question of if I could accomplish something, but how I could get there.”

Sarah Blake credited Fernandez with changing her perspective on homework and how it could build her understanding of course material. In her supporting letter, the fourth-year student recalled presenting a solution to her entire Intro to Bioengineering Statistics course.

“I ended up getting part of the problem right and part of it wrong. More importantly, I ended up understanding the problem better after Todd explained why part of my answer was incorrect,” Blake wrote.

“I do not remember what the problem was about, but I remember how I felt after answering my question. Todd made sure to point out what I did right and did not make me feel bad about the part I got wrong.”

Fernandez said he thrives on interactions like those, helping students learn — and learning from them along the way.

He shares the 2021 Undergraduate Educator Award with Stephanie Reikes, lecturer in the School of Mathematics. He’s the third faculty member from Coulter BME to win the award in the last four years, and his name will join theirs permanently on the Teaching Awards wall in the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1618944308 2021-04-20 18:45:08 1618945604 2021-04-20 19:06:44 0 0 news Students praised Todd Fernandez for building their confidence and supporting them in class

2021-04-20T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-20T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-20 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

646678 646678 image <![CDATA[Todd Fernandez (2021)]]> image/jpeg 1618943714 2021-04-20 18:35:14 1618943714 2021-04-20 18:35:14 <![CDATA[Undergraduate Teaching Award – Georgia Tech Center for Teaching and Learning]]> <![CDATA[Todd Fernandez]]>
<![CDATA[Georgia Tech and Shriners Collaborate on Research Data Resources]]> 28153 The collaboration between experts at Georgia Institute of Technology and Shriners Hospitals for Children (SHC) that was launched last year is expanding to encompass the fields of precision medicine and big data analysis and interpretation in 2021.

The new initiative will create pilot research projects and tools that align with the needs and aims of the SHC network of clinicians to enable state-of-the-art clinical research and facilitate clinical practice. The seed grants will support Georgia Tech faculty and research associates working directly with SHC physicians and surgeons. The overall goal remains to improve the lives of children treated at SHC.

Leanne West, chief engineer of pediatric technologies at Georgia Tech, added, “This particular round of research is all about going further with information and data and making it accessible for research and patient care. With the unique data from SHC and Tech’s expertise in data analytics, we’re going to be able to provide more specific information for diagnosis and treatment of Shriners patients.”

The seed grant opportunity inspired investigator partners to conceptualize seven successful clinical research projects. Coleman Hilton, Shriners’ Research Informatics manager, who is responsible for addressing resource needs from the teams, noted that “these seven projects represent the breadth of care provided at Shriners and they are very focused on the specific research needs for each of the patient populations.”

The teams, awarded two-year seed grants of either $50,000 or $150,000, are led by principal investigators from each institution. May Dongmei Wang, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, is the Georgia Tech principal investigator for three of the seven projects this year.

Her lab has been busy working with SHC, “to establish a new Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) prototype as the backend server. We want to enable interoperable clinical data management across all SHC hospitals,” Wang said. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is the standard for joining disparate systems together in the exchange of electronic health records. It was developed by HL7 International, the non-profit organization that develops standards and solutions to empower global health data interoperability.

In the 2021 round of seed projects, Wang said, “we’ll assist four Shriners hospitals to develop three FHIR applications to showcase the acceleration of the clinical informatics pipeline from idea, to data, to insights, using FHIR.”

“This program will allow us to capture, access, share, and analyze data, including diagnostics, radiographic images, and genomics in a way that is not currently available in existing Shriners Hospital for Children patient registries and research databases,” said Marc Lalande, vice president of SHC’s research programs. “The infrastructure that will be developed will not only enhance our clinical research capabilities, but also advance our clinical practices.”

Here’s a rundown of the seven projects funded for 2021:


3D Graphical Scale for Assessing Hip Functional Range of Motion

Principal Investigators: Megan Denham, Senior Research Associate, Georgia Tech Research Institute; Harold van Bosse, SHC-Philadelphia

Project Synopsis: Hip pathology in babies and children can affect long-term development and lead to malformations and deformations and other conditions. While surgery can correct pediatric hip conditions and optimize functionality and range of motion, there currently are no outcome measurements that can adequately analyze hip function across the spectrum of conditions; no way to compare results of different treatment modalities; and none that follow results over time and growth.

Utilizing a computer model to graph range of motion, the team will develop a pediatric hip score system, allowing for more precise evaluation of various treatments of hip contractures in children across the spectrum of neuromuscular conditions (such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophies). They intend to develop a mobile application that can quantify function with a single figure, to help clinicians make more practical evaluations, leading to more valid comparisons of treatment options.


Craniofacial Microsomia (CFM) Informatics Infrastructure

Principal Investigators: May Dongmei Wang, Professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (Georgia Tech and Emory University); Chad Purnell, M.D., SHC-Chicago

Project Synopsis: CFM is a clinical conundrum – it is the second most common craniofacial anomaly, but its pathogenesis is not clearly understood. The research team’s long-term goal is to develop an AI model of how genes and environmental factors conspire in CFM. This seed grant will establish the first step in the process, creating a framework for sharing phenotypic, clinical, radiologic, and genetic data between SHC-Chicago and Georgia Tech.

Specific aims for the seed project include creating a set of minimum common data elements for CFM research data, and developing a system to allow secure, high-volume data sharing between institutions, which will leverage the Wang lab’s expertise in developing parallel FHIR infrastructure, enabling flexible integration of data sets within the SHC system.


GL-SMART (Greenville-Lexington Shriner Multisite AI-enabled Rehabilitation Technology)

Principal Investigators: May Dongmei Wang, Professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering; J. Michael Wattenbarger, M.D., Chief of Staff, SHC-Greenville; Henry J. Iwinski, M.D., Chief of Staff, SHC-Lexington

Project Synopsis: This is a multi-site collaboration between Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville (SC) and Lexington (KY), the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). Together, they intend to develop an advanced technology platform to improve scoliosis patient care at multiple Shriners sites.

The two Shriners sites involved in the study have accumulated extensive data from more than 1,000 patients over the past decade – insight that can help clinicians make better care decisions. Wang’s lab will develop a FHIR application to enable clinicians at both Shriners sites to share and access clinical data seamlessly. Wang also is developing a multimodal AI algorithm to streamline the process of predicting clinical outcomes in scoliosis patients.


HR-pQCT Informatics Infrastructure

Principal Investigators: May Dongmei Wang, Professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering; Gary S. Gottesman, M.D., Center for Metabolic Bone Disease, SHC-St. Louis

Project Synopsis: For patients with musculoskeletal disorders, bone mineral density scans are critical in the evaluation, surveillance, and treatment. High resolution peripheral computed tomography (HR-pQCT) is a revolutionary advancement as a new 3-D skeletal imaging tool with the ability to differentiate internal structures from cortical bone, and inform the pathophysiology of bone diseases, providing insights into bone biology, and better treatments.

Using all of that illuminating information is hampered by the inability to query the data based on significant research parameters, which is crucial to gaining deeper insight into bone disorders. So the researchers plan to build an integrative, relational database to house the data, design a FHIR interface, then populate the database with patient data, and explore options for automating the extraction, transformation, and loading of new HR-pQCT data as it is generated.


Machine Learning to Predict Fentanyl Efficacy and Adverse Effects to Advance Precision Medicine

Principal Investigators: Jeffrey Skolnick, School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech; Kristin Grimsrud, Assistant Clinical Professor, University of California-Davis

Project Synopsis: Personalized pain management continues to be a challenging issue for patients and clinicians. Although advances in pharmacogenetics aid in decoding genetic variants, no one really knows how a given patient will respond to a particular drug until it is administered.

To address this problem, data from two ongoing SHC studies will be used as input for machine learning (ML) algorithms to predict if a patient will experience a decrease in pain or adverse events following fentanyl administration. Skolnick’s lab will then use an ML tool it developed, MEDICASCY, for disease indication, mode of action, small molecule drug efficacy, and side effect predictions. MEDICASCY predictions will then be combined with an enzyme inference algorithm, patient clinical data, and information on fentanyl blood concentrations to generate specific predictions for fentanyl efficacy and adverse effects.


Platform Architecture and Machine Learning for Arthrogryposis

Principal Investigators: Tony Pan, Research Scientist, institute for Data Engineering and Science (IDEaS) at Georgia Tech; Noémi Dahan-Oliel, SHC-Montreal

Project Synopsis: Three Shriners Hospitals – Chicago, Greenville, and Montreal – are involved in this project with Georgia Tech to address important knowledge gaps in understanding arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a rare (1 in 3,000 live births) chronic musculoskeletal disease. Shriners will identify the underlying causes, risk factors, and distribution of AMC, documenting interventions and outcomes, and determining genetic and/or environmental factors.

Pan and his team at Georgia Tech are essentially going to help make the data more accessible, developing a computational framework for machine learning to ultimately enable precision medicine. The researchers will design and implement a system to meet the needs for this project, deploying high-performance computing and cloud friendly cyber infrastructure to enable ad-hoc, on-demand, and reproducible data analysis with low deployment cost.


Sports Medicine Registry

Principal Investigators: Minoru Shinohara, Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech; Corinna Franklin, director of sports medicine, SHC-Philadelphia

Project Synopsis: Six Shriners Hospitals for Children (Northern California, Erie, Chicago, Portland, Philadelphia, Montreal), as part of the Shriners Sports Medicine Consortium, are working with researcher Minoru Shinohara, who directs the Human Neuromuscular Physiology Lab at Georgia Tech. Their goal is to develop a comprehensive registry that will help clinical researchers answer many large-scale questions in pediatric sports medicine.

Shinohara, and his Georgia Tech and SHC colleagues will identify the core data elements to use from Shriners system motion analysis centers, surgical procedures, and rehab/clinical information. Ultimately, they intend to create a sports medicine registry that will be easily accessible to researchers within the consortium, giving Shriners clinicians an opportunity to have a greater impact in the treatment of pediatric sports injuries.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1618846098 2021-04-19 15:28:18 1618846473 2021-04-19 15:34:33 0 0 news BME's May Wang leading three of the seven projects in new initiative to improve lives of pediatric patients

2021-04-19T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-19T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-19 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

646600 646600 image <![CDATA[May Wang]]> image/jpeg 1618845414 2021-04-19 15:16:54 1618845414 2021-04-19 15:16:54
<![CDATA[BME Undergrad Shovan Bhatia Wins 2021 Barry Goldwater Scholarship]]> 27446 Three Georgia Tech engineering students — Shovan Bhatia, Katelyn Groenhout and Pradyot Yadav — have been named 2021 scholars by The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. They were chosen for their academic excellence in undergraduate research work and dedication to furthering research and development in their respective fields. From medical robotics to electrochemical energy solutions to wireless communications technology, these engineers are already making research advances in their respective fields.


Shovan Bhatia

3rd-year biomedical engineering student

Shovan Bhatia is a third-year student from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering on a pre-med track. He has been involved in Professor Jaydev Desai’s Medical Robotics and Automation (RoboMed) Lab since Fall of 2019, where he has been able to blend his love of robotics with his goal of working in the medical field. Bhatia is currently working on creating an assistive robotic exoskeleton to improve the quality of life for those living with spinal cord injury.

Seokhwan Jeong and Phillip Tran have also served as mentors for Bhatia and encouraged him to independently discover and pursue his interests in medicine and robotics from his first day in the lab.

“Through the research I’m performing, I have had the unique opportunity to design and iterate at the benchtop and then translate our work into the clinical space through spinal cord injury human subject testing,” said Bhatia. “I plan on carrying what I learn from my research into medical school and beyond, where I hope to use innovative techniques to improve people’s lives.”

Bhatia’s on-campus activities extend past the academic sphere — he is President of Engineers without Borders at Tech and serves as a board member on the India Club at Georgia Tech.

Bhatia applied for the Goldwater Scholarship to become part of a community of highly motivated individuals that the program cultivates. Receiving the scholarship has further encouraged him to pursue his goal of practicing medicine and finding ways to translate engineering and robotics principles into his work.


Pradyot Yadav

3rd-year electrical and computer engineering student

Pradyot Yadav is a third-year student from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Yadav worked in Professor James Kenney’s lab investigating radio frequency and microwave power amplifier design, which led to his winning the IMS Student Design Competition in 2019 and a publication in the Microwave Journal in 2020. As a member of Professor Yang Wang’s lab, the Georgia Tech Electronics and Micro-System Lab (GEMS), Yadav helped to implement the group’s first Gallium Nitride (GaN) MMIC design. He is currently working as a technical fellow with the Hughes Research Laboratory GaN process, which is the fastest GaN process in the world.

Outside of the academic sphere, Yadav also works as a Radio Operator for WREK FM’s Rock, Rhythm, and Roll segment and is a member of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Eta Kappa Nu, and the IMS 2021 Steering Committee.

Yadav applied for the Goldwater Scholarship to expand his horizons in terms of future research and graduate studies, and for him, becoming a Goldwater scholar is a testament to the extensive work he has put into research.

“My being awarded this scholarship marks the start of a career focused on the cutting edge in RF/mmWave research,” said Yadav. “The scholarship also provides me with a solid academic foundation for when I apply to graduate school and seek funding for my future research.”

Yadav plans to intern this summer at Qorvo, a leading radio frequency company, where he will work with a device physics Fellow to develop a new GaN device model that would provide its designers with more flexibility. This will be his second summer interning for the company. After he graduates next Spring, he will be pursuing a PhD in Microwave Engineering, with a focus on III-IV semiconductor research and mmWave circuit design and ultimately aims for a career in industry research.


Katie Groenhout

3rd-year chemical and biomolecular engineering student

Katie Grouenhout is a third-year student from the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Since the fall of 2019, she has been part of the lab run by Professor Paul Kohl, her research advisor, and she is currently working on a project on anion-exchange membrane electrolyzers for clean production of hydrogen. Grouenhout met two of her other mentors in Kohl’s lab: Garrett Huang, a recently graduated Ph.D. student, and Mrinmay Mandal, a post-doc currently in Kohl’s lab, both of whom Grouenhout has worked closely with. In addition to research, Grouenhout works as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the School.

Grouenhout was encouraged to pursue a career in research by her research advisor at a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at The University of Mississippi the summer after her freshman year. She was motivated to apply for the scholarship because of the many ways in which it would aid her goal of pursuing a Ph.D. after graduation.

“Receiving the Goldwater scholarship reinforces my goal to pursue chemical engineering at the doctorate level,” said Grouenhout. “With this scholarship, I plan to take on more independent experiments in the lab and continue to develop my knowledge of electrochemistry.”

After earning her Ph.D. in chemical engineering, Grouenhout plans to pursue a career in research and academia, with a focus on electrochemical energy solutions.


About the Scholarship

The Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious one of its kind for natural science, engineering and mathematics students, awards college sophomores and juniors who plan to pursue careers in STEM research. Its goal is to cultivate scientific talent and aid in the creation of highly qualified professionals in science and engineering fields in the US. More than 1250 STEM students were nominated for the scholarship by 438 different schools, and out of the 410 who were selected, a little over half are women. Each recipient will receive $7,500.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1618493433 2021-04-15 13:30:33 1618493572 2021-04-15 13:32:52 0 0 news Bhatia is one of three Georgia Tech engineering students who received the prestigious academic award

2021-04-15T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-15T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-15 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

646484 646486 646485 646484 image <![CDATA[BME Undergrad Shovan Bhatia]]> image/jpeg 1618492897 2021-04-15 13:21:37 1618492897 2021-04-15 13:21:37 646486 image <![CDATA[Katie Grouenhout, ChBE undergrad]]> image/jpeg 1618493141 2021-04-15 13:25:41 1618493141 2021-04-15 13:25:41 646485 image <![CDATA[Pradyot Yadav, ECE undergrad]]> image/jpeg 1618493038 2021-04-15 13:23:58 1618493038 2021-04-15 13:23:58 <![CDATA[Barry Goldwater Scholarships]]>
<![CDATA[John and Rosemary Brown Gift to Emory University Bolsters Human Health Innovation]]> 27446 Innovation has become the cornerstone of Emory University School of Medicine’s strategic mission and particularly relevant during this unique time in biomedical history. A key part of this strategy is the promotion of connectivity and creativity through cross-disciplinary partnerships. John and Rosemary Brown recognize that development in biology and medicine today often requires similar multi-disciplinary collaborations focused on common goals. Therefore, the Browns pledged to establish the John and Rosemary Brown Family Innovation to Market Fund within Emory School of Medicine to provide focused philanthropy to advance human health innovation.

“At Emory, we believe in re-envisioning the future and never being satisfied with what has been done before. We're fueled by curiosity and know there's more than one right answer to every problem,” says Vikas P. Sukhatme, M.D., Sc.D., dean of Emory University School of Medicine. “That’s why we are honored and grateful for the John and Rosemary Brown Family Innovation to Market Fund, which will allow us to continue bolstering interdisciplinary interactions and changing the way we think of medicine.”

Since 1997, Emory School of Medicine and Georgia Tech have jointly run one of the top biomedical engineering programs in the world, the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. Biolocity, a philanthropic program in the Department, accelerates the commercialization of early-stage medical technologies with intellectual property held at Emory or Georgia Tech. Its resources and funding are available to all faculty members across both campuses.

Facilitated by the generous support of John and Rosemary Brown, the $5 million gift will establish a fund to advance technologies through a three-pronged approach: provide foundational information for medical technology development, de-risking grant funding driven by heavy market and technical diligence, and nondilutive funding to prepare market-ready projects through industry expertise and ecosystem connectivity.

“We’ve identified a broad list of initiatives to grow the interface between Emory and Georgia Tech far beyond biomedical engineering that will enrich opportunities for students and faculty to solve challenging problems together,” says Susan Margulies, Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Coulter Department. “This was the result of many conversations with our colleagues across the School of Medicine and the College of Engineering and research leaders across both campuses, and we are grateful to the Brown family for enabling us to pursue these ideas.”

"Rosemary and I are excited to see the opportunity for the disciplines of engineering and medicine to collaborate with a common goal. This focus will accelerate innovation that allows clinical needs to move forward more quickly to license, start-up and commercialization,” says Brown.

Goals for the first year of the fund include:

John Brown is Chairman Emeritus, Stryker Corporation. John Brown received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Auburn University. John Brown received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Freed-Hardeman University, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Kalamazoo College, and an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Auburn University.

Rosemary Brown, a lifelong educator, shared her passion for Mathematics with students in East Brunswick, New Jersey, and several schools in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Rosemary Brown received her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Auburn University and her Master’s in Mathematics Education degree from Rutgers University. She received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Freed-Hardeman University, was recognized by Auburn University with an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Auburn’s College of Science and Math.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1618414602 2021-04-14 15:36:42 1618414602 2021-04-14 15:36:42 0 0 news The Brown Family Innovation to Market Fund will build new collaborations between Emory and Georgia Tech to advance human health innovation.

2021-04-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-14 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

646452 646452 image <![CDATA[John and Rosemary Brown Family]]> image/jpeg 1618414082 2021-04-14 15:28:02 1618414082 2021-04-14 15:28:02 <![CDATA[Emory University School of Medicine]]> <![CDATA[Biolocity]]>
<![CDATA[Covid Seed Grant Yields Data Mining Discoveries]]> 27446 As coronavirus infections exploded in the spring of 2020, everyone was looking for ideas about how to fight what had become a full-blown pandemic. The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering put out the call for ideas and offered faculty members seed funding to pursue them.

Turns out, Cassie Mitchell already was on the case.

“We’d been working for a few weeks on something, since the White House started asking data scientists to do analysis on old SARS data, but also on the emerging Covid dataset that was being updated weekly,” said Mitchell, assistant professor in Coulter BME who specializes in using data to forecast disease. “We had already started adapting our text-mining architecture for Covid-19.”

Text mining is what it sounds like: an artificial intelligence process that involves analyzing a lot of existing text for useful data that could lead to new discoveries. Mitchell’s lab received a $10,000 seed grant to use her tools to dig through millions of peer-reviewed articles, seeking hidden patterns that would be relevant to Covid-19 — perhaps identifying patient risk factors or even drugs that might be repurposed to treat the virus.

Using Covid-19 as a test case, the lab adapted a process called link prediction, an important tool in artificial intelligence and machine learning that predicts the existence of a link between two entities. It’s kind of like filling in the blanks after identifying the blanks.

Link prediction is at play when your social media platform suggests a new friend for you, or when an online marketplace predicts which customers will buy what products.

“Though it’s used for other things, we adapted it to biomedical text — as you might imagine, a biomedical application is more difficult than dealing with customer segmentation data,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s team excavated information from the articles and built a “knowledge graph, or network that links symptoms, drugs, antecedent diseases, genes, proteins, and much more to Covid-19 or similar coronaviruses,” she said.

The team ranked relationships with the coronavirus to find the most promising research paths, with the intent of expediting translational research. They highlighted thousands of potential repurposed drugs for further research.

“The process can be applied to any emergent or poorly understood biomedical issue for a quicker and more diligent meta-analysis of research, compared to existing methods,” said Kevin McCoy, a third-year BME student who was technical team lead of the lab’s Covid-19 study and co-authored a journal article on the work that’s currently under review.

“The most important finding is that machine learning techniques can be used to rapidly ingest and summarize biomedical literature to generate insightful and accurate summaries of the current research.”

Mitchell said the grant primarily supported student researchers, who took part in several conferences during the year in addition to writing their study.

And what started as a modest seed grant could yield results for years to come — the data mining technology, “which we intend to use for other biomedical issues,” Mitchell said — and a new course for McCoy’s future.

“I quickly fell in love with the applications of data science to biomedical engineering,” McCoy said.

He joined Mitchell’s lab in Summer 2020 and is now looking at Ph.D. programs in statistics and machine learning, “to continue learning about and using their respective techniques to solve pressing biomedical problems.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1618329749 2021-04-13 16:02:29 1618329749 2021-04-13 16:02:29 0 0 news Undergraduate researchers help Cassie Mitchell turn millions of studies into actionable insight

2021-04-13T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-13T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-13 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

646426 646422 646423 646426 image <![CDATA[Coronavirus Data Mining Illustration]]> image/jpeg 1618329219 2021-04-13 15:53:39 1618329219 2021-04-13 15:53:39 646422 image <![CDATA[Cassie Mitchell (2020)]]> image/jpeg 1618328767 2021-04-13 15:46:07 1618328767 2021-04-13 15:46:07 646423 image <![CDATA[Kevin McCoy, BME undergrad]]> image/jpeg 1618328827 2021-04-13 15:47:07 1618328827 2021-04-13 15:47:07 <![CDATA[Cassie Mitchell]]>
<![CDATA[Serpooshan Awarded NSF CAREER Award to Bioprint a 3D Model of the Developing Human Heart]]> 27446 When babies are born with severe heart defects like pulmonary artery atresia or hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the prognosis is difficult. There is no cure, no reliable therapy for many of these defects. Just uncertainty. And drastic efforts to fix the parts of the heart that didn’t develop properly.

Ultimately, these tiny babies may face multiple significant surgeries in their early weeks of life.

That’s what Vahid Serpooshan thinks about when he’s in his lab using a sophisticated 3D bioprinter to create models of the earliest stages of heart development: the babies and their families and how his team can help by unravelling some of the mysteries of the developing human heart.

“These are babies who are a few days old and who are suffering from very severe, acute heart disease and heart defects. And many of them do not survive — even after multiple surgeries,” Serpooshan said. “Being able to simulate such severe situations in bioprinted and bioengineered platforms where there's no real limit to their manufacturing for study and analysis — that has a really high value for us in terms of how we're able to help patients and save patients’ lives.”

Understanding normal heart development — and thus, what can go wrong and lead to severe defects — is the cornerstone of the Faculty Early Career Development award Serpooshan received this spring from the National Science Foundation. Known as CAREER awards, these five-year grants are NSF’s most-prestigious award for early career faculty. They identify potential leaders and academic role models, giving them funds to build the foundation for a lifetime of study.

Serpooshan’s foundation will be the first 3D-printed model of heart tissue using soft, flexible hydrogel materials that are infused with cells from specific patients. He’s working to develop models that mimic the exact structure of the heart at two stages: the embryonic heart tube present at roughly 20 days after conception and a more fully developed fetal heart at 30-34 weeks.

Serpooshan and his team will connect the models to a bioreactor that creates a flow of stand-in material similar to blood, creating a dynamic system that functions just like the real thing.

“Up until this point, printing a synthetic, plastic model and perfusing it with different types of media has been done. But when it comes to hydrogels, and adding cells, and then having this flow going through — this is something that is a lot more complex, and no one has really tried this before,” said Serpooshan, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory. “We bioprint with soft hydrogels that mimic heart tissue, and we add cells that look exactly like the real heart tissue cellular structure. Then we perfuse with the flow that mimics the developing heart flow.”

Nothing that exists now can replicate heart development in quite the same way, Serpooshan said. Animal models are imperfect substitutes for human heart development, and 2D models lack fidelity to the three-dimensional structures and flow at play.

“Having a bioprinted, engineered model that you can print hundreds of is one of our main advantages. You can order the machine to print hundreds of consistent models,” Serpooshan said. “This allows us to change parameters and study how cells behave without using any animals or even going to clinical trials.”

That means the models could be used to accurately test promising new drugs. They could also be used to help surgeons hone their techniques and develop new methods. Early versions of the models have been used by Serpooshan’s close collaborator Holly Bauser-Heaton in just that way. She’s a pediatric cardiologist at Emory.

In particular, Serpooshan and his team are focused on the velocity of blood flow through the developing heart in all three dimensions and the shear stresses that flow exerts on heart cells. Serpooshan said these are critical signals to cells that guide when they grow or move or change. When flow is altered, so, too, is the tissue development.

“There is a theory called ‘no flow, no grow,’ that says that any disruption in the flow of the blood during the development of the heart could result in significant abnormal development,” he said. “That's where the significance of these measurements comes. Being able to visualize and quantify in 3D the flow parameters, including velocity and shear stress, helps us to study what cells are sensing in these environments and if we disrupt flow, for example, how that could change cell behavior.”

Of course, what Serpooshan is proposing is not easy. Heart tissue is complex, so creating this kind of model wasn’t even imaginable until 3D bioprinting came along, he said. The technique allows Serpooshan to deposit specific kinds of cells and biomaterials in specific areas of the tissue models to accurately reflect actual heart tissue composition.

They use three kinds of heart cells, created by reprogramming patients’ blood cells or skin cells into stem cells. This induced pluripotent stem cell technology allows Serpooshan to turn those stem cells into cardiac muscle cells and endothelial cells in the developing heart.

Building the models requires detailed imaging and processing to turn the scans into 3D structures before printing can begin. Serpooshan said other Coulter Department faculty, including Lakshmi “Prasad” Dasi, David Frakes, and Brooks Lindsey, as well as collaborators at Emory School of Medicine, including Bauser-Heaton and Timothy Slesnick, bring key expertise to the work.

Once his team has functioning models, they’ll be able to study two other key conditions along with blood flow that make up the microenvironment around cells as the heart forms and could affect their behavior: stiffness of the tissues and the concentrations of the different proteins in those tissues.

Data suggests all three contribute to abnormalities that lead to congenital heart defects. The question is, how significant is their role?

“Gaining knowledge about some very complex and vague processes that no one has been really able to study in such precision is going to be one of the main outcomes,” Serpooshan said.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1617898128 2021-04-08 16:08:48 1617898651 2021-04-08 16:17:31 0 0 news The project focuses on understanding normal heart development and what can go wrong in those processes and lead to severe defects.

2021-04-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-08 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

646245 646246 646244 646245 image <![CDATA[Bioprinted Embryonic Heart Model]]> image/jpeg 1617896524 2021-04-08 15:42:04 1617898111 2021-04-08 16:08:31 646246 image <![CDATA[Bioprinted Developing Heart Models Workflow Illustration]]> image/jpeg 1617896756 2021-04-08 15:45:56 1617896756 2021-04-08 15:45:56 646244 image <![CDATA[Vahid Serpooshan]]> image/jpeg 1617895916 2021-04-08 15:31:56 1617895916 2021-04-08 15:31:56 <![CDATA[NSF CAREER Project Summary]]> <![CDATA[NSF Early Career Development Awards]]> <![CDATA[Vahid Serpooshan]]>
<![CDATA[Wellcome Leap Grant Funds Work to Create Human Immune Responses]]> 27446 A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, led by bioengineer Ankur Singh, has been awarded a multi-million-dollar, multi-year award from Wellcome Leap as part of the nonprofit’s international $50 million Human Organs, Physiology, and Engineering (HOPE) program.

“This is a game-changer opportunity, where a unique class of engineers from interdisciplinary backgrounds challenge the status quo as champions of innovation,” Singh said. “We each have a specific area of expertise, and without this kind of cohesive collaboration, it would be difficult to achieve our big picture goals.”

Singh is an associate professor with a joint appointment in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) and the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. He heads up a multidisciplinary investigative team that includes Andrés García, executive director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech; Krishnendu Roy, director of the NSF Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies; Ahmet Coskun, assistant professor in BME; and Jeremy Boss, chair of Emory’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

For many life-threatening infectious diseases, like tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria, effective vaccinations are still lacking, noted Singh, a Woodruff Faculty Fellow.

“There are numerous challenges in understanding disease transmission, pathology and developing new vaccines, including a limited understanding of immune correlates of protection, identification of viable vaccine candidates, and off-target effects that must be evaluated in staged clinical trials,” he said.

So his research team aims to develop multi-organ platforms that recreate human immunological responses observed in vaccination studies.

“I’m excited about this highly innovative project involving a phenomenal research team and advanced technologies,” García said. “The engineering of complex in vitro microfluidic tissue-on-a-chip models that faithfully recapitulate functions of lymphoid tissues will have transformative impact in the field in generating new knowledge and advancing therapies.”

Wellcome Leap was established to build bold, unconventional programs and fund them at scale – programs that aim to deliver breakthroughs in human health over 5 to 10 years and demonstrate seemingly impossible results on seemingly impossible timelines.

Leap is a U.S.-based nonprofit founded by the Wellcome Trust with an initial $300 million investment and modeled on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The $50M HOPE program supports efforts to bioengineer human tissues, organoids, organs, and platforms that can be used to accelerate and scale new treatments for complex human health challenges.

Human Organs, Physiology, and Engineering (HOPE) will focus on two goals: creating a multi-organ platform that recreates human immunological responses with sufficient fidelity to double the predictive value of a preclinical trial with respect to the efficacy, toxicity, and immunogenicity of therapeutic interventions targeting cancer and autoimmune and infectious diseases; and demonstrating the advances needed to restore organ function using cultivated organs or biological/synthetic hybrid systems that double the five-year survival rate of patients on replacement therapy or awaiting organ transplantation.

“When our immune system encounters a new virus, it has a complex program in place to create highly selective, long-lived plasma cells that secrete antibodies,” Singh noted. “The technology developed through this project would enable a better understanding of those processes and potentially lead to groundbreaking new therapies.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1617633782 2021-04-05 14:43:02 1617634799 2021-04-05 14:59:59 0 0 news Georgia Tech-Emory team receives multi-year funding in $50 million international effort targeting human immunology

2021-04-05T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-05T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-05 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

646120 646120 image <![CDATA[Ankur Singh]]> image/jpeg 1617632915 2021-04-05 14:28:35 1617632915 2021-04-05 14:28:35 <![CDATA[Wellcome Leap]]> <![CDATA[Ankur Singh]]> <![CDATA[Jeremy Boss]]> <![CDATA[Andrés García]]> <![CDATA[Krishnendu Roy]]>
<![CDATA[Writing New Chapters: $3M Grant Will Expand Biomedical Engineering’s Story-Driven Learning in College of Engineering]]> 27446 Storytelling is how we share ideas and culture. It’s how we build relationships.

Telling stories also helps us learn and integrate that new information into our existing knowledge, which is partly why helping students tell their stories has become an important part of the curriculum in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Now the idea is reaching other disciplines in the College of Engineering at Tech with the support of a $3.1 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation.

Under the new project, led by Coulter BME Professor Joe Le Doux, the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the College’s CREATE-X entrepreneurial program will infuse story-driven learning into their curricula to help students build “entrepreneurial mindsets.” The idea is to help students see themselves as engineers ready and able to act, using all the skills they’re learning to solve problems and improve the human condition.

“Throughout engineering education, I would argue, we often don't give students a chance to sit back, reflect, and make connections about what they’re learning and how they can use it,” said Le Doux, executive director of training and learning in the Coulter Department. “Some students do it on their own. But some don't. Those who do, really benefit from it. So, the whole concept of the story-driven learning piece is to help students make these connections about what they're learning, who they are, where they're going.” 

The Coulter Department has been developing this story-driven learning idea for a few years through the Foundation’s Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN). It has developed into a thread that weaves throughout students’ courses: All along their journey, students have significant learning experiences that add to their bank of stories (Le Doux thinks of it like a pensieve from the Harry Potter novels — a storehouse of memories and stories).

Often, students are asked to reflect on what they’re learning and how it connects to their own life experiences. They spend significant time talking to each other about their work and doing peer reviews. They interview people to discover real-world problems to solve and understand user needs. They even write articles in the style of the New York Times.

Then, near the end of their coursework, they take BMED 4000, The Art of Telling Your Story, where they pull from all their experiences at Tech and beyond. It’s here that they learn what makes a good story with the help of award-winning Atlanta playwright Janece Shaffer. She co-teaches the course alongside Le Doux and another faculty member, Cristi Bell-Huff.

“We're teaching them how to tell real stories that make the movie run in your head, so to speak,” Le Doux said.

The new grant expands these ideas into the other programs, scaling up story-driven learning.

“It's really exciting, because 40% of College of Engineering students will be impacted,” Le Doux said. “Every civil, environmental, aerospace, and CREATE-X student will get it — but in different ways.”


The idea of an entrepreneurial mindset isn’t really about creating startups or taking ideas to market. That can be one piece, but it also can manifest when students work for existing firms. The goal is for students to always be thinking about how they, and their companies, can solve problems and create value for society using the resources at hand.

“We believe that entrepreneurial confidence is a life skill that every Georgia Tech student should possess when they graduate,” said Joyelle Harris, associate director of CREATE-X LEARN programs. “We see story-driven learning as an effective methodology to help students understand the entrepreneurial confidence they have gained by participating in CREATE-X programs, regardless of whether they have launched a successful startup.”

CREATE-X will infuse story-driven learning techniques in each component of the LEARN-MAKE-LAUNCH pathway that forms the core of the program.

Most of the 2,000 students who participate in CREATE-X courses each year don’t launch a company. Those who don’t sometimes wonder what they’ve gotten out of the experience, so using story-driven learning techniques can help them reflect on the confidence and skills they have learned and internalize them.

Civil and Environmental Engineering

In the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the project will build on a larger, multi-year effort to transform the School’s culture and curriculum by improving students’ sense of belonging and connection.

School leaders are designing a series of four vertically integrated courses — for freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors — focused on interactive problem-based learning and problem solving around the grand societal challenges that civil and environmental engineers work to solve. The classes will feature elements of computational and team development, include reflective teaching and learning, and aim to create a greater sense of belonging among civil and environmental students.

“The overarching objective of this initiative is to incorporate entrepreneurially-minded learning pedagogies into our engineering programs, with a focus on value sensitive design and story-driven learning, to support the development of entrepreneurially minded engineers,” said Adjo Amekudzi-Kennedy, associate chair and professor in the School. “That means engineers who have a mindset and culture of value creation: for society, for the advancement of the economy, and for themselves in ways that formally incorporate societal values and minimize negative consequences.”

Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineering students will find storytelling modules integrated into several courses throughout their programs of study — again, with the goal of helping them reflect and articulate why they chose the field and how they can translate skills into solutions that create value.

“Our School is excited to be a part of the KEEN grant at Georgia Tech to make significant improvements to our educational program that enable students to think and act with an entrepreneurial mindset as they are exposed to and solve problems that enhance the human condition,” said Mark Costello, William R. T. Oakes Professor and chair of the Guggenheim School.

The School plans to create social learning spaces, where students and faculty can engage in activities outside the classroom and forge stronger connections. Leaders also will create do-it-yourself small-scale experiments for students to build, perform, and improve on their own.

It’s About More Than Georgia Tech

For Le Doux and Coulter BME, where innovative engineering education is built into the Department’s DNA, the goals are to continue developing story-driven learning as a teaching approach and create tools to train engineering faculty anywhere to use it. Building out the approach in disparate disciplines at Tech will offer key insights in how to do that.

“How does this roll out in the different units? Each unit has a different culture. We want to impact all of engineering education — it’s an ambitious goal — so we're looking at it from the prospective of organizational change,” Le Doux said. “When people try to adapt this in different programs, different cultures, what are the barriers? What works?”

Le Doux said adopting entrepreneurial-minded learning as a key part of the curriculum throughout the College will be significant: Georgia Tech’s size and reputation mean we have a major influence on engineering education around the nation.

“I would like to see as many colleges of engineering as possible adopting these kinds of approaches. We can share what we've learned with other campuses — and even expand these ideas beyond engineering,” he said. “Helping students see themselves as people who create value will make them more likely to actually do that when they get out in the world. And more generally, they end up knowing themselves better, and they know how to tell really good stories. That's a leadership skill.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1617301831 2021-04-01 18:30:31 1620401807 2021-05-07 15:36:47 0 0 news The approach helps students an develop entrepreneurial mindset, where they see themselves as engineers ready and able to act with the skills they're learning

2021-04-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-01 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

646008 646008 image <![CDATA[Stories Matter Typewriter]]> image/jpeg 1617298902 2021-04-01 17:41:42 1617312124 2021-04-01 21:22:04 <![CDATA[Read More: "BMED 4000: Curious Students Making Connections and Creating Value"]]> <![CDATA[Kern Eentrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN)]]> <![CDATA[Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering]]> <![CDATA[School of Civil and Environmental Engineering]]> <![CDATA[CREATE-X]]>
<![CDATA[Researchers Find New Drug Can Quickly Reverse Eye Pressure Increases from Steroid Eye Drops]]> 27446 Doctors routinely prescribe steroid drops for patients after eye surgery or to treat eye inflammation or swelling. Those drugs can cause a sharp pressure increase inside the eyes, however, requiring additional treatment to prevent damage to patients’ sight.

Researchers have found a relatively new drug works to quickly reverse — and prevent — the rise in intraocular pressure that can result from using ophthalmic steroids, even in patients who don’t respond to other medications. Their findings are published March 30 in the journal eLife.

“It's really hard to treat those patients. They come in with a very high pressure, and they tend to throw the kitchen sink at them in terms of trying to get the pressure down,” said C. Ross Ethier, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and one of the study’s corresponding authors.

Working with collaborators at Duke University, Ethier’s team reviewed patient charts to find people who weren’t responding to any treatment — until their doctors tried netarsudil, a new drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat the most common form of glaucoma, called primary open-angle glaucoma.

“It's a little bit of a Hail Mary pass, but the physicians started treating their patients with this new drug, and it actually did a heck of a good job in terms of lowering the pressure in the eye,” Ethier said. “That's actually pretty exciting — it opens up the idea that if you have a patient who's not responding to standard treatment of steroid-induced glaucoma, it might be worth considering this new netarsudil drug.”

Since it’s so new, netarsudil is expensive and not commonly prescribed. But Ethier said their findings suggest turning to the drug sooner for patients experiencing the pressure-increasing effects of steroid eye drops — it could help preserve their vision.

Eye pressure is regulated by a complex network of tissues that secrete, circulate, and drain fluid in the eye. In glaucoma, the drain gets backed up. Physicians typically use several kinds of medications to counter higher intraocular pressure for patients using steroid drops: Some activate a secondary drainage network while others cause the eye to make less fluid in the first place.

Those are indirect routes to solve the problem, Ethier said. Netarsudil goes right at it, targeting the eye tissues that naturally drain fluid to “unclog” them.

“We think the reason this drug is so effective in this particular form of glaucoma is that the pathology is really localized to the drain, and because this type of disease comes on fast, you can hit the drain right away,” said Ethier, who is also the Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering.

To better understand how the drug targets the draining tissues — known as the trabecular meshwork — the researchers turned to an established and reliable mouse model. A hallmark of steroid-induced glaucoma is deposition of extracellular matrix in the trabecular meshwork. Ethier said their experiments showed that netarsudil seemed to be very effective at opening the drain, so to speak, by reducing this matrix material, which normally helps support and bind cells together.

“In a patient, it's actually quite hard to know what's going on to cause the pressure to become lower. There are measurements that you can't make in a patient that you can make in a laboratory setting,” Ethier said. “We hypothesized that this effect we observed was due to the unblocking of the drain, but really, the only way to confirm that was to use this mouse model of the disease.”

Ethier worked with longtime collaborator Daniel Stamer at Duke on the study as well as clinicians at Duke and Washington State University. He said pressure regulation in the eye is a complicated system that still is not well understood. In addition to offering a potential new treatment for patients, he said, their work unravels a bit more about how the system functions.

“This study tells you something about how the whole system is working,” Ethier said. “We've been studying it for many years — not just my lab, but the broader community. And every time we find something, it's like, there's another layer on the onion.”

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, grant Nos. EY030124, EY031710, and EY005722; the BrightFocus Foundation; Research to Prevent Blindness; the Georgia Research Alliance; and Aerie Pharmaceuticals. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any funding agency.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1617199351 2021-03-31 14:02:31 1617218065 2021-03-31 19:14:25 0 0 news Study suggests turning to netarsudil sooner for these hard-to-treat patients could help preserve their sight.

2021-03-31T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-31T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-31 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

645933 642321 645933 image <![CDATA[Instilling Eye Drops]]> image/jpeg 1617198294 2021-03-31 13:44:54 1617198294 2021-03-31 13:44:54 642321 image <![CDATA[Ross Ethier]]> image/jpeg 1609123184 2020-12-28 02:39:44 1609123184 2020-12-28 02:39:44 <![CDATA["Anti-fibrotic activity of a rho-kinase inhibitor restores outflow function and intraocular pressure homeostasis"]]> <![CDATA[C. Ross Ethier]]> <![CDATA[W. Daniel Stamer]]>
<![CDATA[New Graduate Program Rankings: Coulter BME is No. 2 in the Nation]]> 27446 The joint Emory University-Georgia Institute of Technology biomedical engineering program continues to offer one of the best graduate educations in the nation, according to new rankings from U.S. News and World Report released March 30.

The program is No. 2 on the 2022 list of top graduate degrees.

“I am gratified our efforts continue to be recognized by our peers,” said Susan Margulies, the Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Department. “This challenging year has reinforced what a special place Coulter BME is, and I am incredibly proud of the work our students, faculty, and staff have done through it all to continue our mission of improving people’s health.”

The updated rankings mark the 14th time in the last 18 years that the master’s and Ph.D. programs in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering have earned the second spot on the list. The consistently high ranking speaks to the Department’s recognized tradition of excellence, innovation and impact since its inception.

“We work every day to educate the next generation of pioneering biomedical engineers and engage in fundamental and translational research at the interface of engineering and medicine,” Margulies said. “Our talented students go on to pursue a wide range of career paths, including academia, industry, entrepreneurial ventures, and government. Their success and accomplishments as alumni help carry the story of our program far beyond Atlanta.”

The Coulter Department joins every other graduate program in the Georgia Tech College of Engineering among the top seven in their respective disciplines on the 2022 Best Graduate Programs lists. The College overall is No. 8.

"The graduate rankings released today are a testament to the high standards of education, innovation and research happening at the College, which have been recognized by our peers,” said Raheem Beyah, engineering dean and Southern Company Chair. “We should be especially proud of this given the many challenges over the past year with the pandemic. Through it all, our faculty, students and staff have remained resilient, making the College what it is today."

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1617107520 2021-03-30 12:32:00 1617107768 2021-03-30 12:36:08 0 0 news The new rankings mark the 14th time in 18 years the programs have earned the second spot

2021-03-30T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-30T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-30 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

645882 645882 image <![CDATA[BME Grad Rankings 2022]]> image/png 1617107735 2021-03-30 12:35:35 1617107735 2021-03-30 12:35:35 <![CDATA[U.S. News & World Report Graduate Program Rankings - Biomedical Engineering]]>
<![CDATA[Dahlman Earns Tenure; Lam, LaPlaca, Oshinski, Platt Promoted to Professor]]> 27446 Three Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering faculty members have been promoted to full professor this spring, and a fourth has earned tenure and promotion to associate professor.

Michelle LaPlaca and Manu Platt will ascend to the rank of full professor in the Georgia Tech College of Engineering, effective July 1.

Wilbur Lam and John Oshinski will become full professors in the Emory University School of Medicine Sept. 1.

James Dahlman has been approved for tenure and promotion to associate professor in the Department.

Dahlman works at the interface of next-generation sequencing, nanotechnology, and gene editing. His lab focuses on targeted drug delivery, in vivo gene editing, Cas9 therapies, and RNA therapies. His team applies big data technologies to nanomedicine in areas like DNA barcoding.

Lam’s lab of clinicians, engineers, and biologists develops and applies micro- and nanotechnologies to study, diagnose, and treat blood disorders, cancer, and childhood diseases.

LaPlaca’s research interests include neurotrauma, injury biomechanics, and neuroengineering as they relate to traumatic brain injury, with the goal of developing better diagnostics, protection, and repair techniques.

Oshinski works to advance magnetic resonance imaging technology, using engineering principles and technical problem-solving techniques to address clinical problems in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. He has concentrated on imaging applications that directly impact patient care.

Platt focuses on fusing engineering, cell biology, and physiology to understand how cells sense, respond, and remodel their immediate mechanical and biochemical environments for repair and regeneration. His group also works to translate that knowledge to address global health disparities.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1617031347 2021-03-29 15:22:27 1617048853 2021-03-29 20:14:13 0 0 news Along with tenure, Dahman will be promoted to associate professor

2021-03-29T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-29T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-29 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

645838 645835 645872 645834 645836 645837 645838 image <![CDATA[2021 BME Promotions Composite - Dahlman, Lam, LaPlaca, Platt, Oshinski]]> image/jpeg 1617030946 2021-03-29 15:15:46 1617048696 2021-03-29 20:11:36 645835 image <![CDATA[James Dahlman (vertical alternate)]]> image/jpeg 1617030467 2021-03-29 15:07:47 1617030467 2021-03-29 15:07:47 645872 image <![CDATA[Wilbur Lam (vertical)]]> image/jpeg 1617048804 2021-03-29 20:13:24 1617048804 2021-03-29 20:13:24 645834 image <![CDATA[Michelle LaPlaca (vertical)]]> image/jpeg 1617030396 2021-03-29 15:06:36 1617030396 2021-03-29 15:06:36 645836 image <![CDATA[John Oshinski (vertical)]]> image/jpeg 1617030524 2021-03-29 15:08:44 1617030524 2021-03-29 15:08:44 645837 image <![CDATA[Manu Platt (vertical)]]> image/jpeg 1617030612 2021-03-29 15:10:12 1617030612 2021-03-29 15:10:12 <![CDATA[James Dahlman]]> <![CDATA[Wilbur Lam]]> <![CDATA[Michelle LaPlaca]]> <![CDATA[John Oshinski]]> <![CDATA[Manu Platt]]>
<![CDATA[Rains, Lam Score 2021 Golden Helix Awards ]]> 28153 When Georgia Bio, the state’s life sciences trade association, virtually celebrates its annual Golden Helix Awards April 1, BME Capstone Director James Rains will be there as one of the 2021 Golden Helix Award winners.

“It’s great to be recognized, but I just happen to be in a lucky position — this is a reflection of a great community that is passionate about life sciences and health care and innovation,” said Rains, professor of the practice in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. His was one of three awards that went to the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Rains won a Community Award for his work fostering more than 500 Capstone projects where BME undergraduates work with clinicians, patients, and industry leaders to address a wide range of health care challenges. The award is presented annually to a small number of individuals “whose contributions to Georgia’s life sciences community are worthy of special recognition,” according to Georgia Bio.

Georgia Tech also will be recognized with a Deal of the Year Award in the public financing category, along with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University, for receiving $18.2 million from the National Institutes of Health to continue their verification of Covid-19 diagnostic tests. BME Associate Professor Wilbur Lam is one of three principal investigators on the project.

Additionally, the lab of Chris Saldana, professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, will receive an Innovation Award with the Global Center for Medical Innovation for their quick development and production of personal protection equipment (PPE) face shields in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This past year has truly put a spotlight on the importance of the life sciences industry in our everyday lives,” said David Hartnett, chief economic development officer at the Metro Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Georgia Bio Awards Committee. “The coronavirus pandemic created an immediate need for our community to collaborate and foster innovation.”

This is the 23rd edition of the Golden Helix Awards, which will be presented virtually for a second straight year. Rains, who already has recorded his acceptance speech, is being honored for mentoring and coaching student entrepreneurs in the Capstone program, plus other biomedical startups.

“It’s not easy to take an idea and turn it into a product,” said Rains, who has launched a few startups of his own. One of them, Jackson Medical, makes a surgical fire safety cover called GloShield as well as PPE.

“There’s a greater barrier to market in the biomedical area, but the personal rewards are so much greater,” he added. “If I develop an app that makes it easier to find good coffee, that’s nice. But if I develop something that can improve someone’s health outcome? It doesn’t get much better than that.”


Related Links:

BME Capstone

2021 Golden Helix Awards

Georgia Bio

Georgia Tech Shares in $18.2 Million NIH Award

Georgia Tech Spearheads PPE Effort


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1617019621 2021-03-29 12:07:01 1617019621 2021-03-29 12:07:01 0 0 news BME Capstone Director James Rains wins a Community Award, Wilbur Lam leads a Georgia Bio Deal of the Year

2021-03-29T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-29T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-29 00:00:00 645817 645817 image <![CDATA[James and Wilbur]]> image/jpeg 1617019519 2021-03-29 12:05:19 1617019519 2021-03-29 12:05:19
<![CDATA[NSF Awards Prestigious Graduate Fellowships to 6 Coulter Dept. Students]]> 27446 The National Science Foundation delivered good news to six biomedical engineering students at Georgia Tech and Emory this month: They received Graduate Research Fellowships from the agency, which is among the most prestigious funding for grad students in the United States.

The fellowships pay for three years of graduate study along with an annual stipend. Students may only apply once, so the stakes are high.

“This fellowship came with valuable comments and critiques that I can use to further develop my project. Most importantly, my graduate studies will be enriched by summer internship opportunities and the vast network of STEM professionals and fellow graduate students who have also been granted this prestigious award,” said Kai Littlejohn, who’s in her first year of her Ph.D. studies. “Endorsement of my research and training from the National Science Foundation is an honor, and I am excited to take advantage of this opportunity to expand upon my ideas.”

This year’s fellows in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering include students working on neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, cell manufacturing, 3D printing models for surgical planning and device testing, and flow mechanics related to strokes.

“It is a great honor to become an NSF Graduate Research Fellow,” said Retta El Sayed, a second-year Ph.D. student. “I believe this fellowship will open many doors, helping me complete my education and allowing me to make an impact in advancing STEM education and improving the quality of patients’ lives.”

The fellows also include a pair of Coulter BME undergraduates who will embark on their doctoral studies next year.

“The NSF graduate fellowship opens up avenues in the type of work and labs that I will be able to join,” said Ana Cristian, a fourth-year student graduating in May and in the midst of deciding where she will pursue her Ph.D. “Since my research and graduate coursework will be partially funded by an external benefactor, it makes me an extremely attractive candidate for professors.”

More about the group:

Ana Cristian

Retta El Sayed

Jakari Harris

Angela Jimenez

Kai Littlejohn

Nadine Zureick

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1616850565 2021-03-27 13:09:25 1616850565 2021-03-27 13:09:25 0 0 news The new fellows — all women — include four Ph.D. students and two undergraduates

2021-03-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-27 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

645802 645803 645804 645805 645806 645807 645808 645802 image <![CDATA[NSF BME Graduate Fellows 2021]]> image/jpeg 1616849587 2021-03-27 12:53:07 1616849587 2021-03-27 12:53:07 645803 image <![CDATA[Ana Cristian BME]]> image/jpeg 1616849703 2021-03-27 12:55:03 1616849703 2021-03-27 12:55:03 645804 image <![CDATA[Retta El Sayed BME]]> image/jpeg 1616849775 2021-03-27 12:56:15 1616849775 2021-03-27 12:56:15 645805 image <![CDATA[Jakari Harris BME]]> image/jpeg 1616849826 2021-03-27 12:57:06 1616849826 2021-03-27 12:57:06 645806 image <![CDATA[Angela Jimenez BME]]> image/jpeg 1616849897 2021-03-27 12:58:17 1616849897 2021-03-27 12:58:17 645807 image <![CDATA[Kai Littlejohn BME]]> image/jpeg 1616849950 2021-03-27 12:59:10 1616849950 2021-03-27 12:59:10 645808 image <![CDATA[Nadine Zureick]]> image/jpeg 1616850025 2021-03-27 13:00:25 1616850025 2021-03-27 13:00:25 <![CDATA[NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program]]>
<![CDATA[3 Undergrads Earn Support of Medical Instrumentation Association]]> 27446 Three biomedical engineering students have won national scholarships from the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, including the group’s most-prestigious award.

Alessandra Yoldas received the AAMI-Health Systems Engineering Alliance Engineering Scholarship, which supports students interested in health systems engineering. Kelly Qiu and Suraj Rejendran received 2021 Michael J. Miller scholarships. All three are undergraduates in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

“I am grateful and thankful for my friends at Georgia Tech, who have spent hours studying with me and supporting me throughout my time here,” Yoldas said. “I am truly honored to be receiving this opportunity. This will help accelerate my path towards working on the front line of medical research and technology as we continue to bridge the gap between healthcare and robotics.”

The association says the scholarships are more than financial support; the group’s members and staff rally behind winners to support their education and careers and help them continue to succeed. The group awards only six scholarships each year.

“This award provides an incredible opportunity to be part of the AAMI network of professionals working in the healthcare technology and medical device fields,” said Qiu, who wants to use computing to enhance medical devices. “As a biomedical engineering student, I aim to innovate to improve patient outcomes and make a difference in medical technologies, and I am grateful for the support and network AAMI has provided.”

Rajendran plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computational biology, merging his interests in biomedical engineering and computing technology.

“The AAMI Foundation Scholarship will supplement my academic and professional goals by providing me with valuable connections around the world,” Rajendran told the association. “By receiving the AAMI Foundation Scholarship, I feel as though I'm one step closer to making a real, progressive impact on the world.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1616779053 2021-03-26 17:17:33 1616779146 2021-03-26 17:19:06 0 0 news The association supports students interested in health technology management and health systems engineering

2021-03-26T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-26T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-26 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

645780 645780 image <![CDATA[AAMI Scholarship Winners 2021 - Alessandra Yoldas, Kelly Qiu, Suraj Rajendran]]> image/jpeg 1616778602 2021-03-26 17:10:02 1616778602 2021-03-26 17:10:02 <![CDATA[Read More: AAMI Foundation Names Six Scholarship Recipients]]>
<![CDATA[BME Faculty Developing Skills to Interrupt Microaggression, Acts of Exclusion]]> 27446 When faculty members in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering gathered to talk about student experiences of racism and exclusion in December, the stories they heard were moving — and a call to action.

The Department’s Community, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee had collected experiences from students that served as the starting point for a thoughtful discussion — and the realization among the group that they needed more tools to intervene and address situations where students feel marginalized or excluded.

A series of workshops starting this spring is one of the ways professors, instructors, and department leaders are learning those skills. Facilitated by Dan Morrison, an expert in anti-racist education who specializes in diversity and inclusion in academia, the program will gather small groups of faculty members for six weeks of training and conversations. The goal is to equip them with knowledge and skills to help make the Coulter Department a more inclusive space.

“The stories were powerful and generated good discussion amongst faculty about the experiences that students have that we are unaware of — and our roles and responsibilities when these types of things happen,” said Todd Fernandez, a member of the Community, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee and a lecturer in the Department. “After the sessions, the faculty expressed a need for further education on strategies to help prevent or address the experiences in the students’ stories we heard.”

At the December event, faculty members heard a variety of troubling stories from across campus. One student described being accused of breaking lab equipment because of the language they spoke. Another described how a student group used an offensive team name for a class project, leaving them feeling minimized. The aim of the workshop series — which will stretch into the summer — is to help faculty members interrupt these kinds of microaggressions and exclusionary behaviors.

“The benefit of the training is really twofold,” Fernandez said. “One, it provides space for faculty to reflect on how we make sense of the world and how we build relationships with those who have different backgrounds than we do. And, two, it gives participants specific strategies and increased confidence in having difficult discussions related to race, racism, and anti-racism.”

As racial justice protests ignited conversations around the country last year, the Department developed an explicit commitment to diversity and inclusion to clearly state where we stand — and our expectations for members of our community:

The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Tech is a diverse and international community of faculty, students, and staff who promote equity, diversity, and inclusion on our campuses. We believe that the diversity and contributions from all of our members are essential and make us who we are. We strive to create and maintain a welcoming and inclusive educational and work environment that values and respects our individual and communal differences. We believe that our impact must reach beyond the classroom, research labs, our campuses, and the technology we create in order to improve the human condition where injustice lives. We believe that Black Lives Matter and therefore stand committed in the fight against racism, discrimination, racial bias, and racial injustice.

Ultimately, the faculty workshop series is another step toward reinforcing those ideals by offering the people leading classes, labs, and the Department practice with specific strategies they can use.

“We are committed to doing the work necessary to build a more equitable and inclusive community,” said Susan Margulies, the Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Department. “As a start, we need to build our skills so that we can take concrete actions to live our values. The discussions and practice through these workshops will help us to better understand and grow — and to make our Department and our campuses places where our students and colleagues thrive.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1616694333 2021-03-25 17:45:33 1616694333 2021-03-25 17:45:33 0 0 news Series of workshops will equip faculty members with tools to intervene and address situations where students feel marginalized or excluded.

2021-03-25T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-25T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-25 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Department of Biomedical Engineering

645737 645737 image <![CDATA[BME Community, Diversity, Inclusion Illustration]]> image/png 1616693668 2021-03-25 17:34:28 1616693668 2021-03-25 17:34:28 <![CDATA[Coulter BME Community, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee]]> <![CDATA[Dan Morrison]]>
<![CDATA[Ethier Named Editor of Journal of Biomechanical Engineering]]> 27446 C. Ross Ethier has been appointed co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.

Published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the journal focuses on the application of mechanical engineering principles to improve human health. Ethier assumes his new responsibilities immediately.

“This is one of the best-established journals in biomechanics, having published many classic articles,” said Ethier, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering. “We will continue to be relentlessly focused on article quality, and I am looking forward to continuing to increase the diversity of our editorial board, referees, and authors.”

Ethier works at the intersection of mechanics, physiology, and cell biology to understand the role of mechanics in disease and prevent mechanically triggered damage to tissues and organs. He has done extensive research on the eye disease glaucoma and osteoarthritis, which affects the joints.

Ethier said he aims to publish more special issues and review articles as editor, and he would like to create a new type of article focused on measurement and computational techniques in biomechanics and mechanobiology.

In addition to publishing his own research in the journal, Ethier has served as an associate editor and chair of the society’s division that oversees the journal. He’s the second editor-in-chief to hail from Georgia Tech: Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience Founding Director Bob Nerem served in the role for nearly a decade.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1616596943 2021-03-24 14:42:23 1616597069 2021-03-24 14:44:29 0 0 news The journal focuses on the application of mechanical engineering principles to improve human health

2021-03-24T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-24T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-24 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

627768 627768 image <![CDATA[Ross Ethier]]> image/jpeg 1571409927 2019-10-18 14:45:27 1616597049 2021-03-24 14:44:09 <![CDATA[C. Ross Ethier]]> <![CDATA[Journal of Biomechanical Engineering]]>
<![CDATA[Dasi Elected a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology]]> 27446 This has been an eventful spring for Lakshmi “Prasad” Dasi, who has added quite a few letters after his name and title.

The newest accolade for Dasi is election to fellowship in the American College of Cardiology — which means he can now use the prestigious “FACC” designation. As the organization puts it, that “signal[s] to colleagues, patients, and peers that you have been recognized as a cardiovascular professional ranking among the best in the field.”

Dasi is a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and a renowned scholar in heart valve engineering and cardiovascular biomechanics. Earlier this year, he also was named a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers. He said both honors are harbingers of what’s to come.

“I truly believe we are at the cusp of major transformation in the field of medicine, where engineering-analysis-based decision support becomes the tool for personalizing patient care. These recognitions will help me advocate and accelerate the realization of this vision,” he said.

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) calls itself the “professional home” for clinical and nonclinical cardiovascular professionals, where the latest knowledge and innovations are promoted to improve heart health. The group operates scientific journals, accredits hospitals and institutions, and advocates for health policy and standards.

“Fellowship in ACC means a lot to me. This signals that the engineering work from our lab is, indeed, striking a positive nerve in cardiology,” said Dasi, who also serves as the Department’s associate chair for undergraduate studies. “This also means that ACC recognizes and welcomes me as an engineer into leadership opportunities to shape the cardiovascular profession as a whole.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1616438904 2021-03-22 18:48:24 1616438904 2021-03-22 18:48:24 0 0 news Lakshmi "Prasad" Dasi is a renowned scholar in heart valve engineering and cardiovascular biomechanics.

2021-03-22T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-22T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-22 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

645618 645618 image <![CDATA[Lakshmi "Prasad" Dasi tight crop]]> image/jpeg 1616435599 2021-03-22 17:53:19 1616435599 2021-03-22 17:53:19 <![CDATA[Lakshmi "Prasad" Dasi]]> <![CDATA[Cardiovascular Fluid Mechanics Laboratory]]> <![CDATA[American College of Cardiology]]>
<![CDATA[BME InVenture Finalists Turn Focus to Next Steps for Their Startups]]> 27446 Though they didn’t win this year’s competition, the InVenture Prize finals were hardly the end of the road for the two teams featuring students from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. Rather, they’re already working on the next steps to turn their ideas into commercial products.

For fourth-year student Sammie Hasen and BCase, that means finishing the final days of a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. The proceeds will help her pay for the tooling to begin injection-mold manufacturing. For team CADe and Sean Cody, who earned his biomedical engineering bachelor’s in December, the next step is the Startup Launch program this summer through Georgia Tech’s CREATE-X program.

“The opportunity to be on stage in front of a lot of people is free advertising. A lot of people see this, and you're going to start to generate that original buzz,” said Cody, whose team announced the app store release of their CADe smartphone app during the finals.  

CADe (pronounced like “Caddy”) is an app that turns a smartphone into another input device for 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software, a tool used by millions of engineers every day. Users can manipulate the models using their phone’s touch interface: pinch to zoom, use two fingers to move the model around, one finger to rotate.

“It’s the movements that everyone in this day and age is familiar with using on a mobile interface, and because of that, a user can pick it up and start using it right away,” Cody said. “CADe functions with your traditional mouse, so you're basically doubling your user input into the computer. You're improving the user experience of the app, and you're improving the user's efficiency.”

Cody said initial tests showed users can see 20% efficiency gains using the CADe app on a phone in one hand and manipulating the mouse in the other. And with 20 million people using the most common 3D CAD packages, capturing just 5% of that market — the team’s goal — would mean a million subscribers.

“We're excited to really launch this publicly and have a wider database of feedback,” Cody said.

Hasen is, likewise, on the cusp of more user feedback. She’s nearing the end of an already successful Kickstarter campaign, where she’s outpaced her $3,500 goal and is still collecting donations. She has been 3D printing prototypes of her BCase birth control storage solution; the infusion of funding will allow her to scale up production.

BCase attaches directly to the back of a smartphone, where it discreetly carries birth control — or potentially any similar multi-pill pack.

Hasen came up with the idea after many an interrupted dinner or evening out with friends. Their smartphone alarms would go off to remind them it was time to take their pill, and they’d realize it was at home.

“We'd have to turn around, no matter where we were, and go get it,” Hasen said. “It kept happening, and I was like, ‘Why does this keep happening?’”

With BCase, the pill and the alarm are in the same place. Plus, who leaves home without their phone anymore?

“You know you're onto something when you have everyone saying, ‘How has this not been done before?’ It's just something that's so in plain sight that no one sees it,” Hasen said. “Hopefully, this is the big product that people are like, ‘Wow, this has really made my life easier.’”

Hasen said she’s building more than a product and a business with BCase; she wants to build a platform to make women’s lives better.

“I want to make sure that it is not just profiting off of women, but also supporting women,” she said.

“Plan B, tampons, birth control, IUDs — they were all designed by men. There are huge user flaws to them because the designers never used the product,” Hasen said. “My goal would be to have a primarily female team. I really want to make sure that the customer is the designer, and the designer is the customer.”

The live, televised finals of the InVenture Prize March 17 capped a months-long journey for the six teams of finalists. Judges awarded first prize to Delta Jacket and second to StartProto. Delta Jacket also won the audience-voted People’s Choice Award.

The judges included another biomedical engineer, Dev Mandavia, a 2018 graduate and the only two-time winner of the InVenture Prize.

“I think I wouldn’t have had a chance this year,” Mandavia said at the end of the live broadcast. “The quality of the teams gets better every year.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1616073086 2021-03-18 13:11:26 1616079638 2021-03-18 15:00:38 0 0 news The journey continues for BCase and CADe with a Kickstarter and the CREATE-X Startup Launch program, respectively.

2021-03-18T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-18T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-18 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

645494 645493 645492 645494 image <![CDATA[InVenture Prize 2021 - Sammie Hasen and BCase]]> image/jpeg 1616071849 2021-03-18 12:50:49 1616071849 2021-03-18 12:50:49 645493 image <![CDATA[InVenture Prize 2021 - CADe Promo Image]]> image/jpeg 1616071685 2021-03-18 12:48:05 1616071685 2021-03-18 12:48:05 645492 image <![CDATA[InVenture 2021 - BCase Promo Image]]> image/png 1616071535 2021-03-18 12:45:35 1616071535 2021-03-18 12:45:35 <![CDATA[Watch: 2021 InVenture Prize Finals on GPB]]> <![CDATA[2021 InVenture Prize Finalists]]> <![CDATA[CREATE-X Startup Launch]]>
<![CDATA[Pursuing Excellence, Giving Back: Two Faculty to Become ABET Program Evaluators]]> 27446 As much as the accreditation process can be intense for engineering programs, it’s also a significant investment on the part of those doing the evaluating.

For many of them, it’s a chance to serve in a vitally important role, and along the way, they get detailed insight into the best of what programs across the globe are doing. That’s certainly the view of two Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering faculty members who are part of a new class of biomedical engineering program evaluators for ABET (originally the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

“I have always appreciated the accreditation process as a means to ensure that we continuously strive to assess, evaluate, reflect, and improve upon programs and student experiences,” said Dana Abouelnasr, senior lecturer in the Coulter Department. “I have had the unique opportunity to work in a new program in a new university, which was at the beginning of its accreditation journey. The resulting improvements, enhancements, and new culture of reflection and continuous improvement were quite amazing.”

Abouelnasr and Essy Behravesh will participate in training this spring to officially become a program evaluator. Evaluators are key in the reviews of engineering education programs that happen every six years. They look at program materials and visit campuses to assess programs and help them with their continuous improvement processes. Abouelnasr and Behravesh will join Senior Associate Chair and Professor Paul Benkeser in the work; he’s served as an evaluator for nearly two decades and recommended both of them.

“The industry and government experience they bring to the table is very attractive,” Benkeser said. “We really try to involve as many folks from industry as we can in evaluating programs to round out the perspective of the accrediting committees. Dana and Essy bring that experience, which is a big plus along with their work in academia.”

Behravesh spent several years in industry before coming to Georgia Tech. He’s now the director of student services in the Department and teaches a systems-level engineering physiology lab.

“As a program evaluator, I get to learn how other biomedical engineers run their programs. I think to be the best, you have to understand the rest,” Behravesh said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how other programs leverage their strengths, and more importantly, how we can be more efficient in our use of data for continuous improvement.”

Behravesh has been deeply involved in the Coulter Department’s ABET visits. He said working with programs on their reaccreditation also offers the chance to share what he’s learned from the leaders and learning scientists in the Coulter Department.

Likewise, Abouelnasr has been immersed in the “other side” of an accreditation process. She helped develop a new master’s program at a university in the United Arab Emirates, all the way from determining the demand for the program to getting full accreditation. And she experienced the evaluator’s perspective when she was a scientist at the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

“Part of my responsibilities were to evaluate the efforts within several different programs and help to maintain standards and provide for continuous improvement throughout my division,” she said. “Much of this was similar to what my responsibilities will be as a program evaluator.”

Having three evaluators from Coulter BME builds on the College of Engineering’s long legacy of service to ABET, Benkeser said.

“This reflects well on the Georgia Tech community, when we have people who contribute like this,” he said. “We’re already a well-respected engineering program, of course, but this is another way to give back. And we have an obligation — we benefit from the work of all the volunteers at ABET.”

Benkeser would know: He’s in his second stint representing the Biomedical Engineering Society on the Engineering Accreditation Commission for ABET, which oversees all the organization’s engineering accreditation work. Benkeser also has the distinction of having served on more biomedical engineering accrediting committees than any other active evaluator.

For Behravesh’s part, he said he’s eager to get started: “The ideals of continuous improvement at the heart of ABET are very much aligned with the DNA of our Department.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1615921875 2021-03-16 19:11:15 1615940377 2021-03-17 00:19:37 0 0 news Dana Abouelnasr and Essy Behravesh will help accrediting body vet and evaluate biomedical engineering programs.

2021-03-16T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-16T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-16 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Mananger

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

645450 645450 image <![CDATA[Group Meeting with Notebooks, Laptop]]> image/jpeg 1615940347 2021-03-17 00:19:07 1615940347 2021-03-17 00:19:07 <![CDATA[ABET]]> <![CDATA[Dana Abouelnasr]]> <![CDATA[Essy Behravesh]]> <![CDATA[Paul Benkeser]]>
<![CDATA[Capstone Teams Share Their Work at Georgia CTSA Regional Conference]]> 27446 The Southeast Regional Clinical and Translational Science Conference typically features researchers and clinicians sharing important work and discussing the latest advances. This year, it also included seven teams of biomedical engineering students presenting the innovations they developed for their Capstone Design projects.

It’s a milestone achievement for the students and the Capstone program in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering: this is the first time Capstone teams have presented at a conference as part of the poster sessions or podium talks.

These weren’t student design competition presentations; the students shared their advances as part of the professional program alongside other researchers.

“This is a wonderful opportunity that allowed our students to showcase their innovative work to a broader audience,” said James Rains, who leads the Coulter BME Capstone program and is a professor of the practice. “This audience was composed of clinicians and researchers, who are passionate about clinical and translational science. Our students appreciated the ability to tell their story to a group of individuals who can provide relevant feedback and insights.”

One of the breakout sessions featured a presentation from a team that created a prototype plasma viscometer to rapidly test the viscosity of blood plasma in Covid-19 patients. Current devices are expensive or require too much time to process samples. Their solution uses light to measure fluid flow, which is proportional to viscosity.

“It was a really rewarding experience, because I was able to present and get feedback from top scientists and researchers within the BME and clinical science field,” said Lichao Tang, one of the three team members who presented the device. All graduated with their bachelor’s degrees in the fall. “It was also valuable to learn about the research on Covid-19 and infectious disease from the other presenters during my session.”

Another team presented their device to measure blast exposure of mortarmen in the U.S. Army — work that won them the first-place award among nearly 70 posters in the translational research session.

Other poster presentations included devices to improve early detection of preeclampsia in rural Ethiopia; better model blood vessels and simulate their behavior in specific patients; regulate infants’ body temperature and prevent hypothermia in Ethiopia; simulate brain mapping to help train neurosurgeons; and improve treatment for cardiac arrest patients by improving blood flow to the brain.

It’s a wide range of applications that represents just a slice of the projects that students tackle each semester. Rains said he hopes the invitation to show off the students’ work at the conference will spark new opportunities for future teams.

“This allows us to create new connections who will potentially participate in the near future in our Capstone program. These posters and talks demonstrate the potential of partnering with a team of Georgia Tech engineers to jointly develop a solution to a challenge that professionals have identified or encountered,” Rains said.

Rains said the Capstone teams applied to participate in the conference with the encouragement of Andrés García, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience and one of the lead planners of the conference. The conference was organized by the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance (Georgia CTSA), a longtime sponsor of Coulter BME Capstone.

“It is wonderful that Georgia CTSA helps support our students’ education and offers avenues like this for our students to engage in scholarly endeavors beyond the classroom,” Rains said.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1615560812 2021-03-12 14:53:32 1616167364 2021-03-19 15:22:44 0 0 news It's the first time BME Capstone teams have presented their solutions at a conference as part of the poster sessions or podium talks.

2021-03-12T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-12T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-12 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

645291 645287 645285 645288 645290 645291 image <![CDATA[CTSA Conference 2021 - Preeclamsia]]> image/jpeg 1615560160 2021-03-12 14:42:40 1615560160 2021-03-12 14:42:40 645287 image <![CDATA[CTSA Conference 2021 - Mortar Blasts]]> image/jpeg 1615559711 2021-03-12 14:35:11 1615559711 2021-03-12 14:35:11 645285 image <![CDATA[CTSA Conference 2021 - Brain Simulator]]> image/jpeg 1615559492 2021-03-12 14:31:32 1615559492 2021-03-12 14:31:32 645288 image <![CDATA[CTSA Conference 2021 - Neonatal Hypothermia]]> image/jpeg 1615559840 2021-03-12 14:37:20 1615559840 2021-03-12 14:37:20 645290 image <![CDATA[CTSA Conference 2021 - Plasma Viscosity Covid-19]]> image/jpeg 1615560011 2021-03-12 14:40:11 1615560011 2021-03-12 14:40:11 <![CDATA[Read More: "A Capstone Team's Journey"]]> <![CDATA[Read More: "Exploring Blast Exposure and the Brain"]]> <![CDATA[Coulter BME Capstone]]> <![CDATA[Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance]]>
<![CDATA[Sigma Xi Honors Voit, Mitchell for Impactful Research with 2021 Awards]]> 27446 Sigma Xi has recognized the research of two faculty members and a Ph.D. student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering as some the most noteworthy on campus. All three use computational tools to improve our understanding of biological systems and better care for patients.

Eberhard Voit received the Sustained Research Award for 2021, the highest tribute from the honor society of scientists and engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, considered a “lifetime” award for outstanding work across the scope of the winner’s career. Cassie Mitchell won the Young Faculty Award, which goes to early career professors making a mark in their fields. Sigma Xi also gave a Best Ph.D. Thesis Award to Minliang Liu, a mechanical engineering student who was advised by Coulter Department Associate Professor Wei Sun.

Voit said the award was humbling and gratifying, given the level of accomplishments across Georgia Tech. He works to use mathematics and computational tools to gain insights into biological systems from the molecular level up to entire environments — a concept that was barely recognized when he entered college.

“When I graduated with double master’s degrees in biology and math, a professor told me, ‘Biology is too complicated to use math.’ By now, we have come to realize that biology is too complicated not to use math,” said Voit, David D. Flanagan Chair and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Systems Biology. “The only hope we have to understand the structure, features, and roles of complex systems in biology, medicine, and the environment is through mathematics and computation, because our brains are simply not equipped to deal with even dozens, let alone hundreds of simultaneous processes and their numerical implementations. We are still far from such an understanding, but pioneers of systems biology, on whose shoulders I am standing, have started to blaze a trail in the right direction.”

Voit said his early career was a series of wide-ranging apprenticeships, since the field of systems biology didn’t exist yet. He explored zoology, microbiology and immunology, forestry, environmental risk assessment, and other areas, he said, “acquiring many different viewpoints as well as numerous distinct approaches to solving complicated problems. The amalgamation of these has made me who I am.”

Now he calls himself a “missionary for the field” of systems biology, writing two books designed for interested non-experts: The Inner Workings of Life and Systems Biology: A Very Short Introduction.

Mitchell, an assistant professor whose work focuses on developing computational techniques for predictive medicine, said winning the Young Faculty Award the same year as Voit’s Sustained Research Award has made the honor particularly special.

“My early career as a Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech was inspired by the pioneering biomedical computational modeling of Dr. Voit, and though we are now colleagues, his research success continues to inspire me,” Mitchell said. “Dr. Voit and I simultaneously winning these prestigious Georgia Tech Sigma Xi Awards shows the newfound growth, translational impact, and overall perceived value of computational biomedical engineering research.”

Mitchell’s research weighs the complex factors that underpin disease dynamics to better predict disease progression and treatment for individual patients. It’s work that stems, in part, from her own experiences as a patient.

“What I love about my research in predictive medicine is that it expedites every facet of healthcare — disease causes, new cures, and optimal patient care,” Mitchell said. “As a patient myself with quadriplegia and cancer, I understand the value of balanced research that solves both immediate and personalized aspects of quality of life while striving for radical discoveries to eradicate disease entirely.”

Mitchell said she also loves making those discoveries with her large group of students — about three dozen undergraduates and high school interns alongside eight to 10 graduate students — and helping them grow and succeed.

“I feel very humbled and honored to receive this prestigious Young Faculty Award from Sigma Xi at Georgia Tech,” she said.

Computational tools also were at the heart of Minliang Liu’s Best Ph.D Thesis Award-winning research. Liu developed noninvasive methods to assess patients’ risk of an aortic aneurysm rupture based on medical images. Liu’s computational framework used inverse methods and machine learning alongside probabilistic models to calculate patient-specific material properties and aneurysm rupture risk in vivo.

“Aortic aneurysm is a significant cause of death globally. With the advancement of clinical cardiac imaging modalities and computational tools, patient-specific biomechanical evaluation of aneurysm dissection and rupture is getting closer to reality,” Liu said. “My thesis research offers great potential for personalized diagnosis and risk assessment, and it provides insights into the clinical decision-making process, which can ultimately improve clinical outcomes for aneurysm patients.”

Liu was co-advised by Sun and H. Jerry Qi, professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. He continues to work in Sun’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow. Liu’s thesis is one of only 10 across Tech’s campus that Sigma Xi recognized for their merit.

Liu, Mitchell, and Voit will accept their awards later in the spring at a virtual ceremony for all the Sigma Xi winners.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1615479141 2021-03-11 16:12:21 1615479141 2021-03-11 16:12:21 0 0 news 2021-03-11T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-11T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-11 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

645239 645239 image <![CDATA[Sigma Xi 2021 BME Winners composite]]> image/jpeg 1615478515 2021-03-11 16:01:55 1615478515 2021-03-11 16:01:55 <![CDATA[Sigma Xi Research Awards]]> <![CDATA[Eberhard Voit]]> <![CDATA[Cassie Mitchell]]>
<![CDATA[Georgia Tech Receives $2.2M in Toyota Research Institute Robotics Funding]]> 35692 The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of 16 academic institutions selected for Toyota Research Institute’s (TRI) collaborative research program. 

Founded in 2015 and now in its second wave of investment with top universities, TRI will invest more than $75 million over the next five years. The university partners will focus on breakthroughs around tough technological challenges in key research priority areas of automated driving, robotics, and machine-assisted cognition.

“Georgia Tech is honored to work closely with TRI to advance robotics in key fields. It’s an exciting start to what we hope will be a longer-term collaboration,” said Seth Hutchinson, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines and professor and KUKA Chair for Robotics in the School of Interactive Computing

"This new phase of university research is about pushing even further and doing so with a broader, more diverse set of stakeholders. To get to the best ideas, collaboration is critical. And we sought out universities like Georgia Tech that share our vision of using AI for human amplification and societal good. The funded projects will contribute to two TRI focus areas: automated driving and home robotics," said Eric Krotkov, TRI chief science officer.

The two Georgia Tech projects total $2.2M over the next three years. Under the agreement, each team will be paired with TRI researchers, who will serve as co-investigators. 

An Outdoor MiniCity to Test Autonomous Driving    
The first research project aims to make it easier for universities to test autonomous vehicles, building on Georgia Tech’s AutoRally platform. Georgia Tech researchers use this small-scale autonomous dirt track to test aggressive driving. The car can control turns and calculate for on-course obstacles at speeds approaching 20 miles per hour. The software and simulation environment could help make future self-driving cars safer under similar hazardous road conditions. Georgia Tech researchers will build on this platform to develop a scale-model MiniCity environment to develop and test autonomy algorithms.

Current autonomous vehicle testing is done by industry using full-size vehicles on city streets – an expensive proposition not viable for the broader academic research community.
“There’s a barrier to entry for the science in the field,” said principal investigator James Rehg, a professor in the School of Interactive Computing. “Our platform uses a one-fifth scale vehicle, freeing us to do research at lower cost and without taking any risks – we can crash our car and it’s inexpensive to repair and nobody gets hurt.”

The autonomous cars will navigate the MiniCity and avoid hazards while obeying speed and traffic rules. Sensors will enable the cars to sense obstacles and make decisions on how fast to drive or how to steer. “We are addressing the issue of reproducibility of autonomous driving in a test environment,” Rehg said. 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of TRI’s three original funded universities, is leading the research project. MIT operates an indoor autonomous driving track that simulates paved city streets. With Georgia Tech’s outdoor track, researchers can then see how autonomous cars perform over gravel, dirt, and other more realistic driving conditions. 

According to Rehg, autonomy testing presents unique challenges. “There’s a reason you get a driver’s test — you have to understand the variety of situations that can arise in driving and the rules, and you must understand how the context can change and make all the right decisions for safety.” 

With the MiniCity, Rehg and fellow investigator Evangelos Theodorou, an associate professor in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, hope to develop a standardized testbed and protocol for testing and then invite academic teams to compete and measure the driving performance of their vehicles.  

Human-assist Robots to Help People Age in Place
Georgia Tech’s other TRI research project involves robotics that can assist older adults. It reflects Toyota and TRI’s priority to help older adults age in place.

“It’s really a powerful thing to have independence and be able to do things for yourself,” said the project’s principal investigator, Charlie Kemp, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and adjunct associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing. Kemp also is a co-founder and the chief technology officer of Hello Robot Inc., a company that has commercialized robotic assistance technologies initially developed in his lab.  

Looking at the aging issue, Kemp and co-PI Hutchinson will examine how to take advantage of complementary characteristics that can lead to better physical collaboration between an individual and a robot.

“We are asking, ‘How can an individual and a particular robot best work together?’ ‘How do we individualize the robot to the person to give them a better quality of life?’” Kemp said.

They plan to take a modeling approach initially using physics simulations and, later, conducting studies with young able-bodied participants, healthy older adults, and older adults with impairments. 

The researchers will use sensing technology – including pressure sensors on beds that pinpoint a person’s body position and movement, as well as capacitive sensors that help the robot to better perceive a person’s body position up close. Such information can help with activities like dressing.  

“It’s a very intimate interaction between the robot and the human,” Hutchinson said.

Both investigators share TRI’s view that robotics that can assist older adults with daily living could make a major impact in the well-being of an increasingly graying population. In fact, during the next three decades, the global population over the age of 65 is projected to more than double. Japan, headquarters for Toyota, has the highest proportion of older citizens of any country in the world, with one in four people over 65.  

“We have talked about robots helping older adults for decades and we’re still not there,” said Kemp. “There’s a real opportunity to help people. As I get older, I’d love for this technology to be there for me and for my loved ones. While we still have a long way to go, the research can get us closer,” he added.

Hutchinson acknowledged that it will take time before people see robotic assistive technologies in hospitals or people’s homes, but the potential is there.

“What is most exciting about the TRI project is it has the potential to show up in people’s homes because TRI is invested in getting it there. And that means our research could really make an impact on a broad scale instead of only touching research journals or elite practitioners in the field,” he said.

Robotics Success Takes a Village 
The investigators agree that Georgia Tech’s multidisciplinary focus within robotics is a strength that will serve them well in their work with TRI, and especially in the future when autonomy goes mainstream.

“If you think about what it’s going to take for autonomous vehicles to really exist in the world on a large scale and deliver passengers in high volumes, it’s going to require all those things – engineering, science policy, law, and ethics – all those disciplines coming together,” said Rehg.
Kemp agreed, noting that since founding his Healthcare Robotics Lab in 2007, he’s attracted students from across engineering disciplines — from mechanical and computing to electrical, aerospace, and biomedical.  
“It's definitely something that's distinctive about Georgia Tech — it's a real strength,” he said.

Charlie Kemp owns equity in Hello Robot and is an inventor of Georgia Tech intellectual property (IP) licensed by Hello Robot. Consequently, he benefits from increases in the value of Hello Robot and receives royalties via Georgia Tech for sales made by Hello Robot. The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by Georgia Tech in accordance with its conflict-of-interest policies.

]]> Anne Sargent 1 1615239114 2021-03-08 21:31:54 1615424878 2021-03-11 01:07:58 0 0 news Georgia Tech researchers will create an outdoor minicity to test autonomous driving in an urban area, while another team will focus on home robotics to help aging populations and robots better collaborate.

2021-03-08T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-08T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-08 00:00:00 Anne Wainscott-Sargent

Research News


645119 645222 645119 image <![CDATA[AutoRally ]]> image/jpeg 1615236952 2021-03-08 20:55:52 1615240710 2021-03-08 21:58:30 645222 image <![CDATA[Stretch with Professor Charlie Kemp]]> image/jpeg 1615424723 2021-03-11 01:05:23 1615424723 2021-03-11 01:05:23
<![CDATA[Of Mice and Megahertz: Qiliang He Wins Fellowship to Study Gamma Wave Stimulation for Reversing Age-Related Memory Damage ]]> 34434 If mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease had some cognitive functions restored by researchers exposing them to lights and sounds triggering gamma brain waves, would the same results happen in human studies?

The Warren Alpert Foundation is going to fund School of Psychology postdoctoral fellow Qiliang He $200,000 a year for the next two years to find out. 

He, who is entering his fourth year at Georgia Tech, is the winner of an Warren Alpert Distinguished Scholar Fellowship Award to study how audiovisual stimulation modulating neural activity in the gamma range affects neural activity and cognitive function in humans. 

“The whole study is actually an adaptation of animal studies,” He says. “The mice were exposed to gamma stimulation for one hour a day for eight weeks. We want to see if this similar intervention can work in humans.” 

Mouse models refers to mice that have been genetically programmed to develop Alzheimer's disease pathology. "They have been altered to overexpress amyloid (plaques) and then develop other hallmarks of the disease like synaptic loss, brain atrophy, memory impairment, etc.," He says. His plans involve studying people who show the kinds of cognitive and memory declines found in normally aging adults first, and then expanding to conduct studies with Alzheimer’s patients. Because of the continuing pandemic, He hopes to start his in-person research in late summer. 

In a 2019 study, MIT researchers, along with scientists from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Emory University, found that light and sound stimulation targeting gamma waves reduce the buildup of amyloid plaques in the mice brains that modeled Alzheimer’s disease (AD) symptoms. Those plaques, or abnormal proteins, are what cause damage to brain grey matter. “Our observations demonstrate a non-invasive approach to elicit system-wide effects on AD-related pathology and improvements in cognition in an AD mouse model,” the authors wrote.

Gamma brain waves include a broad range of frequencies, from 30hz to 120hz. The sweet spot for this study appears to be 40hz, He says. “The gamma modulation is associated with learning and memory. In the aged population, and in patients with Alzheimer’s, this gamma optimization is abnormal, or is disrupted compared to healthy controls.” When gamma waves are activated, separate areas of the brain act more like a group. “It connects different brain regions together. It’s like a coordinator, getting different brain regions to communicate.”

The method to trigger those gamma waves, He explains, is deceptively simple: Subjects will view lights flashing and sounds turning on and off at 40 times per second (40hz.). He cites an earlier cohort study that followed a group of people who underwent the treatment for eight weeks, and it found no adverse effects due to the stimulation.

In addition to electroencephalograms (EEGs), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and computational modeling, He will also use virtual reality to test his subjects’ spatial navigation ability. The loss of that ability is one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and of memory decline in an aging population, yet the mice in the MIT study showed rapid improvements after gamma wave treatment. 

He is a postdoctoral fellow in Thackery Brown's lab in the School of Psychology and in Annabelle Singer's lab in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. He names both Brown and Singer as his mentors. Singer's lab co-led the 2019 study which He's work will build on.

Mark Wheeler, School of Psychology chair and professor, says after an internal Georgia Tech competition, He was put forth as the Institute's sole nominee for the Alpert Fellowship, which according to its website, “supports individual scientists of exceptional creativity who have an M.D. or Ph.D. degree (or both) and who have completed a minimum of three years of a post-doctoral fellowship in the field of neurosciences, and hold a post-doctoral research position at a United States medical school, research institute or academic hospital.”

“I felt very honored when I learned that my research proposal was selected as GT’s sole nominated project for the Warren Alpert Distinguished Scholar Award,” he says. “I know there are many talented and established postdocs in the GT Neuro community. My mentors, Dr. Thackery Brown and Dr. Annabelle Singer, played no small parts in it because I had very little grant proposal writing experience. I am deeply indebted to their advice on the conceptualization and refinement of this research proposal.”

]]> Renay San Miguel 1 1615221753 2021-03-08 16:42:33 1615244795 2021-03-08 23:06:35 0 0 news Qiliang He, a postdoctoral researcher, is following the path blazed by his Georgia Tech mentors — and will use his new Warren Alpert Foundation Scholar Award to target gamma brain wave stimulation to try to reverse the effects of aging. 

2021-03-08T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-08T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-08 00:00:00 Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences


632027 645090 612025 632027 image <![CDATA[Flickering light strip for Alzheimer's studies on mice]]> image/jpeg 1580745499 2020-02-03 15:58:19 1580745499 2020-02-03 15:58:19 645090 image <![CDATA[Before (left) and after images of reduced amyloid plaques in mice brains from a 2019 study. ]]> image/png 1615222242 2021-03-08 16:50:42 1615222242 2021-03-08 16:50:42 612025 image <![CDATA[Qiliang He]]> image/jpeg 1538056140 2018-09-27 13:49:00 1538056140 2018-09-27 13:49:00 <![CDATA[Flicker Treatment for Alzheimer’s Gets a Test Run]]> <![CDATA[Flickering Light Mobilizes Brain Chemistry That May Fight Alzheimer’s]]> <![CDATA[Virtual Reality Helps Reveal Honeycomb Grids in Human Brain for Navigation]]>
<![CDATA[BME, Siemens Partner to Offer Innovation Certification]]> 27446 More than 75 students have received a free Innovation Think Tank certification from Siemens Healthineers, thanks to a longstanding partnership between the Georgia Institute of Technology and Siemens.

Organized by the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory but open to students across campus, the three-day program gathered students and professionals from 12 organizations in 17 countries to learn about innovative management methods and participate in a Shark Tank-like competition.

“The Innovation Think Tank Certification Program is a great opportunity to encourage healthcare innovation and translational solutions within our student body,” said Ashley James, corporate relations manager in the Coulter Department. “The program served as a valuable development opportunity for Georgia Tech students and researchers, offering them another dimension of training to be future leaders in medtech and biomedical engineering. Alumni of the program speak highly of the abundance of knowledge and opportunity that Siemens Healthcare has been able to offer them in their careers.”

Over three days in December, students learned the Innovation Think Tank approach used in 16 Siemens innovation labs across the world. They explored innovation management through experiential learning, team building, concept development, assessing challenges and root causes to identify solutions, and more. The culminating event was a competition and exhibition where cross-disciplinary student teams developed solutions to healthcare problems of their choosing, which were judged by industry professionals.

The Innovation Think Tank Certification Program continued a well-established partnership between Georgia Tech and Siemens that has resulted in a more than 100 Innovation Think Tank fellowships awarded to Tech students in the last five years. Those fellows have traveled to South Carolina, Germany, China, and other locations around the world to participate in the program.

Although many of the Tech students who participate in the programs are biomedical engineering majors, students from across the College of Engineering have found value, said Hannah Moon, global internship advisor in Georgia Tech’s Office of International Education.

“Our students not only gain technical skills in their industry, but they’ve also told us about the leadership skills that they gain through the program as well,” Moon said. “[They] benefit from a close community of fellow interns, both from Georgia Tech and other renowned universities around the world.”

The program is always recruiting new fellows. Details about open opportunities on are the Innovation Think Tank website.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1614959857 2021-03-05 15:57:37 1614959857 2021-03-05 15:57:37 0 0 news Dozens of students earned the credential thanks to a long-standing partnership between Georgia Tech and Siemens.

2021-03-05T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-05T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-05 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

645040 645040 image <![CDATA[Siemens Innovation Think Tank Certification Program Participants]]> image/jpeg 1614959313 2021-03-05 15:48:33 1614959893 2021-03-05 15:58:13 <![CDATA[Siemens Healthineers Innovation Think Tank]]> <![CDATA[Innovation Think Tank Fellowships]]>
<![CDATA[Ortiz Blends Biomedical, Aerospace Engineering with New Fellowship]]> 27446 By Janat Batra, College of Engineering

The Patti Grace Smith Fellowship recently announced its inaugural class of 43 fellows, including five engineering students from Georgia Tech. The fellowship was awarded to Jesudunsin Awodele (AE, 2023), Kojo Bekoe-Sakyi (AE, 2023) and Kailen De Saussure (AE, 2023), Ciarra Ortiz (BME, 2023), Jovanna Patterson (ME, 2024).

The fellowship focuses on addressing discrimination in the aerospace industry by providing first and second-year Black undergraduate students with experience and guidance early on in their collegiate careers. As a part of the fellowship, each student receives an internship at one of the nation’s top aerospace firms with a living wage, two personal mentors, and a grant of approximately $2,000.

When Awodele first learned about the fellowship, he knew that he had to take the chance to try and be a part of something historic, especially after learning that the fellowship was in its first year.

“My first semester at Georgia Tech was an eye-opening experience where I struggled through academic rigor that I had never experienced before,” Awodele said. “Fast forward just one year later, and I could not have imagined that I would be considered a finalist for a fellowship and be able to interview with some of the largest aerospace companies in the world.”

For other fellows like Bekoe-Sakyi, the aerospace program at Georgia Tech played a large role in deciding to apply for the fellowship.

“I have dreamed of becoming an aerospace engineer since I was six years-old, and now I'm doing it!” Bekoe-Sakyi said. “The School has really given me a good amount of exposure to the different disciplines of aerospace engineering and helped me get a better grasp of what concentration I am interested in pursuing in the industry and more specifically for this fellowship.”

The PGS Fellowship draws from its sister programs, the Brooke Owens Fellowship, which provides internships and mentorship to undergraduate women and gender minority students in aerospace, and the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program, which provides spaceflight internships and mentorship to college juniors, seniors and graduate students.

“I applied to the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship because there is a lack of Black representation in the aerospace industry,” said Ortiz, a biomedical engineering student. “I saw it as an opportunity to be a part of a community of driven Black individuals working towards the common goal of making a name for themselves in the aerospace industry with the guidance of accomplished mentors.”

The creation of the PGS Fellowship was prompted by the national upheaval around social justice and racial equality in the summer of 2020.  The events surrounding George Floyd’s death urged the PGS founders to examine the state of diversity, inclusion and equity within the aerospace industry. Their desire to eliminate racial barriers in the industry led to the creation of the new fellowship.

“The fact that the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship has created an opportunity to help Black STEM students means a lot to me. I have a vested interest in robots and space, and the fellowship found an internship for me that is a wonderful combination of both,” Patterson said. “From this internship, I hope to gain invaluable engineering skills and network with influential people that will solidify my place in the aerospace industry.”

For De Saussure, she is most excited to have the opportunity to gain her first work-related experience. Specifically, “I am really excited to interact more with the other fellows, expand my network, and gain more skills,” De Saussure said.

This summer, the five Tech Fellows will be working at a variety of companies ranging from Boeing to General Dynamics Mission Systems, Airbus U.S. Defense and Space, Venturi Astrolab, and the MIT Space Exploration Initiative.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1614705684 2021-03-02 17:21:24 1614705684 2021-03-02 17:21:24 0 0 news Five Tech students received the inaugural Patti Grace Smith Fellowship, providing access to prestigious internships and mentoring in aerospace.

2021-03-02T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-02T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-02 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

644876 644877 644876 image <![CDATA[BME Undergraduate Ciarra Ortiz]]> image/jpeg 1614705011 2021-03-02 17:10:11 1614705011 2021-03-02 17:10:11 644877 image <![CDATA[2021 Patti Grace Smith Fellows]]> image/jpeg 1614705358 2021-03-02 17:15:58 1614705358 2021-03-02 17:15:58 <![CDATA[Patti Grace Smith Fellowship]]>
<![CDATA[Microscopic Improvements Make a Big Impact]]> 27446 By Zoe Elledge

For the first time, a microscopy system has been able to demonstrate super-resolution imaging of living cells in flow.

Walter H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Shu Jia, along with his Laboratory for Systems Biophotonics, recently introduced their super-resolution optofluidic scanning microscopy system (OSM). It can view sub-diffraction-limit details of flowing cells and includes a high-quality microscope, a microfluidic system, and a micro lens array. These elements combine to create a grid of light spots that illuminate the sample inside a microfluidic channel.  

Current microscopy technologies often sacrifice high-resolution images for a high throughput rate — the number of cells moving through the system to be analyzed. These systems need to stop the flow of cellular material in order to obtain a high-resolution image and therefore disturb the throughput rate. The flaws inherent in the current systems pose problems to researchers who need to analyze a large number of samples and want to take high-resolution images continuously. Jia’s new OSM system provides users the ability to do both.

“When you want to look at a cell, much of its organelles and structures are smaller than the conventional limit of the microscopes,” Jia said. “You want to have a higher resolution so that you can resolve finer structures. We’re trying to provide a system that can generate super-resolution images of the cells in flow so that you can learn more information from the cells and glean more biological insights.”

Jia and his team described their optofluidic scanning microscopy technology in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Lab on a Chip. Their study appeared on the back cover of the third issue for 2021.

The OSM system illuminates the flowing sample in a pattern called multi-focal excitation, which provides super-resolution images of the sample and allows the team to extract even more information during analysis. Multi-focal excitation allows the system to take images without disrupting the flow of samples and makes it a revolutionary addition to the field of microscopy.

Another unique feature of the OSM is its platform accessibility, which is currently a topic of concern in the field of super-resolution microscopy. Jia’s lab created OSM to be compatible with various types of devices and samples so that its use can be broad and interdisciplinary.

“Just like a regular microscope, a lab can use it to image any sample it needs,” said Biagio Mandracchia, the paper’s first author and a postdoctoral fellow who works in Jia’s lab. “It offers a variety of opportunities for different disciplines and levels of research.”

Looking forward, OSM could be applied to fundamental biology studies, providing super-resolution images of large cellular populations and the individual organelles within a single cell.  It could also be used to analyze tissue samples in biopsies. Jia said the technology could be used in preclinical and clinical studies, offering large amounts of diagnostic information faster.

“Our technique is simple, so we expect to see it used by physicians for obtaining diagnostics and analyzing samples, which will potentially have a large impact in both fundamental and clinical research,” he said.  

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1614349327 2021-02-26 14:22:07 1614364057 2021-02-26 18:27:37 0 0 news Shu Jia’s lab combines microfluidics with super-resolution microscopy to create a revolutionary new imaging system

2021-02-26T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-26T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-26 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart
Communications Manager

644714 644715 644714 image <![CDATA[Optofluidic Scanning Microscopy]]> image/jpeg 1614289056 2021-02-25 21:37:36 1614289056 2021-02-25 21:37:36 644715 image <![CDATA[Lab on a Chip 2021 Issue 3 Back Cover]]> image/jpeg 1614289214 2021-02-25 21:40:14 1614289214 2021-02-25 21:40:14 <![CDATA["Super-resolution optofluidic scanning microscopy," Lab Chip, 2021, 21, 489-493 ]]> <![CDATA[Laboratory for Systems Biophotonics]]> <![CDATA[Shu Jia]]>
<![CDATA[Using Deep Learning to Better Predict Alzheimer’s ]]> 28153 In the age of big and bigger biomedical data, researchers like May Wang are appropriating a powerful analytics tool from the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) to help. Using deep learning to dig into these cascading cyber-mountains of information, they’re able to open doors to the next generation of precision health care.

“Basically, deep learning tries to imitate the way our brain works,” said Wang, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “We know that this kind of AI has great potential for clinical decision support — for personalized, predictive, and preventive medicine.”

AI systems use algorithms to automatically learn, describe, and improve data, using statistical techniques to spot patterns and then perform actions. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning that goes a bit further, using artificial neural networks inspired by the biology of the human brain. Deep learning AI uses a pattern of logic that mimics how a human might arrive at a conclusion. Only much faster.

“The ultimate, long-term goal of this research would be to provide clinicians with a better tool for predicting the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Wang, principal investigator of the Biomedical Informatics and Bio-imaging Laboratory (Bio-MIBLab). “We aren’t there yet. But we feel that this work is like an early spark in a larger explosion of research demonstrating the power of deep learning.”

Wang and her colleagues tested the concept and wrote about it recently in Nature Scientific Reports.

Wang’s team used data gathered from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a multicenter study of 2,000-plus patients (originated by the University of Southern California) that aims to develop clinical, imaging, genetic, and biochemical biomarkers for the early detection and tracking of Alzheimer’s.

Most studies of Alzheimer’s, as well as mild cognitive disorders, use a single mode of data — imaging, for example — to make predictions of what may lie ahead, pathologically, in a patient’s neurological journey.

Wang and her collaborators wanted to know if deep learning could combine multiple kinds, or modalities, of data to offer a fuller picture. It did — their multimodal model outperformed the traditional single-mode model, “significantly improving our prediction accuracy, providing a more holistic view of disease progression,” Wang said.

The team used cross-sectional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); whole genome sequencing data; and clinical test data, like demographics, neurological exams, cognitive assessments, biomarkers, and medication.

Still, the study was limited to a relatively small number of patients. As Wang explained, all 2,004 patients in the ADNI database had clinical data, but only 503 had imaging data and 808 had genetic data; just 220 patients had all three data modalities.

“That isn’t a large group,” Wang said. “My hope is that this study and others will inspire hospitals and health care organizations to collect multiple modalities of data from the same cohorts of patients so that we can develop a more complete picture of what disease progress is like. We need to test our models on larger, richer data sets.”

It looks as if she will get that opportunity. On the heels of the paper’s publication, three more journals invited her team to write a follow-up paper on the ADNI work, “so I feel like we are moving in the right direction,” Wang said. “This is an important work.”


This research was supported in part by the Petit Institute Faculty Fellow Fund, Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Faculty Fellow Research Fund, Amazon Faculty Research Fellowship, and the China Scholarship Council (Grant No. 201406010343).

CITATION: Janani Venugopalan, Li Tong, Hamid Reza Hassanzadeh, May Wang, “Multimodal deep learning models for early detection of Alzheimer’s”  (Nature Scientific Reports 2021)


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1614175655 2021-02-24 14:07:35 1614177800 2021-02-24 14:43:20 0 0 news Wang Lab uses AI model to generate new insights into patients’ disease progression

2021-02-24T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-24T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-24 00:00:00 644618 644618 image <![CDATA[May Wang and team]]> image/jpeg 1614175550 2021-02-24 14:05:50 1614191375 2021-02-24 18:29:35
<![CDATA[Beam Therapeutics Acquires Dahlman’s Gene Therapy Startup]]> 27446 A startup spun out of Georgia Tech in 2018 to guide gene therapies using lipid nanoparticle technology has been acquired by Beam Therapeutics in an all-stock deal announced Feb. 23.

Guide Therapeutics was born out of DNA barcoding and data storage work in the lab of James Dahlman, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Dahlman co-founded Guide to efficiently develop safe gene therapies with a former graduate researcher in his lab, Cory Sago.

The company uses patented DNA barcoding technology to tag lipid nanoparticles and then simultaneously test thousands of the molecules in search of those that can deliver drugs to different kinds of cells in the body.

One FDA-approved a drug uses the lipid nanoparticle delivery approach to target cells in the liver. Guide is searching for nanoparticles that will work to deliver therapies to other cells and says it can generate drug delivery data at a rate 15,000-fold higher than traditional experiments.

Guide received project management and business mentorship from the Coulter Department’s Biolocity technology commercialization program in 2019. The company also won a Deal of the Year award from Georgia Bio in 2020 after an initial equity investment from GreatPoint Ventures.

Read more about the acquisition.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1614173857 2021-02-24 13:37:37 1614364111 2021-02-26 18:28:31 0 0 news Guide Therapeutics was born from James Dahlman's work on DNA barcodes.

2021-02-24T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-24T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-24 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

644640 644640 image <![CDATA[James Dahlman (16x9)]]> image/jpeg 1614195529 2021-02-24 19:38:49 1614195739 2021-02-24 19:42:19 <![CDATA[Read More: "Beam makes $120M bet that GuideTx’s tech brings gene editing beyond the liver"]]> <![CDATA[Beam Therapeutics News Release]]> <![CDATA[Read More: "DNA: Faster Data, More Storage, Better Drugs"]]> <![CDATA[James Dahlman]]> <![CDATA[Guide Therapeutics]]> <![CDATA[Biolocity]]>
<![CDATA[IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Honors Desai’s Decades of Leadership, Service]]> 27446 Jaydev Desai has been helping lead the scientific exchange and events of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society for nearly two decades, devoting countless hours to create what he called “top-notch” programs for his colleagues worldwide.

This year, the society is recognizing his dedication with its Distinguished Service Award, citing Desai’s “distinguished leadership, outstanding service, and innovative contributions to IEEE RAS conferences and technical activities.”

Desai, however, was quick to share the credit.

“It is very gratifying, and humbling at the same time, to receive this recognition, but I can also say that I am not the only one. There are so many people who spend time working for the society,” said Desai, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “It really is a team effort — to run a large conference, for example, we all have to chip in to make sure that it is a success. Likewise, to launch new initiatives, the community has to come together to make it happen.”

Desai said it always has been important to him to give back to his professional community, which he has been involved in since the very beginning of his career. Now, he said, he also has the opportunity to involve the next generation of leaders in the society’s work and mentor them.

Desai’s leadership in Robotics and Automation Society signature events stretches back to the 2008 IEEE/RAS-EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, where he was program chair. Most recently, he served as the program chair of the 2019 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), the world’s largest conference in robotics and automation. He’s led a number of other events, and he served as co-chair of the society’s Technical Committee on Surgical Robotics for eight years.

“You get to guide the quality of those events within the conference,” Desai said, “and I believe in having a top-notch quality. I put in a lot of effort into making sure that it is.”

Desai’s work continues to this day — he might be busier now than ever, in fact. He was recently appointed associate vice president, technical program, of the society’s Conference Activities Board, which oversees the technical, finance, publications, and operations aspects of all its conferences. He also was recently elected to serve a three-year term on the society’s governing Administrative Committee.

“It’s an honor to be recognized with the award, but that doesn't mean that you stop there,” Desai said. “My work is ongoing, and I think my contributions to the society will be ongoing for the foreseeable future.”

The society will award two service awards at ICRA in June. The other will go to Ayanna Howard, the departing chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1614012598 2021-02-22 16:49:58 1614012598 2021-02-22 16:49:58 0 0 news Jaydev Desai has been a long-time leader of the society's conferences and technical activities.

2021-02-22T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-22T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-22 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

644549 644549 image <![CDATA[Jaydev Desai]]> image/jpeg 1614012250 2021-02-22 16:44:10 1614012805 2021-02-22 16:53:25 <![CDATA[IEEE RAS Distinguished Service Award Announcement]]> <![CDATA[Jaydev Desai]]>
<![CDATA[Dasi Elected an AIMBE Fellow]]> 27446 Lakshmi “Prasad” Dasi’s contributions to heart valve engineering and biofluid mechanics has earned him a place among the top medical and biological engineers in the country.

The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) announced Feb. 15 that Dasi is joining its College of Fellows as part of the 2021 class. Election to fellow is an honor reserved for just 2% of the top medical and biological engineering leaders in the nation.

“My mission is to translate biomedical technology for the benefit of humanity. Election to AIMBE means so much to me personally. It is a new door that has been opened, inviting me to actively engage in AIMBE's efforts to push our vision to make the world better,” said Dasi, professor and associate chair for undergraduate studies in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “I am looking forward to serving beyond the boundaries of academic research and education.”

Candidates for the AIMBE College of Fellows are nominated by existing members and evaluated by a panel of a dozen of their peers. Reviewers consider significant research accomplishments and how candidates have engaged in service and given back to the fields of medical and biological engineering “for the benefit of society.”

“The most accomplished and distinguished engineering and medical school chairs, research directors, professors, innovators, and successful entrepreneurs comprise the College of Fellows,” according to an institute news release about Dasi’s election.

Five Georgia Tech faculty members are among the 174 new AIMBE fellows this year: Dasi; Julie Champion and Corey Wilson, associate professors in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; and Nazanin Bassiri-Gharb and Brandon Dixon, professors in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. They will be formally inducted at AIMBE’s Annual Event in March.

Dasi said his election as a fellow is really more of a beginning to than a culmination of his impact.

“As the late Professor Bob Nerem put it: ‘Life is filled with a lot of paths and doors to walk through. Do not waste time on a door which is closed; let the rock in your path be a stepping stone,’” Dasi said.

“I am confident this is a stepping stone to something bigger, and I am excited about it.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1613407594 2021-02-15 16:46:34 1613426365 2021-02-15 21:59:25 0 0 news Lakshmi “Prasad” Dasi honored for his contributions to heart valve engineering and biofluid mechanics.

2021-02-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-15 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

644243 644243 image <![CDATA[Lakshmi "Prasad" Dasi]]> image/jpeg 1613406659 2021-02-15 16:30:59 1613406672 2021-02-15 16:31:12 <![CDATA[Lakshmi "Prasad" Dasi – Profile]]> <![CDATA[American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering]]> <![CDATA[AIMBE College of Fellows]]>
<![CDATA[BME Team Wins CarMax Analytics Showcase]]> 27446 A pair of biomedical engineering students has leveraged their experiences in problem-based learning courses and skills from their computer science minors to win the 2021 CarMax Analytics Showcase.

Suraj Rajendran and Prathic Sundararajan used machine learning models to propose roughly 15 marketing and inventory strategies for CarMax, and they proposed a new technology platform the company could use to employ those models. They emerged from nearly 200 teams this month to win the $3,000 prize.

“Oftentimes, it’s difficult for students learning data science to get their hands on real-world challenges that are derived from industry-collected data,” said Rajendran, who’s in his final semester of studies in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “This is especially true in the biomedical field and anything healthcare related due to privacy concerns. This was a great opportunity to practice similar skill sets in a slightly different industry.”

Rajendran and Sundararajan also worked with Benjamin John, a computer science student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They credited the Coulter Department’s problem-based learning approach for helping them tackle a very different kind of problem than they’ve encountered before.

“Early on, we used the methods taught through our BME classes and identified the needs of our stakeholders. This really helped put the whole project in perspective in terms of what we hoped to accomplish,” Sundararajan said.

“We identified novel methods we could apply to the given dataset to differentiate ourselves from the other teams and provide unique insights,” he said.

The trio incorporated publicly available information with the proprietary data CarMax provided to the teams. They also added the element of proposing a new software platform powered by their machine learning models.

“Going into the competition, our goal was to apply the practical skills we have learned in a real-world setting. Machine learning and data analytics are skills that are increasingly being used in the medical industry. Use of these techniques will not only allow for better data visualization, but also the creation of more computationally efficient models and devices,” Rajendran said.

The CarMax Analytics Showcase asked teams to use the company’s wealth of data to find unique insights and clearly present their results in answer to this question: “Given historical industry sales, how can CarMax tailor it’s marketing and inventory strategies to draw in distinct segments of consumers?” The top three teams presented to CarMax leaders, who selected the winner.

“We would definitely like to show appreciation to the biomedical engineering department at Tech. The project-based classes for the program have created an amazing environment for students and really challenge us to constantly keep learning new skills,” Sundararajan said. “Of course, this is only possible because of the amazing professors and academic advising staff — like Paul Fincannon and Brenda Morris — who really make the department as successful and well known as it is.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1613406877 2021-02-15 16:34:37 1613406877 2021-02-15 16:34:37 0 0 news Suraj Rajendran and Prathic Sundararajan used machine learning models to propose roughly 15 marketing and inventory strategies for the car seller.

2021-02-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-15 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

644242 644242 image <![CDATA[BME Seniors Suraj Rajendran and Prathic Sundararajan]]> image/jpeg 1613406543 2021-02-15 16:29:03 1613406543 2021-02-15 16:29:03 <![CDATA[CarMax Analytics Showcase]]>
<![CDATA[Citizenship in a New World]]> 28153 It was only fitting that the inaugural Petit Institute Antiracism Distinguished Lecture (view recording) be held on February 4th, which is the birthday of Rosa Parks, mother of the freedom movement; only fitting that it be held just weeks after a violent, failed insurrection at the nation’s capital (though the virtual event was scheduled long before the Jan. 6 uprising); and only fitting that a speaker with the poise and power of Kamau Bobb deliver the lecture.

Bobb, the global lead for diversity strategy and research at Google and the founding senior director of the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, addressed the racial and ideological divide in the U.S. Nearly 200 people virtually attended the stirring lecture, “Considering Citizenship in a New World,” during which Bobb reminded the audience of, “the delicacy of the timing,” urging his listeners not to hide behind a veneer of objective scientific research, “but to be involved, get engaged.”

The new lecture series was created by the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Committee, which was established in the aftermath of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests in Atlanta. After the committee was organized, said chair Ed Botchwey, “we targeted February, Black History Month, for more visible activities within the Petit Institute and the broader Georgia Tech community.”

The charismatic Bobb, an engineer and science and technology policy scholar, was well known to the committee. A former program officer at the National Science Foundation where he helped shape the national research agenda, Bobb also served as a member of a President Obama taskforce designed to engage young men and boys of color in the STEM landscape. Prior to that, Bobb directed a University System of Georgia collaborative effort with the governor’s office to improve STEM education across 30 public institutions serving 325,000 students.

Bobb began developing the idea for his lecture well before the events of January 6 in Washington, D.C., which cast an unflattering spotlight on what he called, “the culminating event” of a pendular swing in America back toward a post-reconstructionist world. He offered a quick trip through American history after the Civil War: Reconstruction, followed by a century of Jim Crow, “an era of wanton dismissal of black life in America,” followed by a second reconstruction with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Acknowledging that he grew up during the second reconstruction, like many in his virtual audience, Bobb said, “We were the beneficiaries of a system that was trying to right wrongs, trying to reconcile some of the racist ideology inherent in the system of the United States, that we haven’t had enough time to expunge from our national identity. And so, here we are.”

He later added, “The Confederate flag of the defeated South was hoisted in the Capitol of the United States. I’m not sure the symbolism could be any clearer than that. I think it would be to our detriment to not recognize the seriousness of the moment we’re in. It’s important that we pay attention to this divide.”

Bobb told his virtual audience, consisting mostly of people engaged in the research enterprise, that it was irresponsible to hide in a lab and focus solely on research. He talked of responsibility and having courage.

“I think that because we’re this intellectual class with this specific set of skills that we have acquired, it’s more important for us to pay attention, to be involved,” Bobb said. “It hinges on our influence, whether we achieve the best of our American virtues, or retreat into the worst of its possibilities. This is our time, and I would argue that we are the frontier.”

Following his lecture, Bobb took a few questions before giving way to a panel discussion featuring Georgia Tech leaders from the institute, college, and school/department level: Chaouki Abdallah, executive vice president of research; Andrés García, executive director of the Petit Institute; Samuel Graham, chair, Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering; Kaye Husbands Fealing, dean, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts; Susan Margulies, chair, Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. Then Bobb met with trainees (students and postdocs) for a more intimate follow-up discussion.

“What we wanted out of this inaugural lecture was a challenge to our community, to apply our talents and experiences as problem solvers to address a social crisis,” said Botchwey, who was joined on the Petit Institute DEI Committee by García, Maria Coronel (postdoctoral trainee), Adeola Michael (postdoctoral student) Nettie Brown (graduate student), Lakeita Servance (staff representative), and Milan Riddick (undergraduate student).

In developing the lecture series, Botchwey said, “We hoped to create an experience that would familiarize faculty and trainees with how some of the intellectual thought leaders on issues of inclusion and diversity are grappling with what’s happening, with the issues of our time, while also placing a spotlight on what’s going in STEM, in the healthcare and bioscience community. We need to be engaged in the conversation.”



]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1613096617 2021-02-12 02:23:37 1613138970 2021-02-12 14:09:30 0 0 news Kamau Bobb Delivers Inaugural Petit Institute Antiracism Distinguished Lecture at Georgia Tech

2021-02-11T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-11T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-11 00:00:00 644166 644167 644166 image <![CDATA[Kamau Bobb]]> image/jpeg 1613096262 2021-02-12 02:17:42 1613096262 2021-02-12 02:17:42 644167 image <![CDATA[Diversity Panel]]> image/jpeg 1613096389 2021-02-12 02:19:49 1613096389 2021-02-12 02:19:49
<![CDATA[Alumna Rao Headed to UK for PhD Studies as a Gates Cambridge Scholar]]> 27446 Tanvi Rao knew she wanted to do work that would help bridge gaps in health equity.

After a few years in consulting and healthcare innovation, she saw a way to do that in radiology and radiogenomics — a emerging part of the field that combines medical imaging and genomic data.

“Medical imaging has the potential to disrupt traditional lines of thinking and limitations around resourcing and access to care,” Rao said. “Imaging provides a means of delivering clinical-grade diagnostics regardless of distance.”

This fall, Rao is headed to the University of Cambridge with a full scholarship to begin work on that dream as a Gates Cambridge Scholar. The program announced its 2021 class of two dozen students from the United States Feb. 8.

“The program offers the opportunity to join a global community of scholars who are dedicated to improving the lives of others and driving change through leadership,” said Rao, a 2018 graduate of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory. “I really liked the idea of being part of an academically diverse community and learning from peers in different disciplines who were also interested in using their research to address global issues.”

Rao is the seventh Gates Cambridge Scholar from Georgia Tech and the first woman. She said she will study with Evis Sala at Cambridge, whose group is already making strides in radiogenomics. They’re working to better guide clinical decision-making by extracting quantitative data from medical images and finding correlations with tissue-based molecular data. Rao said their work could help lead to more precise and efficient healthcare.

“Leveraging predictive models and artificial intelligence in healthcare in this way is novel and exciting and has a lot of implications for improving care pathways; it's a very cool space to be in,” she said. “My specific focus is liver cancer, which is very deadly and relatively underfunded, so there is a lot of need.”

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship rewards students focused on social leadership in addition to academic achievement. Scholars can pursue studies and research in any subject at Cambridge. Rao and the other U.S. scholars will join another 60 or so graduate students from other parts of the world who have yet to be selected.

“Like their predecessors, this year’s cohort are an extraordinarily impressive and diverse group who have already achieved much in terms of their academic studies and leadership abilities and have already shown their commitment to improving the lives of others in multiple ways,” said Professor Barry Everitt, provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust. “We are sure these scholars — and those we announce in early April from other parts of the world — will flourish in the rich, international community at Cambridge and that they will make a significant impact in their fields and to the wider global community.”

Rao begins her studies in Cambridge this fall.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1612980812 2021-02-10 18:13:32 1612981663 2021-02-10 18:27:43 0 0 news Tanvi Rao will study medical imaging and work to bridge gaps in health equity.

2021-02-10T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-10T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-10 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

644077 644077 image <![CDATA[Tanvi Rao, BME 2018]]> image/jpeg 1612980322 2021-02-10 18:05:22 1612981099 2021-02-10 18:18:19 <![CDATA[2021 Gates Cambridge Scholars]]>
<![CDATA[Students’ Social Distancing Bracelet Earns Honorable Mention in Covid-19 Hackathon]]> 27446 A key public health measure during the Covid-19 pandemic has been social distancing — keeping at least 6 feet of distance between people to minimize spread of the coronavirus.

A team of students from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering wants to make that easier for people to practice as they return to working in-person. The team’s idea was one of the best to emerge from the Emory and Georgia Tech HACK Covid-19 competition in late January.

Team GoodVibes developed a bracelet to reinforce proper distancing — or prompt users with other customizable reminders. Their idea won an honorable mention from the hackathon’s judges.

“We wanted to design an affordable, accessible, and practical device that helped employees transition safely to an in-person setting,” said team member and third-year BME student Rebecca Jeltuhin. “We chose to create a bracelet due to its simple and subtle nature, along with the possibility of quickly bringing it to market.”

The bracelet would work in conjunction with others — any time a wearer encounters another user within a 6-foot radius, it would vibrate to remind both individuals to increase the space between them. Jeltuhin said they also want to  build in the ability to gently prompt others — to help avoid the uncomfortable situation of having to ask someone to move farther away.

“The bracelet has a manual override button. When pressed, it will activate the vibration feature for everyone in a 6-foot radius in case someone is not following social distancing protocol,” said Mai Nguyen, another member of the team and also a third-year biomedical engineering student. “This subtly reminds people to maintain proper distancing without calling them out.”

The team envisions including a dial to adjust the distance for alerts even closer than 6 feet, if a user wished. They’ve also discussed adding a long-press function to the button that businesses could customize, using it to send vibration patterns as reminders to put on a mask or sanitize hands, for example.

The GoodVibes team included fourth-year biomedical engineering student Varun Mosur and third-year students Jeltuhin, Nguyen, Matthew Nuese, and Anna Williams, who’ve worked together since their sophomore design class. They also recruited Emeline Ruvinskiy, a fourth-year undergraduate in the Goizueta Business School at Emory, to bring her business skills to the table.

The hackathon was a collaboration of the Emory Global Health Institute, CREATE-X at Georgia Tech, and Coulter BME. 130 students on 29 teams competed to develop products to help schools and businesses safely reopen. Top prize went to Team Rotations, a digital platform to allow schools and businesses to quickly create safe seating charts and schedules to minimize exposure to Covid-19.

“Our hackathons with Emory allow students from both schools to engage, develop ideas and create solutions that can later be commercialized through a startup incubator like CREATE-X,” said Raghupathy “Siva” Sivakumar, founding director of CREATE-X and interim chief commercialization officer at Georgia Tech. “Most importantly, these students want to contribute to helping solve what’s arguably the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime. Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in our students helps them believe that they, too, can contribute to finding solutions to complex problems, even ones as difficult as Covid-19.”

The GoodVibes team hopes to refine their idea, looking even beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. Ruvinskiy said they’d like to apply to CREATE-X to continue the design process and make their idea a reality.

“The current pandemic requires quick action, which is why entrepreneurs are so critical to helping solve the issues produced by Covid,” Nuese said. “During the hackathon, each one of our teammates had the chance to feel this entrepreneurial spirit within them, and we hope our GoodVibes will reverberate around the world.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1612536469 2021-02-05 14:47:49 1612539610 2021-02-05 15:40:10 0 0 news Their idea is to make social distancing easier for people to practice as they return to working in-person with subtle reminders from the wearable.

2021-02-05T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-05T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-05 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

643921 643921 image <![CDATA[GoodVibes Bracelet Rendering]]> image/png 1612539566 2021-02-05 15:39:26 1612539566 2021-02-05 15:39:26 <![CDATA[HACK Covid-19 Competition]]> <![CDATA[CREATE-X at Georgia Tech]]>
<![CDATA[Easy-to-deliver mRNA treatment shows promise for stopping flu and Covid-19 viruses]]> 27446 With a relatively minor genetic change, a new treatment developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University appears to stop replication of both flu viruses and the virus that causes Covid-19. Best of all, the treatment could be delivered to the lungs via a nebulizer, making it easy for patients to administer themselves at home.

The therapy is based on a type of CRISPR, which normally allows researchers to target and edit specific portions of the genetic code, to target RNA molecules. In this case, the team used mRNA technology to code for a protein called Cas13a that destroys parts of the RNA genetic code that viruses use to replicate in cells in the lungs. It was developed by researchers in Philip Santangelo’s lab in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

“In our drug, the only thing you have to change to go from one virus to another is the guide strand — we only have to change one sequence of RNA. That's it,” Santangelo said. “We went from flu to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. They're incredibly different viruses. And we were able to do that very, very rapidly by just changing a guide.”

The guide strand is a map that basically tells the Cas13a protein where to attach to the viruses’ RNA and begin to destroy it. Working with collaborators at the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Kennesaw State University, Santangelo’s team tested its approach against flu in mice and SARS-CoV-2 in hamsters. In both cases, the sick animals recovered.

Their results are reported Feb. 3 in the journal Nature Biotechnology. It’s the first study to show mRNA can be used to express the Cas13a protein and get it to work directly in lung tissue rather than in cells in a dish. It’s also the first to demonstrate the Cas13a protein is effective at stopping replication of SARS-CoV-2.

What’s more, the team’s approach has the potential to work against 99% of flu strains that have circulated over the last century. It also appears it would be effective against the new highly contagious variants of the coronavirus that have begun to circulate.

The key to that broad effectiveness is the sequence of genes the researchers target.

“In flu, we're attacking the polymerase genes. Those are the enzymes that allow the virus to make more RNA and to replicate,” said Santangelo, the study’s corresponding author.

With help from a collaborator at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they looked at the genetic sequences of prevalent flu strains over the last 100 years and found regions of RNA that are unchanged across nearly all of them.

“We went after those, because they're far better conserved,” Santangelo said. “We let the biology dictate what our targets would be.”

Likewise, in SARS-CoV-2, the sequences the researchers targeted so far remain unchanged in the new variants.

The approach means the treatment is flexible and adaptable as new viruses emerge, said Daryll Vanover, a research scientist in Santangelo’s lab and the paper’s second author.

“One of the first things that society and the CDC is going to get when a pandemic emerges is the genetic sequence. It's one of the first tools that the CDC and the surveillance teams are going to use to identify what kind of virus this is and to begin tracking it,” Vanover said. “Once the CDC publishes those sequences — that's all we need. We can immediately screen across the regions that we're interested in to target it and knock down the virus.”

Vanover said that can result in lead candidates for clinical trials in a matter of weeks — which is about how long it took them to scan the sequences, design their guide strands, and be ready for testing in this study.

“It’s really quite plug-and-play,” Santangelo said. “If you're talking about small tweaks versus large tweaks, it's a big bonus in terms of time. And in pandemics — if we had had a vaccine in a month or two after the pandemic hit, think about what things would look like now. If we had a therapy a month after it hit, what would things look like now? It could make a huge difference, the impact on the economy, the impact on people.”

The project was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's PReemptive Expression of Protective Alleles and Response Elements (PREPARE) program. The goal is to create safe, effective, transient, and reversible gene modulators as medical countermeasures that could be adapted and delivered rapidly. That’s why the team decided to try a nebulizer for delivering the treatment, Santangelo said.

“If you're really trying to think of something that's going to be a treatment that someone can actually give themselves in their own house, the nebulizer we used is not terribly different from one that you can go buy at a pharmacy,” he said.

The team’s approach also was sped along by their previous work on delivering mRNA to mucosal surfaces like those in the lungs. They knew there was a good chance they could tackle respiratory infections with that approach. They decided to use mRNA to code for the Cas13a protein because it’s an inherently safe technique.

“The mRNA is transient. It doesn't get into the nucleus, doesn't affect your DNA,” Santangelo said, “and for these CRISPR proteins, you really don't want them expressed for long periods of time.”

He and Vanover said additional work remains — especially understanding more about the specific mechanisms that make the treatment effective. It has produced no side effects in the animal models, but they want to take a deeper look at safety as they consider moving closer to a therapy for human patients.

“This project really gave us the opportunity to push our limits in the lab in terms of techniques, in terms of new strategy,” said Chiara Zurla, the team’s project manager and a co-author on the paper. “Especially with the pandemic, we feel an obligation to do as much as we can as well as we can. This first paper is a great example, but many will follow; we've done a lot of work, and we have a lot of promising results.”

This research was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, grant No. HR00111920008. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any funding agency.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1612377021 2021-02-03 18:30:21 1612385019 2021-02-03 20:43:39 0 0 news The treatment uses a type of CRISPR to target viral  RNA and appears to stop replication of both viruses in the lungs.

2021-02-03T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-03T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-03 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


643815 643815 image <![CDATA[Daryll Vanover with nebulizer for mRNA flu and Covid treatment]]> image/jpeg 1612362315 2021-02-03 14:25:15 1612362315 2021-02-03 14:25:15 <![CDATA["Treatment of influenza and SARS-CoV-2 infections via mRNA-encoded Cas13a in rodents"]]> <![CDATA[Santangelo Lab website]]> <![CDATA[Philip Santangelo]]>
<![CDATA[Platt Honored with Mentor Award from AAAS]]> 27446 Enriching. Transformative. Nurturing. Authentic.

Those adjectives, and more like them, are how his former students have described Manu Platt and his influence on their education and careers.

Platt’s work growing — and pushing — the next generation of biomedical engineers has won him the 2021 Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an honor that recognizes “extraordinary leadership to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in science and engineering fields and careers.”

“Dr. Platt pushed me outside of my comfort zone to a growth zone, which molded me into a better engineer and helped me find my place to be my full, authentic self as a Black woman in academia,” said Simone Douglas-Green, who earned her Ph.D. with Platt and now is a postdoctoral scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Dr. Platt has always given me more than I think I can handle, but he has a gift of knowing what is in his student’s best interest and encouraging them to aim higher. He always saw the potential in me before I could see it.”

Douglas-Green joined the effort to nominate Platt for the mentor award when she was contacted by Monet Roberts, another of Platt’s former doctoral students who was leading the charge. Roberts said she met Platt when she was a first-year student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. It was that relationship that convinced her academia was the place for her.

“He was the first Black biomedical engineer and professor that I had ever seen,” Roberts said. “He took me under his wing as an informal mentor and adviser. He started to invite me to his lab meetings. I helped out in his lab as a lab assistant and became interested in the research and transitioned to an undergraduate researcher.”

Roberts and Douglas-Green both said Platt builds a culture of family in his lab and models what it means to be what Roberts called “a socially conscious scientist and engineer.” Douglas-Green said Platt showed her how to balance advancing science while “being an advocate and doing outreach to improve diversity and inclusion in BME.”

For Platt, the award was touching — and a surprise. He said he’s thrilled to be in the company of previous winners like former Georgia Tech Dean of Engineering Gary May, the first Black dean of the college whom Platt called “a mentor and absolute hero of mine.”

“I have had amazing mentors along my way, some who looked like me and many who did not. It has opened up doors for me where I did not even know there was a door,” said Platt, associate professor in Coulter BME and a Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Scholar. “That has led me to this exciting career in science and engineering. It has been so much more than what I would have ever thought it would be when I was a young nerd.”

Which is why, he said, mentoring has been so important to him: “Others should have that opportunity.”

Platt pointed to professors from Morehouse College who impressed upon him the importance of building a network that looks out for one another while pushing each other to improve. Platt said Petit Institute Founding Director Bob Nerem was a significant influence, reminding him that science is a people business; Coulter BME Associate Chair Hanjoong Jo has always pushed him to grow and think rigorously; and Gilda Barabino, president of the Olin College of Engineering, helped him understand the big picture.

He also credited his students, like Roberts and Douglas-Green.

“This is really a testament to the great students who have taken a risk on working with this nutty guy with crazy ideas, and then allowed me to help guide them along their way, giving them some extra experiences, opportunities, and knowledge to make it seem like a worthy, fun, and exciting journey,” Platt said.

Platt will accept the 2021 AAAS Mentor Award at the society’s annual meeting Feb. 8-11.

“We need more Platt Labs in academia that embrace inclusion and diversity to push boundaries,” Douglas-Green said. “Dr. Platt lives his life unapologetically and brings his whole self to the lab; it fosters an open lab environment and genuine connections with his students and trainees.”

She and Roberts said their connections to Platt continue, even as they start to build their careers elsewhere.

“He is more than deserving of this award,” Roberts said. “I am excited that he is getting the recognition that matches all of his efforts in the lives that he has touched.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1612362907 2021-02-03 14:35:07 1612364626 2021-02-03 15:03:46 0 0 news Nominators said Platt builds a culture of family in his lab and models what it means to be “a socially conscious scientist and engineer.”

2021-02-03T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-03T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-03 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


643814 643814 image <![CDATA[Manu Platt at BMES with former students]]> image/jpeg 1612361929 2021-02-03 14:18:49 1612361929 2021-02-03 14:18:49 <![CDATA[AAAS 2021 Mentor Award Announcement]]> <![CDATA[AAAS Mentor Award Details]]> <![CDATA[Manu Platt]]>
<![CDATA[Students Rate Bell-Huff, Jacobson, Rains, Stubbs Among Tech’s Best Teachers]]> 27446 Four instructors in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering have been recognized as some of the most effective teachers at Georgia Tech.

Cristi Bell-Huff, Martin Jacobson, James Rains, and James Stubbs have won the Student Recognition of Excellence in Teaching: Class of 1934 Award for 2020. They’re among only 40 educators honored with the award this year, which is based on how students rate their instructors at the end of each term.

The award recognizes teaching for calendar year 2020. It’s based on how students rated instructors on their respect and concern for students, their level of enthusiasm about teaching the course, and their ability to stimulate students’ interest in the course. It was formerly known as the Class of 1940 Course Survey Teaching Effectiveness Award.

Bell-Huff was honored for teaching BMED 3310, Biotransport. Jacobson won for his work on BMED 2310, Intro to Biomedical Engineering Design. Rains and Stubbs were both honored for BMED 4602, Capstone Design.

Meanwhile, six additional faculty members in the Coulter Department made Georgia Tech’s first-ever teaching honor roll — officially, the Student Recognition of Excellence in Teaching: Class of 1934 CIOS Honor Roll for Fall 2020:

The criteria for the honor roll are the same as the effectiveness award: high marks from students. At least 85% of students have to complete the end-of-course surveys, and the instructors in the top half of composite scores make the list.

Starting with the fall, the Center for Teaching and Learning will compile an honor roll after each semester.


]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1611848084 2021-01-28 15:34:44 1611849053 2021-01-28 15:50:53 0 0 news 10 BME instructors total make Tech’s first teaching honor roll.

2021-01-28T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-28T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-28 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


643547 643547 image <![CDATA[Teaching Award 2020 BME Composite - Bell-Huff, Jacobson, Rains, Stubbs]]> image/jpeg 1611845491 2021-01-28 14:51:31 1611845491 2021-01-28 14:51:31 <![CDATA[Student Recognition of Excellence in Teaching: Class of 1934 Award]]>
<![CDATA[Team USA Profiles Mitchell and Her Medal-Winning Paralympic Career]]> 27446 Team USA has done a deep dive into Assistant Professor Cassie Mitchell’s career and her quest for gold at the 2021 Paralympic Games.

Winner of a silver medal in discus and a bronze in club throw at the 2016 Games in Rio, Mitchell finds herself facing a fresh round of challenges in pursuit of the top of the podium this year.

Like all athletes, the postponement of the Games from 2020 — and cancellation of many pre-Paralympic competitions — has created uncertainty. If she qualifies, she’ll also have to compete in Tokyo against athletes from her own classification and the next higher one.

But she remains undaunted: “It’s all about the gold medal at this point,” she told Team USA’s website. “There’s either the gold, or there’s nothing.”

Read more about her incredible journey from scholarship track and field athlete to two-time Paralympic medalist on the Team USA site.


]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1611847396 2021-01-28 15:23:16 1611849034 2021-01-28 15:50:34 0 0 news The site has done a deep dive into Assistant Professor Cassie Mitchell’s career and her quest for gold at the 2021 Paralympic Games.

2021-01-28T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-28T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-28 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


643546 643546 image <![CDATA[Team USA Cassie Mitchell Profile Screenshot]]> image/jpeg 1611845295 2021-01-28 14:48:15 1611845295 2021-01-28 14:48:15 <![CDATA[Full Story: Cassie Mitchell Has Made A Medal-Winning Career Out Of Adapting To Changes]]> <![CDATA[Cassie Mitchell]]>
<![CDATA[Researchers Develop Method to Create 3D ‘Map’ of Tissue Structure and Function]]> 27446 A newly published approach to profiling human tissue samples can build a 3D picture of structure and function at the molecular level. The procedure marries techniques from chemistry, biology, and data science and could help doctors design precision therapies in the coming years for patients who aren’t responding to treatment.

In a study of human tonsil tissue, the researchers combined a labeling scheme using isotopes to “tag” specific kinds of cells — in this case, immune cells such as T-cells and B-cells — with imaging mass spectrometry that can identify metabolites, the molecules around those cells that are used for various metabolic functions. And instead of doing this on a single, two-dimensional “slice” of tissue, they used data from about 150 slices to create a 3D map of the tissue.

“An analogy to our system is actually geography: We create the geography of tonsils — where are the valleys, where are the mountains. But when we are doing that, we are looking at more granular features, [including] which molecular distributions are around, and how do they really change within this tonsil tissue,” said Ahmet Coskun, Bernie Marcus Early Career Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

“Typically, the metabolites are measured in one experiment, and these protein-specific labels are measured in another, separate experiment. Bringing the two together in a unique, single measurement is one of the advantages here,” he said.

Coskun’s team used tools from data science to turn all of that data into a 3D map of the tonsil tissue, which Coskun said is more accurate since the tissues are three-dimensional themselves. They described their unique approach — combining two disparate measurements into a single test and processing a huge amount of data to make a 3D map — Jan. 27 in the journal Science Advances. They call the technique a “3D Spatially resolved Metabolomic profiling Framework.”

“You've seen in hospitals how MRIs are done — they can make entire body 3D. That's not done at the microscale, unfortunately,” Coskun said. “When you look at microscale things, they're just two-dimensional slices most of the time.”

Coskun and his team studied B-cells in tonsils, important harbingers of a potential infection. Tonsils are one of the first areas that sense a foreign bacteria or virus, and the immune cells there warn the body to prepare to fight an invader. The team’s spatial map showed the locations of T-cell and B-cell concentrations. It also discovered lower concentrations of specific kinds of fat molecules called lipids that the B-cells use to proliferate and create antibodies.

In experiments looking at nearly 200 different kinds of metabolites and lipids, the researchers uncovered a unique “code” that identified where specific lipids related to different kinds of cell function were depleted.

“That is information you can use to understand how tonsils respond to outside foreign objects that are interfering our bodies,” Coskun said, “and then how those specific anatomical regions in tonsils use their metabolites and lipid content to respond to them.”

Understanding structure and function in conjunction also can pinpoint how cells are using energy, depleting oxygen, or otherwise working in the body, he noted.

“You can use this information to design precision therapies and to find the best drugs for that specific person,” Coskun said. “Drug libraries attack this specific mechanism or that specific mechanism, so by comparing the drug libraries and a specific patient's structure and function profiles, you can actually design personalized drugs for that specific patient.”

That’s still a few years down the road — Coskun said the specialized machines his team used to develop the metabolic profiling are still expensive and mostly housed in research centers.

But: “The biochemical methods that we developed, they're easy; they can be done in any lab,” he said. “Getting the measurements done is the rate-limiting step here.”

Coskun said he could imagine a centralized service where healthcare providers send patient samples for testing — akin to how genetic sequencing is done now. But as technology advances and the machines get cheaper, he said they could end up in more and more hospitals. His team also is developing a cheaper, custom device to overcome the limitations of requiring costly, relatively rare equipment to employ his team’s approach.

“Our goal is discovery. We'd like to use this machine to survey a number of patients who respond to certain drugs and who don't respond to certain drugs,” Coskun said. “We'd like to compare these groups of patients for a personalized therapy approach. We want to make the framework from our end, so that it's ready for clinicians to adapt later.”

Coskun’s team on the study included graduate students Shambavi Ganesh, Thomas Hu, Mayar Allam, and Shuangyi Cai as well as Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology researchers Eric Woods and Walter Henderson.

Already, Coskun and his collaborators are exploring what his 3D profiling approach can tell researchers about lung and prostate cancers, visualizing how immunotherapies affect the interplay between the immune system and tumors.

“There are cancer cells and immune cells, and we'd like to understand why and how they're interacting, and then, when they come together, what happens to the structure and function in what we call the tumor microenvironment,” he said.

“If you understand the structure and function of that tumor macroenvironment better, then you can trace back which mechanisms worked or haven't worked.”

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health K25 Career Development Award K25AI140783, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and the Bernie Marcus Early Career Professorship. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any funding agencies.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1611779460 2021-01-27 20:31:00 1613999671 2021-02-22 13:14:31 0 0 news The procedure marries techniques from chemistry, biology, and data science and could help doctors design precision therapies for patients who aren’t responding to treatment.

2021-01-27T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-27T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-27 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


643504 643506 643511 643504 image <![CDATA[3D Molecular Map of Tonsils]]> image/png 1611778760 2021-01-27 20:19:20 1611778789 2021-01-27 20:19:49 643506 image <![CDATA[3D TOF-SIMS Conceptual Diagram]]> image/png 1611778887 2021-01-27 20:21:27 1611778887 2021-01-27 20:21:27 643511 image <![CDATA[Ahmet Coskun]]> image/jpeg 1611779802 2021-01-27 20:36:42 1611780649 2021-01-27 20:50:49 <![CDATA[Read more: "Spatially resolved 3D metabolomic profiling in tissues"]]> <![CDATA[Ahmet Coskun]]>
<![CDATA[Cell Paper Calls for End to Funding Discrimination Against Black Scientists]]> 27446 A paper in the scientific journal Cell has called on the National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies to address disparities in allocating support for Black researchers. Representatives from a national network of women deans, chairs, and distinguished faculty in biomedical engineering collaborated on the call to action.

Despite studies on the distribution of National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding to Black scientists over the past decade, little has changed. And the authors said the result is that Black faculty members’ careers stall, and they cannot achieve their full potential.

“Several reports to describe inequities had been published before, but there seemed to be very little effective action in response,” said Karmella Haynes, a co-author and assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “For instance, there are certain program announcements that aim to increase workforce diversity, but these don't receive enough funding to make a difference. Also, NIH merit review panels sometimes include black scientists like myself — and seem to have become more diverse, in general — but subsequent NIH council review, where actual finding decisions are made, is a closed process.”

Haynes pointed to a recent report in eLife, where the authors noted “[approximately] 119 applications from white [principal investigators] with scores in the 35th-59th percentile range were funded versus zero applications from Black PIs with scores in the same range.”

In the Cell paper, “Fund Black Scientists,” Haynes and her co-authors wrote that Black applicant award rates for research funding have stood at about 55 percent of that of white principal investigators of similar academic achievement. Despite internal reviews of the reasons behind this disparity, and promises to do better, the funding gap continues.

While efforts have been made to improve the pipeline to encourage Black students to prepare for and enter careers as researchers and college and university faculty, once appointed, lack of research funding can derail these careers, the authors wrote.  

Many universities look at faculty members’ ability to support their research as part of decisions on tenure and promotions, so NIH funding disparities can end the careers of Black scientists. Plus, without adequate research funding, these scientists can become discouraged and leave their professions.

The effects are potentially generational — fewer Black scientists remain to serve as role models and mentors for up-and-coming researchers — and have far-reaching impacts on society.

Research questions vital to society are not being asked, because the perspectives, creativity, and knowledge of a diverse population of scientists are not being tapped. The public also does not see the faces or hear the voices of Black scientific experts speaking on important issues.  

The authors of the paper made several recommendations to equalize research funding, including:

“Scientific colleagues, let us each use our voices and actions to now overcome our profession’s racism and serve as antiracist agents of change,” the authors wrote.

Their recommendations also extended to individual scientists as well as universities, colleges, and institutes more broadly. They suggested people and organizations must recognize how they might be unintentionally contributing to systemic racism in their academic roles. Academia, they wrote, must also move forward from issuing statements of solidarity to making transformative organizational changes.

Likewise, the paper called on philanthropists, industry leaders, foundations, and professional societies to help offset racial disparities in research funding.

But in the end, Haynes said there’s only one real measure of meaningful change: “Black scientists receiving more grants that they clearly qualify for.”

The paper was written by Omolola Eniola-Adefeso at the University of Michigan and Kelly R. Stevens at the University of Washington along with Haynes, Kristyn S. Masters, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Princess Imoukhuede and Lori A. Setton, Washington University in St. Louis; Elizabeth Cosgriff-Hernandes and Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert, University of Texas at Austin; Muyinatu A. Lediju Bell, Johns Hopkins University; Padmini Rangamani and Karen Christman, University of California, San Diego; Stacey Finley, University of Southern California; Rebecca Willits and Abigail N. Koppes, Northeastern University; Naomi Chesler, University of California, Irvine; Josephine Allen, University of Florida; Joyce N. Wong, Boston University; and Hana El-Samad and Tejal Desai, University of California, San Francisco.

– Leila Gray at the University of Washington contributed to this report.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1611677962 2021-01-26 16:19:22 1611678033 2021-01-26 16:20:33 0 0 news Karmella Haynes joins biomedical engineers from across the nation to bring focus on funding disparities that stall Black scientists' careers.

2021-01-26T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-26T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-26 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


602030 602030 image <![CDATA[Karmella Haynes, Ph.D.]]> image/jpeg 1518014818 2018-02-07 14:46:58 1518014818 2018-02-07 14:46:58 <![CDATA[Read the paper: "Fund Black Scientists"]]>
<![CDATA[9 Things to Know About the Covid-19 Vaccines]]> 27446 As the two Covid-19 vaccines start to arrive in communities across the country, they’re accompanied by questions about how they work and how they were created so quickly.

Two researchers in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering work with the components that make up the vaccine and say they’re safe and effective.

1. Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are made with mRNA. What is an mRNA vaccine?

These vaccines are made of two primary ingredients: a piece of mRNA and a lipid nanoparticle, which is made from different fats.

The mRNA is essentially a set of instructions — the “m” stands for “messenger.” In this case, the instructions tell our own cells how to make a piece of protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus called the spike protein.

“If you ever see pictures of the coronavirus, this protein is the big spike that is sticking out of the virus particle,” said Philip Santangelo, professor in the Coulter Department.

First, the mRNA has to enter your cells, which is where the lipid nanoparticle, or LNP, comes in: It’s like an envelope that delivers the instructions. The LNP is a combination of four different fats to create a shell around the mRNA that allows it to penetrate into our cells.

“If you just inject mRNA on its own, your body does not like that, and the mRNA will not enter your cells,” said James Dahlman, assistant professor in the Department. “You can imagine the lipid nanoparticle as a Trojan horse for the mRNA: The mRNA has to enter a cell to work as a drug, but it cannot enter the cell on its own. So, you put the mRNA inside the LNP, which can enter the cell, and as a result the mRNA enters the cell.”

Once the mRNA is inside, the cells start to produce the spike protein. Your body recognizes an invader and starts to mount an immune response.

2. Can I get Covid-19 from the vaccine?

No. The Covid-19 vaccines contain no virus.

“The mRNA is only making the spike protein. It’s not the whole virus; it’s only a part of it,” Santangelo said. “You can’t get the virus from the mRNA vaccine.”

3. What about the bad reactions some people have experienced?

Santangelo said some people have had reactions at the injection site, but that’s common with many vaccines and, while annoying, it usually means the vaccine is doing exactly what it’s intended to do: prompting your body to react.

“The needle and the lipids do cause a little inflammation,” he said. “That’s what tells the immune system, ‘Hey, we need to send some cells to the muscle to pick up that spike protein,’ and then initiate the immunological responses. Then, when your body sees that protein [again] if you’re exposed to Covid-19, your body will respond rapidly and help clear the infection.”

4. Are any human cells used to create the vaccines?

No. The two parts of the vaccine are made in labs using readily available, purified ingredients —and no human or animal tissue, Santangelo said.

The mRNA particles are just like the RNA made in our bodies, he said, but they are assembled chemically in a lab using natural proteins.

Dahlman said the four parts of the lipid nanoparticle are either naturally occurring — like cholesterol — or designed by scientists in the lab.

5. How were the vaccines developed so quickly?

Two reasons, according to Dahlman and Santangelo.

First: The pharmaceutical companies had a head start.

“Both companies had lipid formulations they knew would be useful for delivering mRNA via an intramuscular injection,” Santangelo said. At that point, they just needed to know what kind of mRNA to use.

“One of the reasons why this platform is so exciting is that it is somewhat plug-and-play,” he said. “As soon as they had information about the sequence for that spike protein, the companies were easily able to put that into their pipelines and generate an mRNA for that spike. Then all they had to do was make that mRNA and combine it with the same lipids that they had been using before.”

The government and the pharmaceutical industry also had been planning for some kind of pandemic to happen eventually — most likely a flu — and conducting research on mRNA vaccines, Dahlman said.

“Did we know it was going to be Covid-19? No, we didn’t. But scientists had an idea that something could come along,” he said. “There’s been a lot of research ahead of time to study whether mRNA-based vaccines would work against emerging diseases.”

The second reason the vaccine came together quickly was a result of the design of the clinical trials, according to Dahlman. The companies designed the phase 2 and phase 3 trials at the same time as the initial trials were underway. That’s usually a prohibitively expensive proposition.

“In this case, there was a global emergency, so companies and governments took on the financial risk to design the phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials earlier,” Dahlman said. “It was worth the risk to have the vaccine move along more quickly, given the dire human and economic consequences of this pandemic.”

6. How do we know the vaccines are safe?

Dahlman and Santangelo pointed to the tens of thousands of people involved in those clinical trials.

“Just because the clinical trials were run more quickly than normal does not mean the data are unreliable,” Dahlman said. “The data have been peer-reviewed. The data are clear: The vaccine is safe.”

He and Santangelo also pointed to the short amount of time the vaccine’s components remain in the human body.

“mRNA does not last forever,” Santangelo said. “The mRNA may express for a few days, and it will degrade through normal processes inherent to every cell in your body. The lipids also are metabolized through normal metabolization pathways.”

He added: “We want the vaccine to go in, to express the viral protein — the spike protein — you want your body to react to that, you want your immune system to mobilize in response to that spike being there. But we don’t want the vaccine there forever. You’re relying on your immune system to do the heavy lifting; the vaccine just gets things started.”

7. Why do we get two doses of the vaccine instead of one?

Santangelo said it’s not uncommon for vaccines to require multiple doses. Think of the booster shots kids receive for some vaccines.

In the case of the Covid-19 vaccine, he said: “The data suggests that after one shot, there is an immune response, but it’s not as strong as they would like, and that’s why they give you the second one. The second one is a booster. And what you see in the data is your antibody responses increase significantly.”

8. Why do the vaccines have to be stored at such cold temperatures?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius. Moderna’s is frozen at -25 degrees Celsius. That’s all about preserving the stability and effectiveness of the vaccine, Santangelo said, and the difference is attributable to the different kinds of lipids the two companies used around the mRNA.

It may not be ideal, but Santangelo said the requirements keep the vaccine from degrading in any way.

“They had to move so fast creating the vaccines, so they went with what they knew would work,” he said.

9. How long will protection last from the vaccine?

We don’t have as much information about the durability of protection as we would like, Santangelo said. He pointed to data that shows persistence of antibodies for at least three to six months after the second dose.

Even with that question still unanswered, he said getting the vaccine will benefit everyone.

“It’s going to help protect you from the virus,” he said. “Even if you get Covid — not from the vaccine, but post-vaccination — you’re not going to get as sick if you have the vaccine than if you didn’t have the vaccine. If the vaccine keeps us out of the hospital, if it keeps us from getting very, very sick, that is a very good thing.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1611152114 2021-01-20 14:15:14 1611678132 2021-01-26 16:22:12 0 0 news 2021-01-20T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-20T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-20 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


643121 643121 image <![CDATA[Covid-19 Vaccine Vial]]> image/jpeg 1611151143 2021-01-20 13:59:03 1611151143 2021-01-20 13:59:03 <![CDATA[Covid-19 Vaccines at Georgia Tech]]>
<![CDATA[Stanley Named Founding Director of McCamish Parkinson’s Disease Innovation Program]]> 27446 The impact of a transformational gift from the McCamish Foundation is starting to take shape at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Garrett Stanley will be the founding director of the new McCamish Parkinson’s Disease Innovation Program led by the Coulter Department to create impact-amplifying partnerships across disparate disciplines, and to advance innovative ideas that will form the basis of future treatment and cure of Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders.

“The fact that Parkinson’s disease is so complex, affects people in different ways, and changes as the disease progresses, means that we need a comprehensive set of diverse approaches and tools that directly confront these complexities,” said Stanley, Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Professor in the Department. “This ranges from using sensors to precisely measure movement, to technologies for interacting with the underlying brain circuits, to data analytics to capture things that are hidden in the wealth of data being collected, and beyond.”

Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s are complex diseases of neural circuits that impact virtually every aspect of a person’s life, from moving to sensing to cognition, and ultimately render even the most fundamental aspects of daily life a significant challenge. The cause of Parkinson’s remains unknown, to say nothing of curing the disease.

Stanley said understanding, treating, and ultimately finding a cure for such diseases requires a comprehensive, coordinated, and technology-driven effort at the intersection of fundamental neuroscience, neuroengineering and neurotechnology, data science, and clinical translation — an approach that goes well beyond traditional avenues of scientific research.

To accomplish such lofty ambitions, the McCamish Parkinson’s program will support “Blue Sky” multi-investigator, early stage research; research translation to commercialization; and the cultivation of a collaborative network with Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia to position Georgia as a leader in Parkinson’s research.

“The Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering is uniquely positioned to catalyze this exciting, new interdisciplinary research effort,” Stanley said, “and we are grateful for the significant opportunity the McCamish Foundation has provided.”

Stanley is a leading expert in the control of the complex brain circuits that enable us to sense and move through the world. He has led multiple efforts focused on integrating neuroscience, neuroengineering, and neurotechnology and supported by the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative. Over the past decade, Stanley has been a key driver in building interdisciplinary research in neuroscience and neurotechnology across Georgia Tech and Emory and is co-director of the Georgia Tech and Emory Neural Engineering Centers.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1611080634 2021-01-19 18:23:54 1611169591 2021-01-20 19:06:31 0 0 news Garrett Stanley will lead work under a landmark gift from the McCamish Foundation to revolutionize treatment of neurological diseases.

2021-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-19 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


643116 538581 643116 image <![CDATA[Neuron Illustration]]> image/jpeg 1611150106 2021-01-20 13:41:46 1611150106 2021-01-20 13:41:46 538581 image <![CDATA[Garrett Stanley, Ph.D.]]> image/jpeg 1464703200 2016-05-31 14:00:00 1475895326 2016-10-08 02:55:26 <![CDATA[Read More: McCamish Foundation Commitment Funds Research of Parkinson’s Disease at Georgia Tech and Emory]]> <![CDATA[Garrett Stanley]]>
<![CDATA[Robles Lab Expands Utility of 3D Tomography]]> 28153 Researchers in the lab of Francisco Robles are advancing optical technologies, bringing greater clarity and understanding to the biomolecular world. Their latest work improves the functionality and affordability of a powerful new imaging technique.

In recent years, three-dimensional refractive index (RI) tomography has emerged as an effective label-free imaging tool in biological studies. But, wrote Robles and colleague Patrick Ledwig, “its limitation to thin samples, resulting from a need of transmissive illumination, and small fields of view has hindered its utility in broader biomedical applications.”

They describe a new approach that enables RI tomography of arbitrarily thick samples with a large view in their paper, “Quantitative 3D Refractive Index Tomography of Opaque Samples in Epi-Mode,” published in the journal Optica.

“We’re enabling a technique that has previously been limited to thin samples,” said Robles, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The technology has been moving toward rendering more detailed 3D information, but it had been limited to individual cells.

“People have been trying to use the technique for various medical applications because you get these beautiful 3D tomographic images, but the fact that this was only possible on individual cells, and not at tissue-level structures, was really limiting,” Robles said.

Robles and Ledwig used a simple, low-cost microscope system with epi-illumination, which reflects light off the sample to create contrast. Existing techniques use transmissive illumination, which passes light through a sample. That works fine for translucent samples but not at all in thicker, more complex structures.

The approach they describe utilizes technology developed in the Robles lab — a quantitative oblique back illumination microscopy (qOBM) optical system — to extend the utility of 3D RI tomography for translational and clinical medicine.

“What we’re doing here is measuring the ubiquitous refractive and index properties in cells and tissues which yields unprecedented contrast for subcellular, cellular, and tissue-level structures,” Robles said.

He said the new approach allows researchers to perform label-free imaging, which is a non-invasive way to view a biological sample in its natural state. Many labs use chemical or fluorescent labels to track cellular activity. But the labeling process is invasive and can be toxic to cells, compromising research findings.

“This technique opens the door to many biomedical applications that were previously out of reach of refractive index tomography,” Robles said. “This will change the way in we do label-free imaging in complex 3D structures like human tissues, and enable new ways to extract biological information non-invasively.”

Robles described their solution as, “elegant and simple, providing near real-time information, without heavy computational processing. You don’t need an expensive laser — we actually used $8 LEDs for this system — and we can convert any basic brightfield microscope into this new tomographic imaging technology for a low cost.”

In their study, the researchers provide a theoretical analysis along with simulations and validation experiments using tissue-mimicking phantoms and thick tissue samples from animal and human brains. Their experiments showed a level of detail that Robles said isn’t possible with current, traditional optical methods.

“The level of cellular detail we are able to achieve now was only possible before with far more complex and expensive nonlinear microscopy systems which are not easily translatable to many important biomedical applications,” he said. “We’re very excited about the capabilities of this new refractive index tomography approach.”

This research was supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (1014540); Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing; National Cancer Institute (R21CA223853); National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (R21NS117067); and the National Science Foundation (NSF CBET CAREER 1752011).


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1611010796 2021-01-18 22:59:56 1611169500 2021-01-20 19:05:00 0 0 news New research in Optica describes affordable new system for better advanced optical  imaging

2021-01-18T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-18T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-18 00:00:00 643048 643048 image <![CDATA[Francisco Robles]]> image/jpeg 1611008910 2021-01-18 22:28:30 1611008910 2021-01-18 22:28:30
<![CDATA[Newstetter, Architect of BME Curriculum, Steps Into Sort-of Retirement]]> 28153 It was 2008, and Joe Le Doux already was tenured in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. One of the Department’s first faculty hires 10 years earlier, his research was focused on using viruses to transfer genes to cells. Gene therapy. Potentially trailblazing stuff.

Meh. So what.

“When are you going to figure out what you really should be doing with your life,” Le Doux recalls Wendy Newstetter pointedly asked him, chuckling when he thinks about it today. Tenure. Gene therapy. Big deal.

For a few years leading up to that conversation, he’d been working a lot with Newstetter, a learning and cognitive scientist, on developing courses in the Department, “and somewhere along the line, she had figured out that I should be focusing more on learning science, and in a scholarly way,” said Le Doux, now executive director of training and learning in the Coulter Department.

“That’s what Wendy does,” he added. “She asks the right questions, and she knows how to critically review what’s happening – what works, or what doesn’t. She’s been a key influence on me and the direction my career has taken.”

For more than 20 years, Newstetter has been the steady chief architect of the Coulter Department’s innovative problem-driven learning (PDL) curriculum. This year begins a new era for her — and for the Coulter Department — as Newstetter steps into her version of retirement, leaving behind her full-time role as Assistant Dean for Educational Research and Innovation in the Georgia Tech College of Engineering.

“I’ve had the opportunity to spend 20 years working with some of the most creative, thoughtful, and ambitious people, and it has been a great ride,” she told a virtual audience of 120-plus in December during the inaugural Newstetter Distinguished Lecture, a new annual event started in her honor. “I can’t imagine a better place to spend that time. I was given a ridiculous amount of freedom to do crazy, fun, innovative things.”

Along the way, Newstetter and a team of engineering educators have merged problem-driven engineering education with learning science principles to create a pioneering and evolving curriculum that has been developing inquisitive biomedical engineering leaders for two decades.

Their sustained efforts and accomplishments in that regard have not gone unnoticed by their peers. In 2019, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) selected them for with the $500,000 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education. Newstetter, Le Doux, and Coulter Department Senior Associate Chair Paul Benkeser shared the prestigious honor.

“Wendy and the Department really were at the leading edge of an evolution in engineering education, and the Gordon Prize is a testament to that,” said Don Giddens, former dean of engineering at Georgia Tech and the founding chair of the Coulter Department who tapped Newstetter to lead the design of BME’s curriculum. “That was one of the best decisions I made in my life.”


Learning in the Wild

After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian studies from Colby College, Newstetter spent two years in Japan, “learning to speak good Japanese, and at the same time, I started teaching English and had a chance to observe the difficulties people had when learning to speak a second language. It intrigued me.”

She went back to school for a master’s and Ph.D. in linguistics, “with a focus on, basically, teaching language. Over the years, I became fascinated with how people learn, or don’t learn. I became really interested in the conditions under which people learn, and the conditions that you can create as a designer of learning environments that will hopefully ensure a greater number of people become successful learners.”

Shortly after the Coulter Department was founded, Giddens became aware of the learning and cognitive scientists working in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing: Newstetter and her colleague, Nancy Nersessian. Newstetter has called Nersessian, Regents Professor of Cognitive Science Emerita at Georgia Tech and a Harvard researcher, her mentor. They met with Giddens in 1998.

“We sat across the table from each other, Don and Nancy and I, and Don started the meeting by graciously but somewhat sheepishly confiding that he did not know what cognitive science was,” Newstetter recalled. “We reassured him by saying that we did not know what biomedical engineering was. That’s how our 22-year partnership began.”

Newstetter and Nersessian embedded themselves in four distinctly different labs, like anthropologists living with and observing exotic tribes in the wild, studying the culture. “We had two main questions,” Newstetter said. “What is the nature of cognition, and what does learning look like? My intention was to figure out what I could take from this real-world learning environment and translate, with as much fidelity as possible, into a classroom environment. How do we make our synthetic learning, the classroom, replicate what goes on in research labs?”

Newstetter and Nersessian co-authored an award-winning book on their work in the research labs, with Lisa Osbeck, and Kareen Malone. Science as Psychology: Sense-Making and Identity in Science Practice won the American Psychological Association William James Book Award. And what started as a single PBL class is now a suite of carefully designed engineering learning courses in the Coulter Department.


Process over Product

Paul Benkeser has been working with Newstetter for the past 20 years and, like Le Doux, his main interests aren’t quite what they used to be. When he joined the BME department, shortly after it was formed, his research focused on cancer biology and regenerative medicine.

Before long, though, “I was working with Wendy, trying to help her put her ideas into form and structure, trying to figure out how we could transform what had been designed for a medical school education into one targeting biomedical engineers,” Benkeser said.

In the problem-based learning environment, students divide into teams and work together to solve a complex, open-ended, real-world problem – the kind of challenge they might face in a research lab. The answers to their questions may not be available in their past experiences or classes.

“You aren’t going to know everything, and what you don’t know, you have to learn and get up to speed,” Benkeser said. “As instructors, we are more interested in the problem-solving process than in the final product. That can be a challenge for students who have always been graded on product. For many, it’s an unfamiliar learning space at first.”

But it turns out to be an empowering one, Newstetter has found.

“The typical course doesn’t empower students,” Newstetter said. “It tells the student to read Chapter 3 and there will be a quiz on Thursday. That takes power away from students. Instead, we’re saying, ‘Here’s a big problem. It needs to be constrained; it needs to be defined.’ Then the students figure out what they need to learn to solve that problem. It’s dramatically different.”

Her colleagues, like Benkeser and Le Doux, tend to agree. So do her students.

Maria Liu was a teaching assistant in Newstetter’s BME 2250 course in Fall 2020. Liu took the course herself the fall semester of her sophomore year.

“This was the class that made me excited to be part of the BME program,” said Liu, now a third-year undergraduate. “It was the first time I was proud and excited to talk about what I was learning in school and what I was working on.”

That semester, Liu’s class was working on gait and balance disorders. They ultimately created a medical device for Parkinson’s patients. When she was part of the small army of TAs guiding students last semester, the core problem was health related disparities. Working closely with her professor gave Liu a deeper appreciation of Newstetter — and what the Coulter Department and Georgia Tech will be missing with her retirement.

“Her passion, her research, her life’s work is centered around her students and how we learn,” Liu said. “She has done so much in her career and had so many experiences, and yet she chooses to spend her time with students who are just starting their careers to provide them with direction. We will genuinely miss her and her presence as BME students at Georgia Tech.”

Newstetter is retiring — but she won’t be very far away. For one thing, there is the Newstetter Lecture, which will focus on innovation in engineering education. That’s part of her legacy, and so is the spread of PBL programs around the world.

“She’s had a huge impact on Georgia Tech and Emory, and a huge impact on BME education in general, not just locally and nationally, but internationally,” Giddens said.

Also, Newstetter said she still has plenty of research to do and papers to write. And other schools across Georgia Tech want to learn more from the learning expert — including how to be funny.

“I’m working with a collaborator in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering,” she said. “We got a grant from the National Science Foundation to infuse humor into the chemical engineering curriculum.”

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1610492416 2021-01-12 23:00:16 1610492828 2021-01-12 23:07:08 0 0 news She leaves behind full-time duties after delivering the inaugural Newstetter Lecture

2021-01-12T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-12T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-12 00:00:00 642870 642871 642870 image <![CDATA[Wendy Newstetter]]> image/jpeg 1610491841 2021-01-12 22:50:41 1610491841 2021-01-12 22:50:41 642871 image <![CDATA[Gordon Prize Winners]]> image/jpeg 1610492009 2021-01-12 22:53:29 1610492009 2021-01-12 22:53:29
<![CDATA[Dreaden Receives Winship Collaborative Pilot Grant]]> 27446 By Shannon McCaffrey, Emory Health Sciences

Two research teams from Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University (Winship) have been awarded pilot grants from the Donaldson Charitable Trust Research Synergy Fund, a unique funding opportunity offered jointly by Winship, the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Each one-year grant of $125,000 is funded in part by contributions from the Oliver S. and Jennie R. Donaldson Charitable Trust. The grants are intended to spark collaboration between basic science researchers (including biomedical engineers) and physicians, leading to innovations that improve the lives of children and adults with cancer.

This cycle's Donaldson Charitable Trust Research Synergy Fund pilot grant recipients are:

"Improving CAR T cell efficacy through optimal manufacturing with nanoparticle backpacks"

“MERTK and MEK inhibitor combination therapy for AML”

Visit Winship Awards & Pilot Grants for more information about pilot grants and other funding opportunities for Winship investigators.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1610393445 2021-01-11 19:30:45 1610393445 2021-01-11 19:30:45 0 0 news Two research teams win funding intended to spark innovations that improve lives of cancer patients.

2021-01-11T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-11T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-11 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


642788 642788 image <![CDATA[Erik Dreaden]]> image/jpeg 1610393114 2021-01-11 19:25:14 1610393114 2021-01-11 19:25:14 <![CDATA[Erik Dreaden]]> <![CDATA[Winship Awards & Pilot Grants]]>
<![CDATA[Law Joins Biolocity as New Managing Director]]> 27446 With the arrival of the new year comes a new round of funding and commercialization support from the Biolocity program, which also is welcoming a new managing director.

Innovation leader Courtney Law joined the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering Nov. 30 to lead Biolocity, where she will help all Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology faculty develop new biomedical innovations with commercial potential.

“I am passionate about supporting early stage innovations with the potential to impact human health,” said Law, who earned her Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and spent nearly a decade as a researcher in drug discovery, focusing on asthma, anticoagulation, and Type 2 diabetes. “As a part of the Biolocity team, I am able to assist these innovations as faculty navigate the commercialization pathway by providing critical resources —funding, consulting, networking and mentorship.”

Biolocity provides a combination of funding, project management, and consulting resources to new technologies, therapies, and diagnostics from Emory or Georgia Tech that address unmet clinical needs and have compelling commercial potential. Since 2015, the program has awarded more than $7 million across 50 projects, generating 10 times that much follow-on investment.

Law’s career has revolved around just that kind of work in innovation and entrepreneurship, first in the Southeast and then in the Pacific Northwest.

“With her breadth and depth of experience, Dr. Courtney Law is the perfect person to lead Biolocity into the future,” said Susan Margulies, Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Coulter Department. “Courtney will help us drive Biolocity’s exciting expansion to support the growth in biomedical innovation at Emory and Tech.”

Law comes to Atlanta from Seattle, where she was inaugural director of Gonzaga University’s regional health partnership with the University of Washington School of Medicine. Before that, she worked at Life Science Washington, developing the Washington Innovation Network for Life Sciences Entrepreneur Mentoring Program as well as an initiative to expose graduate students to entrepreneurship. She has served as a consultant for the University of Washington CoMotion program to promote research commercialization. She also worked with entrepreneurs and early stage companies at the Office of Technology Transfer at North Carolina State University.

Already, Law has jumped into the next Biolocity funding cycle, with a new call for proposals opening in January and more than $1.5 million in support available. It’s the first step in a multi-stage application process where participants receive the pitch coaching, market assessments, and competitive analysis necessary for commercial success.

Law also is helping launch the Emory Catalyst Fund, and she arrives at an opportune time for Biolocity.

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority selected Biolocity as one of 13 sites nationwide in the Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (DRIVe) accelerator network. Biolocity is charged with identifying inventors and connecting them with DRIVe’s technical and financial resources to bolster the nation’s preparedness for, detection of, and response to health security threats.

“It’s exciting to be a part of such a supportive ecosystem,” Law said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with members of both the Emory and Georgia Tech communities and beyond.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1609872446 2021-01-05 18:47:26 1609872446 2021-01-05 18:47:26 0 0 news Biolocity welcomes 2021 with a new managing director and a fresh funding cycle.

2021-01-05T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-05T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-05 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


642551 642551 image <![CDATA[Courtney Law, managing director of Biolocity]]> image/jpeg 1609872070 2021-01-05 18:41:10 1609872672 2021-01-05 18:51:12 <![CDATA[Biolocity]]>
<![CDATA[Passion for Politics Leads BME Grad to Cobb County Commission]]> 28153 There was a hotly contested presidential election, the nation was fiercely divided by partisan bickering, and Jerica Richardson was just dying to know who her fellow Americans were voting for and, even more important, why. So she did what any serious political wonk would do: She conducted a study. She was 12.

“It was Bush versus Gore, and I wanted to understand why people voted the way they did,” said Richardson, 31, who graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with her biomedical engineering degree in 2012. “I don’t know if it was because I was a kid, but most of the responses I got were, ‘I like his smile,’” added Richardson, who grew up in New Orleans. “I remember thinking, ‘If that’s the rationale, then I should be allowed to vote.’ So I wrote a report that urged lowering the voting age to 12. I’ve always been politically inclined.”

She may not have gotten results then, but now Richardson has turned that early passion into her own political career. She officially begins her first term as the Cobb County Commissioner from District 2 on January 1, 2021.

Basically, Richardson was the kind of kid who asked a lot of questions “about pretty much everything, especially politics, and soon after that, math and science.”

Growing up in New Orleans was like living in a meteorological laboratory, and Richardson became a Weather Channel aficionado early on. By the time she was 16, she’d developed a theory for decreasing the potency of the severe storms that regularly threatened southeast Louisiana.

“The idea was to actually prevent hurricanes from being so catastrophic,” she said. Her “humidity inhibitor” was intended to catalyze molecules, replicating a naturally occurring process before a storm reaches its peak, so that instead of dumping a lot of rain on a smaller area, the same amount of rain will be spread out over a larger area. “It has the potential to significantly reduce the harmful effects of too much rain in one place,” she added.

Richardson’s idea got her on TV (in New Orleans and, later, Atlanta) and caught the attention of a Louisiana congressman who wrote her letter saying he was going to connect her to grant money and a lab at Tulane University.

That was four days before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

Richardson’s family moved to metro Atlanta shortly before Katrina hit, staying in hotels before settling in Cobb County, where Richardson continued with high school and seemingly invented a few new hours each day.

Besides participating in Miss Teen Georgia and Miss Georgia pageants, she sings opera; she’s written three books and published one of them; and she’s managed several political campaigns, including Erick Allen’s successful 2018 bid for a state House seat in Smyrna and Jaha Howard’s 2018 campaign for Cobb County School Board.

As an undergraduate at Georgia Tech pursuing a biomedical engineering degree with a pre-med focus, she helped launch Tech’s Leadership, Education, and Development program and GT StartUp (an organization that was designed to help students develop entrepreneurial and business leadership skills). She also earned a certificate in pre-law and got deeply interested and involved in local politics, organizing voter registration drives and working on Kwanza Hall’s Atlanta mayoral campaign. In 2011, she won the Alvin M. Ferst Leadership and Entrepreneur Award from Tech’s Division of Student Life.

"Georgia Tech grew my way of thinking and how I process questions," said Richardson, who shifted her focus somewhat after graduation. "I have wide-ranging interests and an inquisitive nature." That led her to working in corporate sales for a time. She also taught herself to write code and develop software. She is now a project manager at Equifax, where she leads a global mentorship program focused on women in technology.

As someone who is comfortable using technology in the digital space, Richardson said her first run for office during a year of social distancing wasn’t that difficult. She built her own website and enlisted 34 volunteers to support her campaign, many of them under the age of 20. And beginning New Year’s Day, she begins the next phase of her career, this time as a public servant in county government.

The uber ambitious Richardson is only half kidding when she says it was something that happened at Georgia Tech that inspired her to finally run for office.

“I blame former Coulter Department Chair Ravi Bellamkonda,” she says. “When I was taking his class at Georgia Tech, he told me that I’d be well suited for politics. In fact, I even sent him an email message and said, ‘You know, this is all your fault.’”

Bellamkonda responded by sending a donation to her campaign.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1609424447 2020-12-31 14:20:47 1609450817 2020-12-31 21:40:17 0 0 news After running several election campaigns Jerica Richardson takes the plunge in the new year

2020-12-31T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-31T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-31 00:00:00 642442 642443 642442 image <![CDATA[Jerica campaign]]> image/jpeg 1609423912 2020-12-31 14:11:52 1609423912 2020-12-31 14:11:52 642443 image <![CDATA[Jerica Richardson]]> image/jpeg 1609424005 2020-12-31 14:13:25 1609424005 2020-12-31 14:13:25
<![CDATA[NIH-Funded Project Will Use Micro and Macro to Understand Our Dynamic Brains]]> 28153 Shella Keilholz and Garrett Stanley both study the brain, but sometimes it’s like they’re looking at two completely different organs. Keilholz works at the systems level, the whole organ. Stanley gets down to the individual neuron.

With the support of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they’re going to work to marry the two approaches and unlock new understanding of how our brains function — macro and micro.

“The goal is to develop an entirely new theoretical and computational framework for connecting different scales of complex brain activity through cutting-edge approaches in brain imaging and electrophysiology, data sciences, and machine learning,” said Stanley, Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “We have assembled a team of investigators who will span experimental and computational areas.”

The team will be led by Keilholz, principal investigator for the project titled “Crossing Space and Time: Uncovering the Nonlinear Dynamics of Multimodal and Multiscale Brain Activity,” which has been awarded $1.1 million over three years through the NIH’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Assistant Professor Chethan Pandarinath also is part of the research team.

The team intends to avoid the limitations of previous brain studies, which have focused on individual cells or circuits, instead approaching the brain, “as a complex, dynamic system with activity occurring at many different space and time scales, from single synapses at a millisecond to whole brain modulation at minutes, days, even years,” said Keilholz, herself on a second BRAIN Initiative project. “To tie these things together, you need different imaging modalities, because you can’t measure the same sort of activity across scales with the same approach.”

It’s a collaboration that Keilholz and Stanley have been contemplating for about 10 years, since they first taught a class together.

“Garrett works more at the cellular level, and I work more at the systems level, and we want to try to meet in the middle,” Keilholz said.

Stanley added: “Shella is coming from the human-imaging side of things, and I’m coming from the single-cell side. She was coming from one angle and I was coming from another, and over time, we started to speak each other’s language.”

Stanley’s lab at Georgia Tech listens to the brain’s conversations at the cellular level, focusing on the pathways and circuits underlying sensory activity, using multisite, multielectrode recording, optical imaging, behavior, and patterned stimulation with the long-term goal of providing some surrogate control for circuits involved in sensory signaling, for normal function and for pathways injured through trauma or disease.

The Keilholz Mind Lab, which is located at Emory, uses noninvasive functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) “to cover the whole brain, but you’re not looking at neural activity directly, you’re looking at things related to the hemodynamic response instead. With this BRAIN Initiative proposal, the idea is to nudge up to what Garrett’s doing.”

The idea, essentially, is to merge Keilholz’s systems-wide imaging with Stanley’s more invasive localized probing at the neuron level, “something we can bridge over into a noninvasive technique that can ultimately be applied in humans,” she said.

Pandarinath’s Systems Neural Engineering Lab, with its deep expertise in machine learning, “is expected to develop the tools we need to go from one scale to another and from invasive to noninvasive,” Keilholz said.

It’s the latest effort in trying to eavesdrop, look at, and understand the human brain, with its complex galaxy of 100 billion chattering neurons holding cellular conversations through more than 100 trillion synaptic connections — a dense and noisy communication network wrapped within a three-pound mass of tissue packed snugly inside our skulls.

Keilholz, Stanley, and Pandarinath are hoping to make more sense of the whole package, therefore developing a better understanding of the problems underlying disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, depression, traumatic brain injury, and a rogues’ gallery of other of other maladies that continue to take a devastating toll on people and society.

“Ultimately, we are focused on human health and neurological diseases and disorders, which currently do not have adequate treatments, because these things occur in such complex ways, affecting entire circuits and networks,” Stanley said.

Keilholz said she thinks in terms of what she called “brain weather, using these things to know it’s likely to be a sunny day or a stormy day, to look for long-term changes in climate that might be mental health problems or other problems.

What we all really want to do is be able to look at a person’s brain and say, ‘This is why you are depressed,’ or ‘This is why this is happening, so let’s drive that back to normal,’” she said. “That’s what we’re ultimately going for.”

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1609121885 2020-12-28 02:18:05 1611011164 2021-01-18 23:06:04 0 0 news Keilholz, Stanley, Pandarinath ‘Crossing Space and Time’ in New $1.1M Collaboration

2020-12-27T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-27T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-27 00:00:00 642319 642319 image <![CDATA[Shella Garrett Chethan]]> image/jpeg 1609121229 2020-12-28 02:07:09 1611011603 2021-01-18 23:13:23
<![CDATA[Ethier Wins Lissner Medal]]> 28153 C. Ross Ethier recently became the fourth researcher from the Georgia Institute of Technology to win the prestigious H.R. Lissner Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. All four have been part of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

“I’m really honored. This is a big deal for me, since this is my professional community,” said Ethier, who follows previous winners from Tech, Bob Nerem (1989), Don Giddens (1993), and Ajit Yoganathan (1997). “I’m proud to join some illustrious names on the list. It’s kind of cool because it speaks to the tradition, history, and impact of Georgia Tech in biomechanics.”

The Lissner Medal, established in 1977 by the Bioengineering Division of ASME, “is the highest honor bestowed by the division and it’s based on a career’s worth of achievement,” noted Michele Grimm, Michigan State professor who chairs the medal committee.

The former head of the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London, Ethier was originally trained as a mechanical engineer and his research homes in on the biomechanics and mechanobiology of cells, tissues, and organs, with the goal of understanding how cells respond to mechanical stimuli, and how that response affects the function and properties of tissues and organs. His lab focuses specifically on understanding and developing treatments for glaucoma and VIIP, a condition affecting astronauts’ visual health.

“I was fortunate to have supervised Ross early in my career, as he set the gold standard for all students afterward,” said Roger Kamm, Ethier’s former advisor and former Lissner Medal winner. Kamm is a professor of biological and mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Ethier earned his Ph.D.

“I mean this not only in terms of his uncanny ability to identify and pursue the most critical research questions, but also his personal integrity and his ability to inspire those around him: Ross was and has continued to be the kind of researcher, leader, and person that we all strive to be,” Kamm added. “He epitomizes what the Lissner Medal is all about.”

In nominating Ethier for the medal, University of Minnesota Biomedical Engineering Professor Victor Barocas wrote that his contributions to the bioengineering community are deep and wide: associate editor of the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, program chair for numerous conferences, division chair, service on award committees, all while making “major research contributions (especially in the area of ocular mechanics), being an outstanding educator, and taking leadership roles at his home institutions.”

“Very few people in the biomedical engineering business share Ross’s commitment to good science, positive social impact, and education of the next generation of engineers,” Barocas wrote.

Ethier said the honor is a testament to other people who share in the heavy lifting: “All the folks who have worked in my lab over the years. It’s the students and other researchers, my valued collaborators, and the people who mentored me that make this special. It takes a village.”


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1609123207 2020-12-28 02:40:07 1609123353 2020-12-28 02:42:33 0 0 news BME professor honored by ASME for a “career’s worth of achievement”

2020-12-27T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-27T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-27 00:00:00 642321 642321 image <![CDATA[Ross Ethier]]> image/jpeg 1609123184 2020-12-28 02:39:44 1609123184 2020-12-28 02:39:44
<![CDATA[Dissecting Atherosclerosis at the Single Cell Level: Tasting Each Piece of a Fruit Salad]]> 27446 By Quinn Eastman, Emory University Research News

More than a decade ago, Hanjoong Jo and colleagues developed an elegant animal model allowing the dissection of atherosclerosis. It was the first to definitively show that disturbed patterns of blood flow determine where atherosclerotic plaques will later appear.

In atherosclerosis, arterial walls thicken and harden because of a gradual build-up of lipids, cholesterol and white blood cells, which occurs over the course of years in humans. The Jo lab’s model involves restricting blood flow in the carotid artery of mice, which are fed a high-fat diet and also have mutations in a gene (ApoE) involved in processing fat and cholesterol. The physical intervention causes atherosclerosis to appear within a couple weeks. Inflammation in endothelial cells, which line blood vessels, is visible within 48 hours.

Now Jo’s lab has combined the model with recently developed techniques that permit scientists to see molecular changes in single cells. The results were published Dec. 15 in Cell Reports.

Jo’s lab is in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory and Georgia Tech.

Previously, when they saw inflammation in blood vessels, researchers could not distinguish between intrinsic changes in endothelial cells (ECs) and immune or other cells infiltrating into the blood vessel lining.

A video made by Harvard scientists who developed the single cell techniques describes the difference like this. Looking at the molecules in cells with standard techniques is like making a fruit smoothie – everything is blended together. But single cell techniques allow them to taste and evaluate each piece of fruit individually.

With the single cell analysis, researchers in Jo’s lab saw that under disturbed flow conditions, endothelial cells begin to display surprising changes in their gene activity. It’s not only that endothelial cells are becoming more pro-inflammatory, they look like they are changing into immune cells. There were also signs of some endothelial cells de-differentiating – becoming more like mesenchymal (stromal) or progenitor cells. In terms of development, endothelial cells are derived from mesoderm and are thus related to hematopoetic (blood forming) cells, but it’s still striking how “plastic” or changeable they are.

“Disturbed flow reprograms ECs to take up a new profile that matches to that of immune cells,” said coauthor and assistant professor Sandeep Kumar. “Whether they completely transform to immune cells is not clear yet.”

He added: “The novel role of disturbed flow that induces ECs to take up a new profile that matches to that of either mesenchymal cells, immune cells or a mix of the two. This also emphasizes the profound effect of mechanical cues on ECs in addition to the biochemical/ humoral cues that are contributed by metabolism and genetics.”

The single cell techniques are fascinating. Cells are encapsulated in droplets, and droplets carry DNA “barcodes” that uniquely labels cDNAs from a single cell. In a related technique, a transposase enzyme inserts adapters into accessible regions of chromatin. However, Kumar said that the most difficult aspect of the single-cell analysis was isolation of healthy viable single cell preparations from carotid tissues: “Good cells lead to good data.”

The first author of the paper is postdoctoral fellow Aitor Andueza Lizarraga. This work was supported by the National Heart Lung Blood Institute (HL119798, HL095070, and HL139757), and the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance (UL1TR002378), the Emory Integrated Genomics Core and the Wallace H. Coulter Distinguished Faculty Chair Professorship.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1608224012 2020-12-17 16:53:32 1608323165 2020-12-18 20:26:05 0 0 news Disturbed blood flow in arteries can lead endothelial cells reprogram themselves and take on characteristics of immune cells.

2020-12-17T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-17T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-17 00:00:00 Quinn Eastman

Emory University Research News


642195 642196 642195 image <![CDATA[Bowl of Fruit Salad]]> image/jpeg 1608223311 2020-12-17 16:41:51 1608223311 2020-12-17 16:41:51 642196 image <![CDATA[Mouse Aorta Diagram]]> image/jpeg 1608223370 2020-12-17 16:42:50 1608223370 2020-12-17 16:42:50 <![CDATA[Endothelial Reprogramming by Disturbed Flow Revealed by Single-Cell RNA and Chromatin Accessibility Study]]>
<![CDATA[Santangelo Using NIH Grant to Prevent HIV in Women]]> 28153 Around the world, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has infected about 36 million people, and 1.8 million new cases emerge every year, with more than 90 percent of the infections spread through sexual contact. It remains a disease embedded in social and economic inequality, affecting impoverished communities across the globe at a disproportionately high rate.

There have been hopeful developments – anti-retroviral therapy has improved the outlook of HIV-infected patients. And recently approved pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis regimens have proven to work. But these preventive measures have potential side effects, require strict daily adherence, don’t really prevent other sexually transmitted infections, and they’re expensive.

Addressing the need for a better, more affordable approach, Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Phil Santangelo has been awarded a $3.5 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a low-cost, self-applied, durable system based on messenger RNA (mRNA) to deliver neutralizing antibodies to prevent HIV in women.

The Santangelo team’s approach provides protection within a few hours, and one application lasts at least a month. And it might be just the beginning of what Santangelo calls, “next-generation mRNA drugs on the horizon. We’re also working on expressing antibodies against other infectious agents and hope to create a suite of mRNA-based prophylaxis to prevent infection from a wide range of pathogens,” said Santangelo, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

This is the latest phase of his lab’s work using synthetic mRNA as a delivery system for therapeutic antibodies. In a 2018 study, the team explored using mRNA to supply antibodies directly to the lungs, via aerosol, to prevent respiratory syncytial virus infection. And last year, Santangelo won an NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Development grant to develop a new mRNA-mediated system in which antibodies are introduced into the female reproductive tract to inhibit sperm function.

This new R01 grant, awarded in September, will support work Santangelo and his colleagues described earlier this year in the journal Molecular Therapy. The title of the paper also provides an apt description of the team’s approach: “Aerosol Delivery of Synthetic mRNA to Vaginal Mucosa Leads to Durable Expression of Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies against HIV.”

The vaginal mucosa are mucous membranes that protect the skin inside the vaginal cavity. It makes a good platform for delivering drugs locally and systemically because of its large surface area, high degree of vascularization, avoidance of first-pass metabolism by the liver, good drug permeability, and its accessibility for self-application. Santangelo’s team hypothesized, based on previous work, that aerosolizing mRNA diluted in water could transfect the female genital tract, where infected cells rapidly permeate. The use of water as a solvent increased the rate at which small-molecule drugs and nanoparticles reached the vaginal epithelial surface.

Using the mucosa as a platform, the team demonstrated in animal models that aerosolized mRNA induced the expression of antibody PGT121 at high concentrations in the vagina and cervix.

“Overall, we present a new paradigm to deliver neutralizing antibodies to the female reproductive tract for the prevention of HIV infections,” the researchers wrote.

Easy to apply as a spray, expression is achieved quickly through aerosol delivery and the preventive effects last at least a month, according to the team’s data.

“We’re working on increasing that durability,” Santangelo said. “The whole point is to develop approaches that give women some control over their health. There’s lots of work to do in this space, but I think we can make a real difference in women’s lives.”



]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1608209348 2020-12-17 12:49:08 1608209348 2020-12-17 12:49:08 0 0 news BME researcher developing low-cost, self-applied, durable system based on mRNA

2020-12-17T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-17T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-17 00:00:00 642189 642189 image <![CDATA[Phil Santangelo]]> image/jpeg 1608209149 2020-12-17 12:45:49 1608209149 2020-12-17 12:45:49
<![CDATA[FDA Enlists Georgia Tech to Establish Best Practices for RNA-sequencing]]> 27303 Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has emerged as an important high throughput technology in biomedical research and translation for its ability to accurately capture genetic information. But choosing proper analysis methods for identifying biomarkers from high throughput data remains a critical challenge for most users. 

For instance, RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) is an NGS technology that examines the presence and quantity of RNA in biological samples, and it requires bioinformatics analysis to make sense of it all. However, there are hundreds of bioinformatics tools with different data analysis pipelines that result in various results for the same dataset. This can significantly hinder the ability to reliably reproduce RNA-seq related research and applications, especially for the regulatory approval process by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Choosing the right analysis model and tool to do the proper job for high throughput data analysis remains a great challenge. So the FDA invited a team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology to conduct a comprehensive investigation of RNA-seq data analysis pipelines for gene expression estimation to recommend best practices. 

“No common standard for selecting high throughput RNA-seq data analysis tools has been established yet. This has been a huge challenge for studying hundreds of tools that form tens of thousands of analysis pipelines,” noted May Dongmei Wang, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University who led the investigation.

Wang and her colleagues presented their results in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. In their study, the researchers developed three metrics – accuracy, precision, and reliability – and systematically evaluated 278 representative NGS RNA-seq pipelines. 

“We demonstrate that those RNA-seq pipelines performing well in gene expression estimation will lead to the improved downstream prediction of disease outcome. This is an important discovery,” said Wang, corresponding author of the paper, “Impact of RNA-seq Data Analysis Algorithms on Gene Expression Estimation and Downstream Prediction.”

She added, “Because the FDA is a regulatory agency for approving novel medical devices for NGS-genomics to be utilized in daily clinical practices for personalized and precision medicine and health, it is critical to see whether gene expression generated from RNA-seq acquisition and analysis pipeline are reproducible and reliable.”

The team’s comprehensive investigation revealed that the high throughput RNA-seq data quantification modules – mapping, quantification, and normalization – jointly impacted the accuracy, precision, and reliability of gene expression estimation, which in turn affected the downstream clinical outcome prediction (as shown in two cancer case studies of neuroblastoma and lung adenocarcinoma).

“Clinicians and biomedical researchers can use our findings to select RNA-seq pipelines for their clinical practice or research,” Wang said. “And bioinformaticians can use these benchmark datasets, results, and metrics to develop and evaluate new RNA-seq tools and pipelines.”

But one size does not fit every need, as in any machine learning paradigm, Wang noted. 

“The machine learning and algorithms are heavily dependent on goals,” she said. “Thus, based on our extensive experience in biomedical big data analytics and AI for almost two decades, we suggested that the FDA identify top goals for clinical genomics applications first. Based on different needs, different RNA-seq pipelines will be selected to achieve the optimal performance.”

In addition to Wang, the research team included lead author Li Tong, Po-Yen Wu, John H. Phan, Hamid R. Hassazadeh, Weida Tong, and members of the FDA’s Sequencing Quality Control project (Wendell D. Jones, Leming Shi, Matthias Fischer, Christopher E. Mason, Sheng Li, Joshua Xu, Wei Shi, Jian Wang, Jean Thierry-Mieg, Danielle Thierry-Mieg, Falk Hertwig, Frank Berthold, Barbara Hero, Yang Liao, Gordon K. Smyth, David Kreil, Pawel P. Tabaj, Dalila Megherbi, Gary Schroth, and Hong Fang).

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (U54CA119338, R01CA163256, and UL1TR000454), the National Science Foundation (EAGER Award NSF1651360), Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Georgia Tech Partnership Grant, Giglio Breast Cancer Research Fund, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Faculty Fellow Research Fund.

CITATION: Li Tong, et al., “Impact of RNA-seq Data Analysis Algorithms on Gene Expression Estimation and Downstream Prediction.” (Nature Scientific Reports 2020)

Writer: Jerry Grillo

]]> John Toon 1 1607996720 2020-12-15 01:45:20 1607997091 2020-12-15 01:51:31 0 0 news Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has emerged as an important high throughput technology in biomedical research and translation for its ability to accurately capture genetic information. But choosing proper analysis methods for identifying biomarkers from high throughput data remains a critical challenge for most users. 

2020-12-14T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-14T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-14 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

(404) 894-6986

642121 642122 642121 image <![CDATA[May Wang Portrait]]> image/jpeg 1607995842 2020-12-15 01:30:42 1607995842 2020-12-15 01:30:42 642122 image <![CDATA[Choosing right analysis model]]> image/jpeg 1607996015 2020-12-15 01:33:35 1607996367 2020-12-15 01:39:27
<![CDATA[A Capstone Team’s Journey]]> 28153 By its nature, biomedical engineering is a multidisciplinary field, so it wasn’t a great stretch for a trio of undergrads from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University to compete, and win, in the Interdisciplinary Team category at the Fall 2020 Capstone Design Expo.

Asad Abbas, Caitlin Nycum, and Caroline Tanzy joined with Devin Jackson (mechanical engineering) and Logan Cool (electrical engineering) to develop a device to improve treatment for people suffering from cardiac arrest in the hospital. Their team name? Appropriately enough, The Incredibles.

The whole process required more than the usual amount of careful planning and organization, given the twin challenges of social distancing during a global pandemic and developing a device for close-proximity procedures in an operating room.

“The biggest challenge was establishing trust and a sense of a collaboration amongst our team members, as there was somewhat of a divide between the in-person and virtual team members,” Tanzy said. “Four of us still met in-person each week, while taking the necessary precautions. We included [our other] team member virtually and were very intentional in the way we conducted our meetings to make sure he was included and still had a good experience.”

That experience focused on addressing the problem of cardiac arrest, a malfunction of the heart’s electrical system resulting in poor blood flow. Within minutes, it can cause brain damage. So the team worked with Dr. Zander Prewitt, an emergency room doctor at Emory, to develop the Intrapericardial Cardiac Compression Device. The device deploys a balloon-catheter system to deliver compressions directly to the heart during cardiac arrest, boosting blood flow to the brain, Nycum said.

The Incredibles have roots going back to 2017 when Tanzy and Nycum, when they were classmates in Problems in Biomedical Engineering. They ran into each other on campus about a year ago and decided they wanted to work with each other again, so Nycum got busy recruiting. She brought in Jackson and Coon, friends from her study abroad program, and Abbas, a classmate in the Coulter Department.

It wasn’t all a cakewalk. In addition to overcoming physical distance, there were some ideological gaps to bridge — some early disagreement among team members over the practicality and safety of what they were trying to design.

“Our passion for improving cardiac arrest outcomes and our mutual respect for one another motivated us to work through each issue as it came up,” Tanzy said. “If we disagreed or were short with one another during meetings, we always made an effort to call the person we disagreed with outside of class and resolve our differences.”

The team worked hard to be open-minded and respectful, she said, and it resulted in a stronger team  and the top project among 117 teams and more than 600 students in the competition. Winning also earned $1,500 for the team, and an opportunity to work in an operating room.

“We were lucky to utilize T3 Labs and access a human cadaver for verification testing,” said Nycum, who likes the prospects for her team, and their device.

“With clear communication, we were able to stay safe and collaborate effectively in the hybrid class environment, as well as tackle this problem with full force,” she said. “And our device has strong potential to save lives and improve blood flow to the brain during cardiac arrest.”


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1607698562 2020-12-11 14:56:02 1607698562 2020-12-11 14:56:02 0 0 news Bridging differences and disciplines to develop device for treating cardiac arrest

2020-12-11T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-11T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-11 00:00:00 642067 642066 642067 image <![CDATA[The Incredibles]]> image/jpeg 1607698345 2020-12-11 14:52:25 1607698345 2020-12-11 14:52:25 642066 image <![CDATA[Incredibles Device]]> image/jpeg 1607698221 2020-12-11 14:50:21 1607698221 2020-12-11 14:50:21
<![CDATA[Borodovsky-Boguslavsky's Gift: Georgia Tech Couple Funds Prize for Bioinformatics ]]> 34528 After devoting almost 35 years to the field of bioinformatics, Mark Borodovsky, a Regents Professor and director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics, and his wife, Nadia Boguslavsky, a research scientist who recently retired after 25 years at Georgia Tech, are launching an Endowment for the Prize for Excellence in Bioinformatics. Open to Ph.D. students, the prize will both recognize and encourage successful research in bioinformatics at Tech.

“This recently established field of science develops new computational methods to analyze biological data generated by high-throughput technologies,” Borodovsky said. “We are talking about DNA sequences of genomes, the carriers of the genetic code of life evolving through millions and billions of years.”

The burgeoning field of bioinformatics “connects biology, computer science, math, physics, and chemistry, and is attractive to anyone who wants to understand the fundamental principles of the development of the whole tree of life,” Borodovsky said. Bioinformatics has great potential to solve real-world problems and improve people’s quality of life. One of the applications, for example, “is to help analyze genomic sequences of the Covid-19 virus determined in different countries, and to find segments important for vaccine development as well as to trace the patterns of the virus’s evolution” he said.

Borodovsky created the bioinformatics graduate program at Georgia Tech in 1999. It was the first Master of Science program in bioinformatics in the United States. The Ph.D. program followed in 2003, and “is interdepartmental, while the master’s program is based in the School of Biological Sciences,” he said. Georgia Tech currently has more than 400 bioinformatics program alumni — 351 from the master’s program and 57 from the Ph.D. program. Graduates work in industry, academia, and national laboratories across the country. 

“The bioinformatics program affords students remarkable interdisciplinary training that leaves them with a range of options for meaningful careers once they leave Georgia Tech,” said Susan Lozier, College of Sciences dean and Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair. “The College of Sciences is grateful to Mark Borodovsky and Nadia Boguslavsky for this gift — a sure sign of their dedication to the Institute and its students.”

The winner of the Prize for Excellence in Bioinformatics will be chosen by the dean of Sciences on the recommendation of a bioinformatics program committee of three faculty members representing three separate colleges.

In addition to their scientific and teaching work, Borodovsky and Boguslavsky have contributed to the Institute in other capacities. Boguslavsky has long been an active member of the Georgia Tech Faculty Women’s Club and served as a board member for the past three years. From 1997 to 2017 Borodovsky organized 11 Georgia Tech International Conferences in Bioinformatics, firmly placing Georgia Tech on the map as a key player in the field. In 1990, Borodovsky’s group was the only one conducting bioinformatics research at Georgia Tech. Today, more than 60 labs Institute-wide have bioinformatics and computational biology among their research directions. For developing novel and efficient algorithms for gene prediction in genomes of all domains of life — research work supported by multiple federal grant awards — Borodovsky was named a Fellow of the International Society of Computational Biology, recognition that he considers “the highest honor of the bioinformatics community.”

“Mark was instrumental in developing bioinformatics research and education at Georgia Tech, and we hope the prize, which we established to honor his 30 years at Georgia Tech, will keep that legacy alive,” Boguslavsky said.

“Bioinformatics is an exciting science presenting high intellectual challenge, along with potential for immediate applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. The enthusiasm I had when I started working in bioinformatics was very strong and continues to be so,” Borodovsky said. “I hope that new generations of researchers share the same enthusiasm for this fast growing field of science.”

Article by Jennifer Carlile, Institute Communications

]]> jhunt7 1 1607623265 2020-12-10 18:01:05 1607623421 2020-12-10 18:03:41 0 0 news After devoting almost 35 years to the field of bioinformatics, Mark Borodovsky, a Regents Professor and director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics, and his wife, Nadia Boguslavsky, a research scientist who recently retired after 25 years at Georgia Tech, are launching an Endowment for the Prize for Excellence in Bioinformatics. Open to Ph.D. students, the prize will both recognize and encourage successful research in bioinformatics at Tech.

2020-12-10T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-10T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-10 00:00:00 Lisa Redding, Bioinformatics Program Coordinator

641995 641995 image <![CDATA[Boguslavsky-Borodovsky Photo]]> image/jpeg 1607549156 2020-12-09 21:25:56 1607549156 2020-12-09 21:25:56
<![CDATA[Hydrogel Could Open New Path for Glaucoma Treatment Without Drugs or Surgery]]> 27303 Researchers have developed a potential new treatment for the eye disease glaucoma that could replace daily eyedrops and surgery with a twice-a-year injection to control the buildup of pressure in the eye. The researchers envision the injection being done as an office procedure that could be part of regular patient visits.

The possible treatment, which could become the first non-drug, non-surgical, long-acting therapy for glaucoma, uses the injection of a natural and biodegradable material to create a viscous hydrogel — a water-absorbing crosslinked polymer structure — that opens an alternate pathway for excess fluid to leave the eye. 

“The holy grail for glaucoma is an efficient way to lower the pressure that doesn’t rely on the patient putting drops in their eyes every day, doesn’t require a complicated surgery, has minimal side effects, and has a good safety profile,” said Ross Ethier, professor and Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “I am excited about this technique, which could be a game-changer for the treatment of glaucoma.”

The research, which was supported by the National Eye Institute and the Georgia Research Alliance, was published Dec. 7 in the journal Advanced Science. The research was conducted in animals, and shows that the approach significantly lowered the intraocular pressure.

As many as 75 million people worldwide have glaucoma, which is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Glaucoma damage is caused by excess pressure in the eye that injures the optic nerve. Current treatments attempt to reduce this intraocular pressure through the daily application of eyedrops, or through surgery or implantation of medical devices, but these treatments are often unsuccessful.

To provide an alternative, Ethier teamed up with Mark Prausnitz, professor and J. Erskine Love Jr. Chair in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech, to use a tiny hollow needle to inject a polymer preparation into a structure just below the surface of the eye called the suprachoroidal space (SCS). Inside the eye, the material chemically crosslinks to form the hydrogel, which holds open a channel in the SCS that allows aqueous humor from within the eye to drain out of the eye through the alternative pathway.

There are normally two pathways for the aqueous humor fluid to leave the eye. The dominant path is through a structure known as the trabecular meshwork, which is located at the front of the eye. The lesser pathway is through the SCS, which normally has only a very small gap. In glaucoma, the dominant pathway is blocked, so to lessen pressure, treatments are created to open the lesser pathway enough to let the aqueous humor flow out.

In this research, the hydrogel props open the SCS path. A hollow microneedle less than a millimeter long is used to inject a droplet (about 50 microliters) of the hydrogel-precursor material. That gel structure can keep the SCS pathway open for a period of months.

“We inject a viscous material and keep it at the site of the injection at the interface between the back of the eye and the front of the eye where the suprachoroidal space begins,” Prausnitz said. “By opening up that space, we tap a pathway that would not otherwise be utilized efficiently to remove liquid from the eye.”

The injection would take just a few minutes, and would involve a doctor making a small injection just below the surface of the eye in combination with numbing and cleaning the injection site. In the study, the researchers, including veterinary ophthalmologist and first author J. Jeremy Chae, did not observe significant inflammation resulting from the procedure.

The pressure reduction was sustained for four months. The researchers are now working to extend that time by modifying the polymer material — hyaluronic acid — with a goal of providing treatment benefits for at least six months. That would coincide with the office visit schedule of many patients.

“If we can get to a twice-a-year treatment, we would not disrupt the current clinical process,” Prausnitz said. “We believe the injection could be done as an office procedure during routine exams that the patients are already getting. Patients may not need to do anything to treat their glaucoma until their next office visit.”

Beyond extending the time between treatments, the researchers will need to demonstrate that the injection can be repeated without harming the eye. The procedure will also have to be tested in other animals before moving into human trials.

“The idea of having a ‘one-and-done’ treatment that lasts for six months would be particularly helpful for those whose access to healthcare is non-optimal,” Ethier said. “Having a long-acting therapy would have an additional advantage during times of pandemic or other disruption when access to healthcare is more difficult.”

This research was supported by a grant from the National Eye Institute (R01 EY025286) and by the Georgia Research Alliance. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies.

Mark Prausnitz serves as a consultant to companies, is a founding shareholder of companies, and is an inventor on patents licensed to companies developing microneedle-based products (Clearside Biomedical). These potential conflicts of interest have been disclosed and are being managed by Georgia Tech. J. Jeremy Chae, Jae Hwan Jung, Ethier, and Prausnitz are listed as co-inventors on an IP filing related to this study.

CITATION: J. Jeremy Chae, et al., “Drug-free, Non-surgical Reduction of Intraocular Pressure for Four Months After Suprachoroidal Injection of Hyaluronic Acid Hydrogel.” (Advanced Science, 2020) https://doi.org/10.1002/advs.202001908

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu)

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1607369225 2020-12-07 19:27:05 1607369444 2020-12-07 19:30:44 0 0 news Researchers have developed a potential new treatment for the eye disease glaucoma that could replace daily eyedrops and surgery with a twice-a-year injection to control the buildup of pressure in the eye. The researchers envision the injection being done as an office procedure that could be part of regular patient visits.

2020-12-07T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-07T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-07 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

(404) 894-6986

641902 641903 641902 image <![CDATA[Close-up of Eye]]> image/jpeg 1607368440 2020-12-07 19:14:00 1607368440 2020-12-07 19:14:00 641903 image <![CDATA[Microneedle and eye]]> image/jpeg 1607368518 2020-12-07 19:15:18 1607368518 2020-12-07 19:15:18
<![CDATA[McCamish Foundation Commitment Funds Research of Parkinson’s Disease at Georgia Tech and Emory ]]> 35059 Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year, and more than 10 million people worldwide are living with the disease, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation (parkinson.org).

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University have received a landmark commitment to accelerate the scope and impact of Parkinson’s disease studies and to position Georgia as a hub for collaborative research on this and other neurological diseases.

The multiyear commitment from the McCamish Foundation will drive transformational research that harnesses science, engineering, and technology at Georgia Tech and Emory to better analyze the complexities of the brain and transform the treatment of Parkinson’s and other disorders of the nervous system. The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), an academic collaboration between Georgia Tech and Emory, is uniquely positioned to lead this new kind of translational neuroscience discovery driven by engineering innovation.

“For 22 years, Georgia Tech and Emory University have collaborated to improve the lives of individuals diagnosed with many of the world’s most challenging diseases. Through the sustained support of transformational philanthropy, the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering has become a national model for academic partnerships,” said Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera. “This visionary and generous commitment from the McCamish Foundation will allow us to expand and accelerate collaboration and discovery to the point that an exciting new treatment for Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders could be within our reach.”

Emory President Gregory L. Fenves added, “This generous commitment will enable Emory and Georgia Tech to build on our powerful biomedical partnership as we work to combat Parkinson’s and other devastating neurological diseases. New treatments and cures require a deep commitment — I am grateful for our friends at the McCamish Foundation who will help us make the progress and find the answers that patients and families so urgently need.”

Gordon Beckham Jr. has felt the impact of Parkinson’s personally, with the loss of his father, Hank McCamish, to the disease. Beckham now sits on the board of directors of the Parkinson’s Foundation and works to raise awareness to beat the disease. He said his goal is to build a strong research community in Georgia that will create new frontiers in the treatment of the degenerative disease.

“The McCamish Foundation has been in discussions on and off with Georgia Tech, since my dad’s passing, about innovative approaches to dealing with Parkinson’s,” said Beckham, CEO of the Atlanta-based McCamish Group LLC and president of the McCamish Foundation. “We have always been impressed by the amazing depth of talent at Tech.”

The McCamish name is well-known at Georgia Tech. Alumnus Hank McCamish, IM 1950, is the namesake of Tech’s basketball arena, McCamish Pavilion. Over the years, the family has supported numerous causes at Georgia Tech. This commitment is one of the largest in the Institute’s history and is the first of its kind for the Institute.

“More recently, we met Susan Margulies and learned of the formal biomedical engineering collaboration between Tech and Emory, two of the top institutions in the country in their respective fields,” Beckham said. “At the same time, the University of Georgia (UGA) is making major investments in Parkinson’s research. Given all this momentum within the state of Georgia, with BME as a nexus, the McCamish Foundation felt the timing was right to try something new at Tech and Emory while also leveraging the existing powerful collaboration between Tech, Emory, and UGA.”

“We already participate in robust research collaborations with Georgia Tech and Emory,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “We look forward to expanding our partnerships in order to leverage the complementary strengths of our three institutions to bring new hope to those who suffer from this terrible disease.”

Beckham said The McCamish Foundation dreams of a day when all Parkinson’s related conversations begin with, “Remember when.”

The McCamish commitment will support faculty research on neurological diseases, including establishing a seed fund to support high-risk, high-reward research ventures. It will also provide fellowships for graduate students and create regular interactions among researchers at Tech, Emory, and UGA, including an annual national conference focused on Parkinson’s disease. The idea is to give researchers space to collaborate and brainstorm unconventional ideas that hold the greatest promise for significant discoveries.

“Our vision is to create the next frontier in neuroscience and neurotechnology by confronting the enormous complexities of the dynamic brain and nervous system,” said Susan Margulies, the Wallace H. Coulter Professor and Chair in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “Our brains engage with, adapt to, and are influenced by the world around us. Studying the changing chemical and electrical brain dynamics is a direct path to detecting and treating Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.”


About the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering is a partnership between Georgia Tech and Emory University. Combining the best of research and education, the department is dedicated to improving health and well-being by creating medical breakthroughs driven by engineering innovation and translational research. To learn more, visit bme.gatech.edu

]]> Denise Ward 1 1607360597 2020-12-07 17:03:17 1607438739 2020-12-08 14:45:39 0 0 news 2020-12-07T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-07T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-07 00:00:00 Denise Ward
Institute Communications

641897 641896 641897 image <![CDATA[Susan Margulies]]> image/jpeg 1607360165 2020-12-07 16:56:05 1607360165 2020-12-07 16:56:05 641896 image <![CDATA[U.A. Whitaker Building]]> image/jpeg 1607360043 2020-12-07 16:54:03 1607360043 2020-12-07 16:54:03
<![CDATA[Brenda Morris Wins COE Culture Champion Award]]> 28153 When Brenda Morris left her teaching job in Cobb County and came to the Georgia Institute of Technology in August 1996, right after the Summer Olympics left town, she worked in the Center for Distance Learning.

“I have literally come full circle,” says Morris, corporate relations manager for the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, who is retiring Dec. 31st. “Because here we are 25 years later, back to distance learning.”

In 2020, a global pandemic has redefined the way a college education is delivered and acquired, and redefined Morris’s life. She lost both of her parents. She’s making a major life change, leaving a job she’s loved. But this year will remain clear in Morris’s hindsight for at least one other reason – she is the winner of this year’s College of Engineering Culture Champion Award at Georgia Tech, where Morris has worked in the BME department for the past three years, exemplifying her personal credo, “Propelling students to success one connection at a time.”

In his nomination letter for Morris, BME Associate Chair Paul Benkeser quoted an undergraduate student who said, “Every biomedical engineering student knows Brenda. They know her as someone who can help find opportunities for their careers, but many also know her as someone to go to when there’s nowhere else to go. For a student, Georgia Tech’s culture stems from the faculty and staff they meet … Taking our first steps into the adult world is much easier when there is someone to go to who can answer questions, guide us, and help us make sense of our new world. Brenda is that person for me and for countless other students.”

“It’s very humbling, and I absolutely love the idea that this the ‘Culture Award,’” says Morris, who has built her career at Tech around providing what she calls, “old school customer service. That means I’m going to help them night or day, during hours, after hours. It’s about prioritizing and responding quickly, making people feel welcome.”


Spidey Sense

When she sees a guest in the lobby of the Whitaker Building, BME’s headquarters on the Georgia Tech campus, Morris can quickly figure out if the person is lost and looking. “It’s like a Spidey sense,” Morris says, “knowing if something looks out of place.”

Since joining BME, Morris has worked consistently to develop initiatives to improve the department’s 1,200 undergraduate students’ professional skills. She’s engaged employers, faculty, and staff in the process, and has proven equally adept at communicating with each group. According to Benkeser, when Morris developed a professional development course as part of BME’s Galway Summer Abroad Program, “she needed to inspire more than 10 biomedical industry professionals, as well as eight BME faculty and staff to give up their time to assist her with the course. In the process she created a course that has become the glue that holds this program together.”

In her letter of support, BME Chair Susan Margulies wrote, “Brenda’s commitment to building community extends far outside her professional responsibilities,” and goes on to list some of Morris’s good works, including serving in the FASET Orientation program each year, helping to launch Georgia Tech’s ‘Girl Up’ organization, participating in different campus groups, such as Women in STEM and Project ENGAGES, among many other activities. “Brenda knows the value of building and maintaining relationships for the benefit of our students and the department as a whole,” Margulies wrote.

Perhaps the most meaningful support in the nomination process came from outside Georgia Tech. “Brenda builds trust by empowering others on her team to do the right thing and her incredibly successful expansion of the departmental career fair is a great example of the fact that she is highly team oriented and collaborative with her colleagues,” said Walt Baxter, a 1993 Tech graduate (mechanical engineering) and senior principal scientist for Meditronic, whose son is a current BME undergrad.

“Brenda works very long hours to make sure that the highly visible career fair is seamless to employers,” added Baxter, who served as chair of the Coulter Department’s industry advisory board for several years. “When congratulated afterwards, she replies by pulling in a nearby student volunteer to say, ‘thank you and we couldn’t have done it without our fabulous students!’ Such moments usually generate a handshake and a phone call to later connect with the student volunteer. [Brenda] is an incredibly humble servant leader of corporate relations and I greatly appreciate her contagious leadership style.”

With her well-earned retirement on the near horizon, Morris is looking forward to volunteering in her community, reading, taking long walks with her greyhound, and traveling. Not surprisingly, she says, “I plan to stay busy.”



]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1606323367 2020-11-25 16:56:07 1606335277 2020-11-25 20:14:37 0 0 news Retiring BME corporate relations manager has spent her career at Tech connecting students with opportunities

2020-11-25T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-25T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-25 00:00:00 641653 641653 image <![CDATA[Brenda Morris]]> image/jpeg 1606323169 2020-11-25 16:52:49 1606323169 2020-11-25 16:52:49
<![CDATA[Sponsored Projects Earn Top Spots at Capstone]]> 28153 By Ben Wright

Capstone Senior Design students faced an extra challenge this semester- how to show off their projects without the aid of a physical prototype or an in-person demonstration. The Fall 2020 Capstone Expo took place online, using two Georgia Tech startup platforms- Gatherly and RocketJudge.

Groups that had worked together over the last four months used videos and slide presentations to demonstrate what they had learned as they developed their own ideas or tackled challenges brought to them by sponsors. From campus swing space allocation to environmentally sound lawn watering solutions to improved surgical procedures, more than 600 students from 117 teams and six different schools put their skills to the test to come up with inventive solutions while dealing with the challenges of doing group projects during a pandemic.

"Our project had a lot of physical components combined with software" said Andre Jaberi, whose team Lazy Lawn won the award for best electrical and computer engineering project. "Trying to coordinate that across the team with us scattered in different locations was very challenging, so we learned to play off each other's strengths to overcome our weaknesses. It was a real lesson in teamwork."

The best overall project award went to T-Titans, a group of computer engineering and mechanical engineering majors who were sponsored by the 75th Rangers Regiment. The Rangers were looking for a way to improve the range of their Unmanned Ground Vehicle- a tool they use to assess dangerous situations without putting themselves in harm's way. The team's challenge was to extend the transmission range from the vehicle to the operator from 30 meters to 150 meters. Their solution involved a series of range-enhancing pucks that could be dropped in sequence by the UGV. The vehicle has been tested at Fort Benning and the teams hope is that the project will be further developed and used by the Rangers. 

Asked what the biggest lesson they learned during the project was team member Carmen Dyck who replied that they were able to accomplish more than they expected by breaking the project into components. Emily Toomer, a mechanical engineering major from Suwanee, Georgia, added that "For a lot of us this was a new technology that we never heard of or worked with before," which led to a steep learning curve at the onset of the project. 

The best team from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, the Brainy Bunch (sponsored by the Mayo Clinic) developed a device for practicing microsurgical skills (including cortical mapping) outside the operating room. The Incredibles, which featured three BME students, took the top prize in the Interdisciplinary competition.

Like their fellow competitors, The Incredibles, was able to make their sponsor very happy. The group of mechanical, electrical, and biomedical engineering majors worked with Dr. Zander Prewitt, an emergency room doctor at Emory, to design a minimally invasive treatment for cardiac arrest that involves inserting a balloon next to the heart and then inflating the balloon to exert pressure on the heart, sending more blood to the brain. The project was daunting according to biomedical engineering major Caitlin Nycum, from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

"This was something that had never been done before and we had absolutely no idea if it was going to work, so going from the ideation phase to cadaver testing and porcine testing and then analyzing results was a lot to do in one semester."

In the end, how would they describe Dr. Prewitt's reaction? 

"He was ecstatic. He was very enthusiastic and excited to move forward," said Devin Jackson, a mechanical engineering major from Chesapeake, Virginia.

As Capstone wrapped up for another semester and students finished their once-in-a-lifetime course students said good-bye to one another via webcam as they prepared to head home for Thanksgiving Break and a semester that will finish online.

Reflecting back on her Capstone experience, Yui-Ting Tarn, who was on the winning industrial design team offered some words of wisdom that future Capstone teams would be smart to listen to.

"One thing that we found is that having a good team really does make the difference between enjoying your experience or just completing the project."



Biomedical Engineering - The Brainy Bunch

Faith Colaguori, Tampa, FL
Maite Marin-Mera, Rancho Viejo, TX
Megan McDonnell, Holland, PA
Rebecca Forry, Parker, CO

Electrical and Computer Engineering - Lazy Lawn

Andre Jaberi, Foxborough, MA
Mohammad Mursalin, Georgia
Steven Nguyen, Jefferson
Tyler French, Chapel Hill, NC
Zach Thompson, Keller, TX

Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering- Verizon Connects Telematics

Andres Amundson (ME), Newport News, VA
Julia Pokrzywa (ID), Carlisle, PA
Stephanie Lewis (ID), Glenelg, MD
Yui-Ting Tarn (ID), Newton, MA

Industrial and Systems Engineering - The Swing Space Champs

Abigail Nannis, Buford, GA
Chidambaram Kadiresan, Suwanee, GA
Makala Muhammed, Atlanta, GA
Prerna Balaji, Marietta, GA
Sarah Poff, Vestavia Hills, AL
Savannah Chunn, Suwanee, GA
Sena Sennaroglu, Istanbul, Turkey
Zachary Hess, Lancaster, PA

Mechanical Engineering - DIY Engineering

Aidan McGannon, Brooklyn, CT
Max Zegers, Weston CT
Ryan Grigsby, Woodstock, GA
Shane Walker, Mount Sinai, NY
Zachary Shear, Mound, MN


Best Interdisiciplinary Team - The Incredibles

Asad Abbas (BME), Roswell, GA
Caitlin Nycum (BME), Ft. Wayne, IN
Caroline Tanzy (BME), Atlanta, GA
Devin Jackson (ME), Chesapeake, VA
Logan Coon (EE), Columbia, MD

Best Overall Project - T-Titans

Carmen Dyck (CmpE), Marietta, GA
Emily Toomer (ME), Suwanee, GA
Isaac Davis (ME), Canon, GA
Nuri Sinha (ME), Alpharetta, GA
Omari Hodge (CmpE) Braselton, GA
Timothy Foster (ME), Manchester, NH

People's Choice Award (based on more than 2,000 total votes) - Emission Experts

August Stapf (IE), Augusta, GA
Geneva Rumer (IE), Alpharetta, GA
John Carroll (IE), Columbus, GA
Josh White (IE), Milton, GA
Maggie Monahan (IE), Champaign, IL
Michael Saia (IE), Jackson, TN
Natalie Lucco (IE), Woodstock, GA
William Salzano (IE), Dix Hills, NY

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1606232729 2020-11-24 15:45:29 1606262347 2020-11-24 23:59:07 0 0 news The Brainy Bunch takes the prize in BME; The Incredibles, with three BME students, is top Interdisciplinary team

2020-11-24T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-24T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-24 00:00:00 641626 641627 641626 image <![CDATA[BrainyBunch]]> image/jpeg 1606232281 2020-11-24 15:38:01 1606232281 2020-11-24 15:38:01 641627 image <![CDATA[The Incredibles]]> image/jpeg 1606232349 2020-11-24 15:39:09 1606232349 2020-11-24 15:39:09
<![CDATA[InVenture Prize Mixes Virtual Rounds Into 2021 Competition]]> 27446 The live finals will still happen — and still air on GPB stations across Georgia. The preliminary and semifinal rounds are on track, too. And in the end, one student invention will win $20,000, a patent filing, and a spot in the CREATE-X Startup Launch program.

The road to the 2021 InVenture Prize will be different, but the pandemic won’t stop the 13th edition of Georgia Tech’s signature invention competition from recognizing the best new ideas from students across campus.

“In the most challenging and turbulent of times, when societal problems become magnified, is often when we see human ingenuity become hyper-focused and some of the most impactful innovations are realized,” said Chris Reaves, executive director in the Office of Undergraduate Education. “We look forward to offering this year’s InVenture Prize as it will provide a platform to showcase our students’ work to the world and celebrate their determination and creativity, even in the most taxing of environments.”

Among the key changes this year: virtual presentations and judging in the preliminary and semifinal rounds, which presented the opportunity to capitalize on Georgia Tech students’ creativity in a new way. The virtual rounds will use two platforms created by Tech students — Gatherly and RocketJudge — for meeting with competitors and for judges to submit their assessments of the teams.

“In a world of constant disruptions and innovation challenges, the InVenture Prize has been able to pivot and embrace these disruptions,” said Nakia Melecio, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Advanced Technology Development Center, “and what’s helped make that possible are the virtual tools Gatherly and RocketJudge, platforms created by some fantastic Georgia Tech students.”

Applications for the 2021 competition are open now on the InVenture Prize website, and the competition will move briskly toward the finals:

Students who compete get help with prototyping, implementing their business, formulating their pitch, and understanding the patenting process. Teams can sign up to be paired with an innovation coach through IdeaBuzz, where they’ll learn about practical steps they can use to develop their idea. Students also can join a preexisting team or recruit members for their team through Cofounder Buzz. Teams also can apply for grants up to $500 to help cover the costs of building prototypes.

“Within our dynamic workforce and economy, innovation and entrepreneurship are skillsets that allow students to create their own opportunities,” said Joy Harris, associate director of the CREATE-X LEARN program. “The InVenture Prize is one of the most influential experiences for students because of how this competition fosters and facilitates these two skillsets.”

Todd Sulchek, an InVenture Prize faculty advisor, said the competition has helped spark a thriving ecosystem of student innovation and invention, and it “remains the preeminent competition at Tech, reaching an audience of tens of thousands, connecting with investors and customers alike, and inspiring future inventors from elementary to high school.”

All told, the InVenture Prize competition awards $35,000 in prize money, including an audience-voted People’s Choice Award. Last year, Queues won first place for an app that gives students live wait times at campus dining spots and helps restaurants plan for the ebbs and flows of demand. During the pandemic, Queues has pivoted to also offer live wait times at Covid-19 testing sites on the Georgia Tech campus. Aerodyme Technology won second place and has gone on to win the TiE University Global Pitch Competition.

“Over the past 12 years, the InVenture Prize has inspired inventors and audiences alike to dream about changing the world with their inventions,” said InVenture Prize co-founder Craig Forest, who leads the CREATE-X MAKE program. “We are more committed than ever to host this competition in 2021, not in spite of, but because of the global challenges that society faces.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1605709039 2020-11-18 14:17:19 1605709391 2020-11-18 14:23:11 0 0 news The road to the 2021 InVenture Prize will be different, but the pandemic won’t stop the 13th edition of Georgia Tech’s signature invention competition from recognizing students' best new ideas.

2020-11-18T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-18T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-18 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart


641401 641401 image <![CDATA[InVenture Prize Trophies]]> image/jpeg 1605708556 2020-11-18 14:09:16 1605708556 2020-11-18 14:09:16 <![CDATA[InVenture Prize]]> <![CDATA[Apply for Prototype Awards]]> <![CDATA[IdeaBuzz]]> <![CDATA[CoFounder Buzz]]>
<![CDATA[Teaching During a Pandemic]]> 28153 Joe Le Doux’s philosophy to teaching his classes in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University is, “connection before content.”

Currently executive director for Training and Learning in the Coulter Department, Le Doux has won number awards for his teaching curriculum.

But these are challenging times on campus for both students and faculty at Georgia Tech. Classes are mostly remote, and if hybrid classes are offered, very few students show up in-person, opting instead for the safety of their dorm rooms.

The College of Engineering at Georgia Tech recently profiled Le Doux and several of his colleagues, spotlighting four classes that were successfully taught this semester, largely due to the care and commitment of the professors.

Read the whole story on the College of Engineering website, right here.


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1606148753 2020-11-23 16:25:53 1606148988 2020-11-23 16:29:48 0 0 news Joe Le Doux Uses Technology and Surveys to Keep BME Students Engaged

2020-11-23T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-23T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-23 00:00:00 641564 641564 image <![CDATA[Joe Le Doux]]> image/jpeg 1606148671 2020-11-23 16:24:31 1606148671 2020-11-23 16:24:31
<![CDATA[Georgia Tech Launches New Strategic Plan]]> 35221 Georgia Tech has launched its new strategic plan, which presents a shared vision for the next decade, leading with motto, “Progress and Service for All”.  

The ambitious goals and bold actions of the plan prioritizes six key areas: 

To view the full plan, visit https://strategicplan.gatech.edu.  

]]> mwilliams457 1 1605815021 2020-11-19 19:43:41 1605877824 2020-11-20 13:10:24 0 0 news Georgia Tech has launched its new strategic plan, which presents a shared vision for the next decade, leading with motto, “Progress and Service for All”.  

2020-11-19T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-19T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-19 00:00:00 Malynda Dorsey
Director of IT Marketing & Communications
Office of Information Technology

641450 641450 image <![CDATA[Georgia Tech Strategic Plan]]> image/png 1605814995 2020-11-19 19:43:15 1605814995 2020-11-19 19:43:15
<![CDATA[BME Students With Something Up Their Sleeves]]> 28153 Mike Pullen was a high school football wide receiver when he first conjured the idea that became LZRD Tech.

“There wasn’t a good way to protect a wide-receiver’s arms from turf burn,” says Pullen, a senior in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Tech and Emory University (BME).

“There are plenty of protective sleeves, but they’re slick, which makes it easy to drop the football,” Pullen explains. “I wanted to make something that would help protect an athlete from turf burn, and also secure the ball.”

The idea evolved in his Materials Science and Engineering of Sports class at Georgia Tech, where he and fraternity brother Mat Quon (a 2019 BME graduate) developed the concept, and course instructor Jud Ready’s enthusiastic support kept the momentum going. They filed a provisional patent, made prototypes, and started a company – LZRD Tech, with Pullen as CEO, Quon as COO, and Ready as CTO.

“We designed it for athletes, but once the pandemic hit last spring, sports came to a standstill,” says Pullen, Pullen says. “We had to find other applications for this product.” And they have. Football players aren’t the only people who have to handle and hold objects as part of their job description – package delivery people, warehouse workers, construction workers.

The LZRD Tech team benefited from a summer in Georgia Tech’s CreateX program, says Pullen, who still has his BME Capstone Design experience ahead and plans to compete for the Inventure Prize at Georgia Tech. He hopes to go to med school, but in the meantime he’s busy running a company whose protective sleeve is being given a trial run by UPS. FedEx also has shown interest. And the fledgling company is already getting media attention.

It started as a product for athletes made by athletes – Pullen, who worked in sports medicine for the Atlanta Falcons and Yellow Jackets football team, plays lacrosse at Tech in his spare time, and Quon is an ice hockey player. “But it become something else,” Pullen said. “I think what makes it appealing is, it’s a universal product. Who carries things? Almost everybody.”


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1605820529 2020-11-19 21:15:29 1605876401 2020-11-20 12:46:41 0 0 news How an idea generated during high school football became a startup company

2020-11-19T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-19T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-19 00:00:00 641456 641457 641456 image <![CDATA[Mike Pullen]]> image/jpeg 1605820841 2020-11-19 21:20:41 1605820841 2020-11-19 21:20:41 641457 image <![CDATA[Mat Quon]]> image/jpeg 1605820898 2020-11-19 21:21:38 1605820985 2020-11-19 21:23:05
<![CDATA[Flicker Treatment for Alzheimer’s Gets a Test Run]]> 28153 Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University have reported promising results from a small initial human feasibility trial studying the effects of flickering light and pulses of sound in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Annabelle Singer, the principal investigator from Georgia Tech, presented the work on Friday, Oct. 9, at the American Neurological Association annual meeting.

“This stimulation harnesses our brain’s natural tendency to entrain to stimuli, to then manipulate neural activity, recruit the brain’s immune system, and clear pathogens,” Singer explained to a virtual audience in her recorded video presentation.

The work is based on previous animal studies by Singer and her colleagues, in which they discovered that a light flickering at 40 hertz (40 cycles per second) stimulates gamma waves, significantly cutting down on amyloid beta, an Alzheimer’s pathogenic hallmark. Gamma waves are associated with high-level cognitive functions, like perception and memory. Disruptions to these kinds of brain waves have been found in various neurological disorders.

“We found that one hour of gamma stimulation reduced amyloid beta and recruited microglia, the primary immune cells of the animals’ brains,” said Singer, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory. She added that the treatment, “even rescued spatial memory behavior in mice. That led to our next key question. Does this translate to humans?”

To answer that question, Singer initiated the Phase I feasibility trial with James Lah, principal investigator of the study for Emory, where he is associate professor and vice chair in the Department of Neurology and director of the Cognitive Neurology Program.

“We went into this preliminary pilot study with the primary goal of learning whether or not sustained use of this device would be tolerable in humans, and whether or not people would use it,” Lah explained. “The results were promising. Everybody tolerated the devie and we were able to tune it to the level of light and sound that was not only tolerable, but successfully provoked the underlying brain response that was desired.”

The initial feasibility study, an eight-week trial entitled, “Gamma Sensory Flicker for Patients with Prodromal Alzheimer’s Disease: A Phase I Trial,” involved 10 people who were organized into two groups of five each. One group underwent no flicker treatments for the first four weeks, followed by four weeks of treatment. The other group received eight weeks of flicker treatments.

First, the research team assessed the safety of treatment, which required participants to wear an experimental visor and head phones that exposed them to 40 Hz of light and sound. There were no overall severe adverse events among participants during pre-trial screening, in the study, or during the 10-month open label extension (some patients volunteered to continue being monitored and assessed). There were some mild adverse effects that could be flicker related (dizziness, tinnitus, headache, worsened hearing loss). But overall, Singer said, the safety profile was excellent.

Of major concern to the researchers was whether participants would tolerate the treatment, and stick with it over eight weeks or more. Again, Singer and her team were satisfied with the results: Most participants tolerated it well, and adherence was greater than 88 percent among all participants.

The researchers found that there were no clear changes in the presence of Alzheimer’s pathogens (amyloid beta and p-Tau), but saw strong EEG entrainment (brain wave synchronization) at 40 Hz when gauging participants’ neural responses during flicker, and a significant increase in neural network functional connectivity (which is weakened in Alzheimer’s) after eight weeks.

Also, as they had previously observed in studies with mice, the researchers noted the activity of cytokines (small proteins used in cell signaling), which indicated that flicker is also engaging the brain’s immune system in humans.

“These are interesting but preliminary biological effects of gamma flicker,” Singer said. “All of this is gearing us up for our next larger and longer study coming soon.”


The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health (R01-NS109226-01S1), by the Packard Foundation, the Friends and Alumni of Georgia Tech, the Lane Family, the Wright Family, and Cognito Therapeutics. Any findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the researchers and not necessarily of the sponsors.

Competing interests: Annabelle Singer owns shares in Cognito Therapeutics, which funded the human study at Emory Brain Health Center. Cognito aims to develop gamma stimulation-related products. These conflicts are managed by Georgia Tech’s Office of Research Integrity Assurance.



]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1605285554 2020-11-13 16:39:14 1605285554 2020-11-13 16:39:14 0 0 news Georgia Tech and Emory researchers collaborate on human feasibility trial

2020-11-13T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-13T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-13 00:00:00 641292 641292 image <![CDATA[Annabelle Singer]]> image/jpeg 1605285160 2020-11-13 16:32:40 1605285246 2020-11-13 16:34:06
<![CDATA[Exploring Blast Exposure and the Brain]]> 28153 By Zoe Elledge

Veterans of the United States Military characterize traumatic brain injury (TBI) as an “invisible wound of war.”  A large explosion from an improvised explosive device (IED) can cause a variety of head traumas – besides the damaging effect it has on the brain, soldiers will oftentimes injure their heads through violent impact with other objects inside a vehicle.

TBI research began to pick up traction in the biomedical community in the early 2000’s and is now a large topic of concern. The effects of repetitive, low-level blasts, such as those associated with the mortar and other concussive weapon systems, have gone relatively unexamined in the military sector, according to the US Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.  

Ranger mortarmen – or indirect fire infantrymen – can be expected to fire 100 to 200 mortar rounds a day during training and at least 200 rounds a day, every day for four months, during their deployment – a significant number of exposures. A single mortar blast will not cause as much damage as a high-impact explosion, but as the effects of these blasts add up over time, soldiers begin to report TBI symptoms.


Bring on the BMEs

A group of five students from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, Project Halo, collaborated with the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) this summer to find ways to test the effects of blast exposure and its correlation to TBI. They have transitioned this internship into their BME Capstone project.

The team partnered up with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning Military Base to gather data about low-level blast exposure. The Army Rangers community is at a significantly higher risk for TBI due to the increased frequency of training and deployments they experience in comparison to those who are not Special Forces.

“The problem that our project sponsors presented to us was that during training and deployment, the rangers were reporting symptoms like headaches, dizziness, ringing in their ears, and in some of the severe cases they felt nauseous and would vomit after a long day of firing mortars,” said Project Halo’s Jessica Nicholson, a fifth-year student.

The constant exposure to low level blasts becomes an occupational hazard for the Rangers, especially the mortarmen, who can fire these larger weapons systems for five to 10 years if they have a long career.

“The brain is already really confusing, especially with understanding how a single blast affects function, but understanding how over a span of 10 years a small blast can continually damage the brain is a really novel space in research and has not been significantly looked at,” said Project Halo’s Julia Woodall, a fifth-year student.

Nicholson and Woodall, along with fifth-years Jordyn Sak, Brady Bove, and Grace Trimpe, traveled to Fort Benning for a week in September to measure the physiological effects of low-level blasts from mortars and other weapons systems on the Rangers. They used blast gauges to measure the blast overpressure, pupilometers to measure pupillary light reflex in the soldiers, and symptom questionnaires before and after training.


Above and Beyond

The team made a major contribution to the NSIN’s goal of defense innovation, according to Dana Sanford, NSIN X-Force program manager.

“Jessica, Grace, Brady, Julia and Jordyn were professional, committed, enthusiastic, and passionate about their work,” said Sanford. “In addition to providing excellent research on traumatic brain injuries for the 3/75th Ranger Regiment, they also were wonderful contributors and leaders for our X-Force Fellowship. They routinely went above and beyond what we asked to help create a culture of innovative National Security problem solvers.”

The team plans to use its research on blast exposure to prototype a blast attenuator, which fits over the muzzle of a mortar. “The blast attenuator will mitigate the blast overpressure exposure of the gunner and assistant gunner in a ducking position directly beside the mortar while the mortar fires,” said Nicholson. The team will use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling to test various prototypes and assess the alleviation of blast exposure on soldiers manning the mortar.

Outside of using its research for a Capstone prototype the team is interested in publishing its findings to motivate more research about blast exposure effects and inform others who are interested in creating solutions to this understudied issue.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1605106808 2020-11-11 15:00:08 1605106808 2020-11-11 15:00:08 0 0 news Five biomedical engineering students spent the summer working with the National Security Innovation Network

2020-11-11T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-11T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-11 00:00:00 641201 641204 641201 image <![CDATA[Fort Benning team]]> image/jpeg 1605106338 2020-11-11 14:52:18 1605106338 2020-11-11 14:52:18 641204 image <![CDATA[Fort Benning 2]]> image/jpeg 1605106547 2020-11-11 14:55:47 1605106547 2020-11-11 14:55:47
<![CDATA[Student Stories: Yukina Yajima]]> 28153 Sometimes, when everyone else in the house is sleeping, Yukina Yajima is burning the post-midnight oil, studying biomechanics in the single digit morning hours, along with the rest of her classmates in BMED 3410. It’s because she is based in Tokyo, Japan, and the class is based in Atlanta, at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“I have some synchronous classes that I attend in the middle of the night,” admitted Yajima early in the fall semester. A third-year undergraduate student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, she has another class at 4:30 a.m., Japan standard time, that is recorded for later viewing, “but it’s a class that is helpful to attend real-time and ask questions, so I try to attend as much as possible,” she said. “I’ve started to try to adjust to Atlanta time and get sleep during the day since meetings and events for the three clubs I’m in, and sorority chapters, also happen early in the morning Japan time.”

This is her university experience in the pandemic age, which is an age of adjustment for a young woman who has grown used to making adjustments in her life. Born in Luxembourg, her father’s job moved the family to Japan when she was in kindergarten, to Mexico when she was in middle school, then back to Japan. She moved to the U.S. three years ago to come to Georgia Tech and threw herself into campus life.

“I miss being with the people at Georgia tech, and just being able to spend time with my friends, studying in the Bio Quad, spending the weekends going to football or baseball games, picnics and concerts,” said Yajima, who last saw the campus in May at the end of spring semester, just before she flew back to Japan. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom on campus, and she recalled, “It reminded me of home.”


• Tell us why you chose Georgia Tech and BME.

Science had always been my favorite subject, so by the time I was in high school I considered pursuing a field in STEM. Around the end of my junior year in high school, my interest in biology drove me to join my school’s team for the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, which is a worldwide synthetic biology competition with an annual Jamboree held in Boston. With my team, I conducted research for the first time to develop an early-detection system for colorectal cancer using bioengineering. I really enjoyed working together on a project with my teammates and presenting [the results]. I was amazed by how the rapidly-growing bioengineering field has a lot of potential to improve the lives of patients. So after doing some research, I learned about the BME major and some fascinating ongoing research projects within the department and decided to pursue a degree in BME at Georgia Tech.


• What were your thoughts about distance learning before the Covid pandemic?

I’d been interested in virtual learning even before the pandemic, and was actually considering taking [remote] courses in the future. Although I value the physical interactions between students and professors, I think virtual learning can be very effective. I find it helpful that pre-recorded lectures allow you to pause and re-watch whenever you need to, and I like that it’s easier to hear the professor well and see the writings clearly, whereas that might not always be the case for in-person lectures.


• Tell us how the virtual structure is working for you now.

I’m still getting used to the fully remote structure, but it’s been working out pretty well. The greatest challenge for me is adjusting to the huge time difference. Since Japan is 13 hours ahead of Atlanta, it’s been hard for me to manage my schedule to virtually attend synchronous classes and club meetings. Luckily, a lot of my courses have recorded lectures that I can watch outside of class time and assignments that are available for long time-windows, which have been extremely helpful for me in managing the time difference. However, this means that for most of my courses I don’t have a set time to watch lectures, so another challenge would be having to set my own schedule and be consistent with it to avoid falling behind in classes. As the vice president of the Japan Student Association, it’s also a challenge to create opportunities for members to learn about the Japanese culture and language as many of our traditional events and activities cannot be done virtually.


• What can you tell us about social distancing and how your family is coping with the pandemic in Japan?

The situation seems to be getting better gradually, although we seem to have just hit the peak of the second wave of infections and the number of cases are remaining high compared to the past few months, especially in Tokyo. I think the mask-wearing culture that existed here even before the pandemic is helping, but some public places are starting to get crowded. Luckily, my family has been healthy. We try to avoid going to crowded places, and we make sure to follow the social distancing guidelines and be cautious when going to public areas. Since staying at home for a long time can get tiring, my family and I like to drive to places that are not crowded and enjoy spending the time outdoors in nature on the weekends.


• Do you have advice for other students who are taking classes virtually?

Since online learning tends to give us a bit more freedom on when to watch lectures or complete assignments, my advice would be to set a manageable schedule for yourself and be consistent with your studying schedule. I had been struggling to keep up with my lectures, homework deadlines, and club meetings, so I started using Google Calendar to keep all information and plans in one place. I find it to be a helpful tool to organize my course schedule and meetings especially if you’re in a different time zone, as it has the option of displaying two time zones.


• What are your hopes for the future of your student experience, and your career?

When the pandemic calms down and it gets safer to be on campus, I’m hoping to fly back to Atlanta and continue my campus life at Georgia Tech. I miss the in-person interactions that I had during my first two years at Georgia Tech. In the future, I’m hoping to use my experiences and knowledge obtained from classes, research, and extracurricular activities at Georgia Tech to pursue a career in pharmaceutical or medical device industries to work towards bringing a positive impact in the lives of patients.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1604975538 2020-11-10 02:32:18 1605015308 2020-11-10 13:35:08 0 0 news BME Undergrad Burns the Late Night Oil on Japan Standard Time

2020-11-09T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-09T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-09 00:00:00 641167 641167 image <![CDATA[Yukina Yajima]]> image/jpeg 1604975142 2020-11-10 02:25:42 1604975142 2020-11-10 02:25:42
<![CDATA[BMED 4000: Curious Students Making Connections and Creating Value]]> 28153 Atharva Deshmukh had to share a story in front of his classmates in BMED 4000, ‘The Art of Telling Your Story,’ a required course for undergraduates in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University (BME). Deshmukh thought about the core values he wanted to convey, resilience and perseverance. Now there was nothing left to do but dive in.

He told the story about the time he almost drowned as a young boy while visiting his grandparents in his native India. “I was four, and I get to the pool, very excited. I’ve got my floaties on and I’m feeling great,” says Deshmukh, a senior. “I’m going back and forth across the pool, feeling like a champion, until …”

Until his instructor took off the floaties and he sank like a rock, 12 feet to the bottom. He doesn’t remember much about being four, but he remembers this clearly. He remembers, “my instructor and my grandfather diving down to get me. Then an irrational fear set in. I didn’t touch the water for years. I hated going to the beach, hated pool parties. I would not go anywhere near the water.”

His story could have ended there, with the fear. But his mother stepped in, buoyed his spirits, enrolled him in a YMCA swimming program. After a few tantrums, Deshmukh says, “I started liking it – loving it, actually. I got into summer swimming league at the neighborhood pool and it evolved from there. The more time and effort I put into it, the better I got. By the time I got to high school I was competing at the state level, something I never thought was possible.”

It felt good to share the story, to openly admit his childhood fear and especially to explain how he not only overcame it, but crushed it. His experience gets to the heart of why BMED 4000 has become a favorite class among BME undergrads.

“We’re all engineers, we all have tough courses, research, internships, a lot of pressure. Then you come into this class for two hours a week, and you’re able to sit down and think and reflect on yourself and what you’ve accomplished, and share, all in a safe place,” says Deshmukh, who took the class last year, when it was still, more or less, an elective, and taught in-person, before the pandemic.

Shae Padiyar, who took course in fall 2020, says the online version of BMED 4000, “is really a breath of fresh air. And even though the class is virtual, you really get to know your classmates. You really create some special bonds. Our cameras are always on, so you can’t hide. You have to make connections.”


The Three C’s

As if on cue, Padiyar has referred to one of the three C’s considered to be the key elements in the ‘entrepreneurial mindset,’ as defined by the Kern Family Foundation, which vigorously supports an entrepreneurial—or intrapreneurial—focus in engineering education. Georgia Tech became part of the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) two years ago, winning a $1.5 million KEEN Award to create a new way of fostering the entrepreneurial mindset in BME undergrads.

The three C’s are curiosity, connections, and creating value. The entrepreneurial mindset requires: curiosity about the world; connecting information from multiple sources to gain insights and manage risk; creating value for others.

Joe Le Doux, BME’s executive director of training and learning, has been the driving force behind what he calls, “story-based learning.” Le Doux made the connection with KEEN while attending the 2015 meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society in Tampa, where he ran into Doug Melton, KEEN program director, who was intrigued by Le Doux’s message about mentoring ‘intrapreneurs’ at Georgia Tech.

“An intrapreneur is someone who behaves like an entrepreneur within a larger organization, integrating risk-taking and innovation to solve problems,” Le Doux explains. “As it turned out, our goals at BME aligned with KEEN’s.”

And now, the foundation that is funding BME is using the same method in their training—KEEN takes a story-driven learning approach for one of its leadership programs. Also, other departments at Georgia Tech want in. The Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering and the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, along with Create-X (Georgia Tech’s student entrepreneurship program), are joining the Coulter Department in going after a second Kern Family Foundation grant. The concept has caught on at other institutions, too. James Madison University and Rochester Institute of Technology are joining with Georgia Tech in offering story-driven learning programs, thanks to seed grants from KEEN.

“I’m actually blown away by the enthusiasm,” Le Doux says. “When we got this course approved in the department, there wasn’t a single no vote.”

In the BME course catalog, BMED 4000’s description reads, “Students will create a professional portfolio and develop the ability to pitch themselves to an audience to prepare themselves to begin their professional careers.”

And that’s all true. The students develop a portfolio, a collection of stories and experiences posted online with a personal biography, and visual elements and artifacts, such as images of report cards side by side to to illustrate how poor grades during freshman year became good grades by the end of sophomore year, “to demonstrate that freshman year didn’t define me, for example,” Deshmukh says. “There’s value in how you share your story with others, value in sharing your skills, experiences, and accomplishments.”

To help guide BME students through the process – because we are not always the most reliable narrators of our own stories, thanks to ‘imposter syndrome’ – Le Doux and his colleagues have brought in an acknowledged expert in the art of making story, award-winning Atlanta playwright/screenwriter Janece Shaffer.


Creating Impact

Shaffer has written character-driven plays that embrace a wide range of topics, which have been produced all over the country. She’s written and produced screenplays, has spent 20 years writing, editing, and marketing stories in different settings, for different organizations. All of this experience led to the 2016 launch of her company, StoryReady, the vehicle through which Shaffer collaborates with and guides companies and individuals to create impactful stories for personal and professional success.

Part of her job as the BMED 4000 instructor has been inspiring her students to overcome imposter syndrome – irrational feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt and intellectual fraudulence that persist despite evident success.

“This is one of the best BME departments in the country, so the students are hyper aware that they’ve made it into the room,” Shaffer says. “So it’s easy to feel like, ‘did I sneak in when no one noticed?’ But I know how hard they’ve worked just to earn their spot in this room. I know how high their expectations are, how badly they want to succeed. So my motivation is to create a place where they can breathe easy and feel part of a community.”

These are students who have been competing for most of their lives – competing with other students to be accepted into the best schools, the best programs. These are driven young people who nonetheless may struggle with self-doubt in the face of so much do-or-die competition, and risk. Adopting an entrepreneurial mindset requires some risk, though, and sharing personal stories can be a great training ground, because it is risky business, opening up the storyteller to all manner of feedback and external conclusions.

“But we don’t promote the idea of competing against each other in this course,” Shaffer says. “We can all struggle with the inner critic that holds onto everything we’ve done that’s been less than perfect. But the idea of being perfect is a down payment on being really disappointed. What we often think of as ‘failure’ is an accepted part of taking risks. As soon as we let go of the idea of being perfect, we can enjoy the process and celebrate the progress. And that’s when you see them exhale, and once they exhale, they are comfortable with taking risk.”

Shaffer is BMED 4000’s ringer, an experienced dramatist who can discuss with her students the deeper relevance of their stories, helping them connect the dots, “so that they see themselves in the best light, and develop a level of clarity and confidence so when somebody says, ‘hey, Atharva, tell us your story,’ you’re ready with with a response because you’ve spent time thinking about who you are and what you value and what you hope for yourself.”

In Atharva Deshmukh’s case, Shaffer notes, he could have ended his story with the struggle of nearly drowning, “but he was encouraged to explore and make larger connections,” she says. For instance, he became a swimming coach, inspiring athletes in the U.S. and abroad, and what began as a story of helplessness and fear became a narrative that illustrates the young man’s grit.

“Now when he meets an obstacle, he can apply that deep knowing and confidence to take on bigger challenges, make more impactful connections, and create even greater value,” Shaffer says.

From the start, Shaffer was amused by the idea of left brain vs. right brain, “that engineers are supposed to be left-brained linear thinkers. That’s a misconception, because they need all of that right-brained creativity. We want to hold tight to those creative impulses. They’re going to allow you to hear the needs of the population you’re serving, and achieve a level of empathy that will allow you to create and design more effectively.”


Changing the Room

In the wake of a global pandemic, Shaffer and her BMED 4000 colleagues have had to change the classroom and, to a degree, how the class is taught. Shaffer can’t make the class get up and explore the classroom space together any more, for one thing. Instead, she might ask them to explore the space in their own places, or send them on scavenger hunts to gather items that would help illuminate a story.

But since she took on the assignment at Georgia Tech, Shaffer always has been encouraged by what she calls, “the creativity in this room.” Her students are all focused engineers, schooled in numbers and the application of them. But they also are musicians, dancers, and at least one published poet – Brady Bove, a fifth year senior (now a teaching assistant for BMED 4000) who took the earliest incarnation of the course, recently published a book of her poetry, A Day of Humanity.

“I’ve always been a writer, but this course really did help me find my voice,” says Bove, whose book of story poems are based on personal reflection, and what she learned from her classmates.

Now that the class is being taught entirely online, and she is a T.A., Bove worried about losing the intimacy of the course that she so enjoyed. “But the students are taking their physical distance and striding right over that,” she says. “They are so open with their stories – everyone is heard. It’s been cool to see this evolution take place, to do the virtual breakout rooms, to meet one on one online, to see the positives and negatives of a virtual class as it develops.”

One assignment this year that struck a chord with her was based on the Humans of New York book and blog, in which students interviewed another classmate, then wrote about that person in the first-person, an empathy-building exercise that resonated with Bove, who says, “all of the poems in my book are different stories, told by someone who trusted me. It’s one thing to tell your own story, quite another to tell someone else’s, when trust is given. This course really helped me with that.”

Le Doux and his team have designed a course that promotes a student’s entrepreneurial mindset, “helping them see that they’re people who are curious, who make connections, and who create value,” Le Doux says. That is the intention. But there also are happy side effects – the ability to convey information effectively (good storytelling) can give a student a leg up when the time comes to apply for a job, or pitch an idea.

“I know the BME curriculum has helped prepare me to go into industry, but one thing that sets Georgia Tech engineers apart is an emphasis not just on hard skills – being able to do math or science,” Bove says. “But it’s also important to know how to work on teams, how to communicate effectively, how to tell not only your story, but to share information that might be very dry or difficult to understand. It’s an important balance.”

And some stories live beyond the telling. That’s the value added. That’s what Shae Padiyar discovered this fall when she was asked to tell a story that described a leadership moment. It happened just as Covid-19 was forcing students to stay home last spring, when Padiyar, who is president of the BME Student Advisory Board, got a call from an international student who had no place to go. Because some of her family is immunocompromised, Padiyar felt helpless. She couldn’t do anything personally to help her friend.  Her story was about the moment when she realized she realized that she had no control.

“I was very upset, feeling privileged to have a house, a place to stay, when others didn’t have that luxury,” says Padiyar, whose family lives in Cumming, about 45 minutes north of Atlanta. “I went to a playground in my neighborhood and it brought me back to being a child, when playgrounds were my safe place, my happy place. It made me realize that all students deserve a safe place, they shouldn’t be left with no place to go. That prompted me to start the Jacket Shelter Initiative.”

Still a work in progress, Padiyar has recruited fellow students who are working now to make the initiative become a real thing: a temporary living space for students. The response from her BMED 4000 classmates, to her story and the idea that sprang from it, was remarkable, she says. “Not only was I encouraged as a storyteller, but a lot of my classmates want to be part of the initiative. The power of this class is, it teaches students how to advocate for themselves, for their ideas, whether you’re communicating with a prospective employer, or in a competition, or on someone else’s behalf. It has not only rounded out my undergraduate education – I feel like it is the best class I’ve ever taken.”

Atharva Deshmukh brings it back to one of the all-important C-words – connection, but not so much about connecting concepts, but connecting human beings, and learning to do so in a safe space makes all the difference.

“It really feels like students were sharing things they wouldn’t share anywhere else,” he says. “Showing their vulnerability. That’s where this class sets itself apart from others. There were a few times when I got emotional. Not because of what I shared, but because of something that someone else shared. Inciting emotion in someone else, and forming that connection – that’s the art of storytelling.”


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1604335937 2020-11-02 16:52:17 1604336241 2020-11-02 16:57:21 0 0 news Popular course, ‘Art of Telling Your Story,’ provides biomedical engineers with valuable skills for personal and professional growth

2020-11-02T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-02T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-02 00:00:00 640873 640872 640873 image <![CDATA[BMED 4000 students]]> image/jpeg 1604335571 2020-11-02 16:46:11 1604335571 2020-11-02 16:46:11 640872 image <![CDATA[Shaffer and Le Doux]]> image/jpeg 1604335449 2020-11-02 16:44:09 1604335449 2020-11-02 16:44:09
<![CDATA[New Wave of Researchers Connecting Across the Miles]]> 28153 Last year, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University launched the Computational Neural Engineering Program (CNEP). Supported by the National Institutes of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a collection of world class faculty researchers is training a new generation of multidisciplinary researchers working at the intersection of computational neuroscience, data science, and clinical neurophysiology.

They all gathered, from a distance, for the CNEP’s first annual online retreat (September 25-26). The online event – which drew 18 grad students (trainees), 11 faculty members, two staff members, and three advisory board members from the neurotech industry – was sponsored by the Georgia Tech and Emory Neural Engineering Centers, and the Laney Graduate School at Emory.

The wide ranging of retreat foci took in science, technology, neuro-ethics, diversity and inclusion, with time for a neuro-themed quiz show. Meanwhile, second year PhD students – that new generation – presented their research, which focused on, among other things, topics such as machine learning methods for decoding brain activity, and brain imaging techniques for understanding Alzheimer’s disease. And a neuro-ethics exercise sparked a lively discussion about the societal impact of brain-enhancing technologies, with real-world examples.

In spite of the physical distance between the attendees, they found a sense of community, with plenty of break-out sessions that promoted multiple interactions. This included a team Jeopardy event over home-delivered pizza (which took some nifty coordination), and an interactive session on identity development, intersectionality, and privilege, and the affect how these things can have on professional, academic, and personal lives.

The retreat is just one facet of the training program currently being carried out remotely, according to the CNEP leadership team: Garrett Stanley and Lena Ting, professors in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory; Chris Rozell, professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Michael Borich, assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Physical Therapy (all four also are members of the Petit institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech).

Trainees and faculty are also taking part in monthly workshops and weekly seminars that focus on technical training and professional development.

With an award from NIBIB of nearly $1 million, CNEP was designed to take advantage of the explosive development of new tools for measurement and manipulation of nervous system function, with the goal of addressing challenges posed by the growing threat of neurological diseases and disorders on an expanding senior population. The program supports the development of PhD students in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, as well as Bioengineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Machine Learning at Tech, leveraging  the growing strength of Neural Engineering at both universities.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1604026627 2020-10-30 02:57:07 1604026627 2020-10-30 02:57:07 0 0 news Computational Neural Engineering Program at Georgia Tech and Emory holds first annual online retreat

2020-10-29T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-29T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-29 00:00:00 640788 640789 640788 image <![CDATA[CNEP Retreat]]> image/jpeg 1604026341 2020-10-30 02:52:21 1604026341 2020-10-30 02:52:21 640789 image <![CDATA[CNEP leaders]]> image/jpeg 1604026438 2020-10-30 02:53:58 1604026438 2020-10-30 02:53:58
<![CDATA[Annabelle Singer Wins Society for Neuroscience Award]]> 28153 WASHINGTON, D.C. — Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Annabelle Singer has been named a recipient of the prestigious Jannett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award from the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). It is one of four awards that SfN gives to leading researchers who have made significant contributions to the advancement of women in neuroscience.


“SfN is honored to recognize this stellar group of neuroscientists for both their groundbreaking research and their leadership in advancing women in neuroscience,” said SfN President Barry Everitt. “These women are dedicated to both innovative, creative approaches to scientific questions and mentoring, advocating, and being role models for young female and minority scientists. They have all already made significant contributions to their fields, developing new tools for research or therapeutic approaches.”


The Trubatch Award recognizes early-career researchers who have demonstrated great originality and creativity in their work. Singer, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and a member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech, was called out for her unique research in addressing Alzheimer’s disease.


Singer’s groundbreaking insights into the interaction between neural activity and immune function is providing a possible new therapeutic approach, utilizing flickering auditory and visual stimulation at specific frequencies to affect not only sensory areas but memory circuits, too. These oscillations trigger biochemical signals that mobilize the brain’s immune cells to help clean up molecular hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, like amyloid and hyperphosphorylated tau. Repeated stimulation also improved memory in mouse models.


Because of the non-invasive nature of the procedure, it is considered a promising candidate for treatment (Singer recently presented the results of a preliminary clinical trial in humans).


Also receiving a Trubatch Award was Markita Landry (assistant professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at the University of California-Berkeley), who developed probes that can measure chemical communication between neurons. Winners of the Trubatch Award receive a $2,000 prize.


Other SfN award winners were: Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar (University of Puerto Rico) and Barbara Shinn-Cunningham (Carnegie Mellon University), who won the Bernice Grafstein Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Mentoring; Courtney Miller (Scripps Research Institute) and Ghazeleh Sadri-Vakili (Harvard Medical School), who won the Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Award; and Kristen Harris (University of Texas-Austin) and Yasmin Hurd (Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai), who won the Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award.


The Society for Neuroscience is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.



]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1603819179 2020-10-27 17:19:39 1603819287 2020-10-27 17:21:27 0 0 news Georgia Tech/BME assistant professor recognized with career development honor for original, creative work

2020-10-27T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-27T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-27 00:00:00 634636 634636 image <![CDATA[Annabelle Singer, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory]]> image/jpeg 1587561629 2020-04-22 13:20:29 1587567475 2020-04-22 14:57:55
<![CDATA[Student Stories: Udai Mallepoola]]> 28153 By Zoe Elledge

Udai Mallepoola is a first-year student from Savannah, Georgia. He was born in India and has lived in many places in the United States, including Wichita, Kansas, and Little Rock, Arkansas. He has one brother who just turned 13. His father, a design engineer at TAAL Tech, encouraged Udai early on to explore his passion for video production, and that has evolved into Udai’s own YouTube channel called Something to Think About.


Udai already has a “dream project” lined up for himself – he wants to use his BME degree to work with brain-computer interfaces. “Our brains are the most complex machines in the universe,” he said. “And I want to use technology to further understand them.”


What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? My father has been keen about video production for years, and when I was in high school, he kept encouraging me to create my own videos. Growing up, I watched a lot of “edutainment” (education + entertainment) videos, and I realized that there aren’t too many teens creating that type of content, so I decided to try it out myself. I loved the idea of sharing my knowledge and interests in a creative, witty manner to a World Wide Web audience, and that’s how I started Something To Think About. For my videos, I do almost everything myself, from researching and script writing to editing and production. I want to create a community and bring people together with my work. I have contemplated making more videos in collaboration with others and having a small group of classmates to work with me so that I can upload content more frequently and with better quality once I am on campus.


Why did you choose BME at Georgia Tech? Going to a Georgia high school with an engineering program, my peers and I had Georgia Tech as our target school from day one. However, it wasn’t until I visited campus for CEISMC summer camp that I really began to fixate on Tech. I felt a sense of belonging on campus in just a couple days due to the friends I made and the vibrant urban setting. Being an in-state student, I knew that Tech would be the most practical option for me. I chose this major because my current goal is to work with brain-computer interfaces to improve the way we communicate and express ourselves as humans. Our brains are the most complex machines in the Universe, and I want to use technology to further understand them.


What is your experience with remote classes like? Which class is your favorite? I don’t think that online classes are ideal, but given the pandemic, I prefer any remote option over in-person. I do wish that I could interact with peers and professors face-to-face and have an in-person study group, but Georgia Tech’s online learning systems and my online friends have been very helpful to me. As for my favorite class, I actually do not know, although I enjoy my discussion driven ENGL 1101 course.


Do you have any advice for other students? One piece of advice I have is to reduce the number of apps you use as you start college (this is coming from a guy who owned a flip phone for much of high school, but that’s a different story). Personally, I like to do all my planning and notetaking with pen and paper, and while this advice may not suit all, I feel that such an approach can help reduce many distractions. That being said, I still feel that it is important to network and make friends with people in college, especially if you are doing classes remotely. I prefer joining smaller course and club specific GroupMe chats and focusing more on SMS text and phone calls to communicate rather than mobile apps.


What are your hopes for the future of your student experience and career? While I have several hopes for my student experience, the main ones are to begin research on my dream project and build and maintain healthy relationships with the peers and professors I will meet. My current career goal is to work for a neuro-prosthetics company for a few years and eventually start a company of my own. Afterwards, I would ideally want to use my earnings to implement programs and projects to better society.


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1603725036 2020-10-26 15:10:36 1603725036 2020-10-26 15:10:36 0 0 news First-year BME student ready to tackle his "dream project"

2020-10-26T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-26T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-26 00:00:00 640589 640589 image <![CDATA[Udai Mallepoola]]> image/jpeg 1603724849 2020-10-26 15:07:29 1603724849 2020-10-26 15:07:29
<![CDATA[Gates Foundation Supporting Wearable Tech in Ethiopia]]> 28153 Every semester a group of bioengineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology meets for lunch to play catch-up with each other, presenting their latest work, an informal show-and-tell. That’s how Rudy Gleason and W. Hong Yeo began a collaboration which has netted a $200,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

At this particular gathering, Gleason gave a presentation of his work – a safe, low-cost, easy-to-use (and develop) 3D camera (utilizing an X-Box gaming system) to assess the risk of obstructed labor for patients in Ethiopia. But after hearing Yeo’s presentation about wearable device technology, Gleason approached him and said, “’What if we use your technology to monitor the health of neonates in Africa?’ In a minute we came up with this idea.”

The idea is to use Yeo’s wireless, wearable device for continuous health monitoring of neonates (infants under four weeks of age), who have the highest risk of mortality, particularly in the developing world. Yeo is developing the soft electronic sensor system for the project.

“Over the last 20 to 30 years, we’ve done a pretty good job at reducing childhood mortality rates, but actually if you look at the neonatal mortality rates, they’ve almost flatlined,” said Gleason, an associate professor in both the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory University and the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Tech.

“This first month of life period is when about half of all child mortality happens and most of these neonatal deaths occur in the first week of life,” Gleason adds.

Yeo, assistant professor in the Woodruff School and the Coulter Department, has developed a small, wireless, wearable electronic device that would adhere on an infant’s chest like a Band-Aid and communicate to a tablet or smartphone to offer real-time, continuous monitoring of temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood oxygen concentration, with alarms for high risk conditions. It could provide timely indication to mothers and health care workers regarding hypothermia, apnea, asphyxia, respiratory distress, hypoxemia, oxygen oversaturation, neonatal infections, and sepsis. 

“The hospitals we work with in Ethiopia really don’t monitor [the infants] very often – there are often too few probes, and healthcare workers must go to each neonate and take measurements of heart rate and blood/oxygen as they have time,” said Gleason. “So, I thought if we have a device like this that can continuously monitor four key parameters – heart rate, respiration rate, blood/oxygen level, and temperature – we could identify at-risk neonates while there is still time to intervene. This could reduce neonatal mortality in low-resource settings like Ethiopia.”

The funding will support a clinical pilot study among 50 neonates in the Neonatal Unit at Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where Gleason and his research team will work with clinicians, engineers, and hospital staff to collect essential data, assess the efficacy, improve usability and participant acceptability, and assess the feasibility, market, and cost of local manufacturing of this all-in-one wearable device.

Leading the Ethiopian team are clinical researchers Asrat Demtse, who is a neonatologist, and Abebaw Fekadu, who heads up the Center for Innovative Drug Development and Therapeutic Trials for Africa (CDT-Africa, a sub-awardee on the Gates grant).

“We’re going to pilot this in hospitals, but I think the long-term version for this could be a first seven day-of-life baby monitor for at-risk newborns that a mother has connected to an app on her phone,” said Gleason. “That would be amazing. There’s a little bit of research between now and then to get that to work, but it can totally be an application. And even here in the U.S., we have sudden infant death syndrome, sleep apnea, etc. and this device could potentially catch all those things. I think this is an opportunity to save the lives of many babies.”


]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1603216265 2020-10-20 17:51:05 1604509343 2020-11-04 17:02:23 0 0 news Rudy Gleason and Hong Yeo collaborating on device for continuous health monitoring of at-risk infants

2020-10-20T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-20T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-20 00:00:00 640396 640395 640413 640396 image <![CDATA[Rudy Gleason]]> image/jpeg 1603205183 2020-10-20 14:46:23 1603205183 2020-10-20 14:46:23 640395 image <![CDATA[Neonates]]> image/png 1603205131 2020-10-20 14:45:31 1603205131 2020-10-20 14:45:31 640413 image <![CDATA[W. Hong Yeo]]> image/jpeg 1603215904 2020-10-20 17:45:04 1603215904 2020-10-20 17:45:04
<![CDATA[Susan Margulies Elected to National Academy of Medicine]]> 28153