Twelve Pitt students have been awarded a competitive fellowship from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program that will support their graduate research. Three of the students receiving this prestigious fellowship are from the labs of McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty members Takashi Kozai, PhD, Justin Weinbaum, PhD, and David Vorp, PhD. The winning bioengineering students are:
Jazlyn Gallego graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and is now a 2nd year PhD student in Biomedical Engineering studying under Dr. Kozai. Her current research interests are neural-tissue interface and the role of glial cells, specifically microglia cells, within major depressive disorder. Her hope is to find alternative clinical therapies and understand more about the root cause of depression. Ms. Gallego recently presented her work at the Gordon Research Conference and is currently working on a microglia review publication.
Amanda Pellegrino is from Yardley, Pennsylvania. As an undergraduate, she received degrees in biomedical engineering and nursing at Duquesne University. She currently has her nursing license and works in the Artificial Heart Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She is pursuing a PhD in bioengineering with a concentration in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine in the Vascular Bioengineering Laboratory with Drs. Weinbaum and Vorp. She is interested in understanding the acute remodeling and healing (e.g., thrombosis and endothelialization) in small-diameter tissue engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs).
The project of Brittany Rodriguez focuses on analyzing the response of our tissue engineered vascular graft (TEVG) across an aged life span where thrombosis is expected to be an added concern. In the lab of Drs. Weinbaum and Vorp the team is monitoring hemostatic factors while the TEVG scaffold remodels in vivo. The ultimate goal of Ms. Rodriguez’s work is to ensure that the TEVG will be appropriate across the life span.
The NSF program is open to senior undergraduates and first- and second-year graduate students who are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research. Winners receive a $34,000 stipend for three years along with $12,000 to support tuition and fees for their universities.
“These awards reward students who have done amazing research and will do amazing research in the future,” said Lesha Greene, MFA, director of national scholarships in Pitt’s University Honors College.
Dr. Kozai is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Weinbaum is a Research Assistant Professor, Departments of Bioengineering and Pathology, University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Vorp is the Associate Dean for Research, Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh. In addition, he is the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Surgery, and the Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute at the University of Pittsburgh. He also serves as a Co-Director of the Center for Medical Innovation and the Director of the Vascular Bioengineering Laboratory.
Illustration: National Science Foundation.