CIMIT Awards Five Graduate Fellowships to ENG Students

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First-Time CIMIT Fellowship Recipients Qingqing Cao (ME), Amira Hussein (ME) and Cassandra Browning (ECE)
First-Time CIMIT Fellowship Recipients Qingqing Cao (ME), Amira Hussein (ME) and Cassandra Browning (ECE)

The Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT) selected five Boston University College of Engineering doctoral students for this year’s Applied Healthcare Engineering Fellowship awards. First-time recipients are Cassandra Browning (ECE), Amira Hussein (ME) and Qingqing Cao (ME); second-year recipients are Katherine Calabro (BME) and Peng Zhang (ME).

“We are pleased to extend these fellowships to such worthy young researchers,” said CIMIT Executive Director John Parrish. “Supporting research is one of CIMIT’s most important missions, and we believe this promising group will benefit from opportunity for further study.”

A non-profit consortium of Boston teaching hospitals and engineering schools (including the BU College of Engineering), CIMIT seeks to rapidly improve patient care by facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration among leading experts in medicine, science and engineering. Covering students’ tuition, stipend and some ancillary expenses, CIMIT fellowships support highly innovative yet traditionally underfunded areas of healthcare research, including medical device development, new algorithms and software for use in clinical practices and innovative engineering of medical environments.

Browning, a student on Professor Mark N. Horenstein’s (ECE) research team, seeks to develop a method for the transdermal injection of biodegradable, drug- or vaccine-toting nanoparticles into a layer of the skin that’s rich with dendritic cells — cells that provide a direct pathway into the body’s immune system. If successful, the method will have widespread clinical application for needle-free vaccination and rapid inoculation of large populations.

Hussein, a student in Assistant Professor Elise Morgan’s (ME) lab, will focus on developing new tools for clinical prediction of fracture risk in the spine, including computer simulations to predict bone strength. Hussein’s initial research indicates that accounting for the distribution of bone tissue throughout the vertebra, in addition to the mean density, significantly improves predictions of bone strength.

Cao, a student in Assistant Professor Catherine Klapperich’s (ME, BME) lab, will work towards advancing a fast, cheap, disposable, microfluidic device to detect bacteria and viruses, including H1N1 flu virus. This point-of-care device would enable unskilled personnel to provide urgent care to large patient loads.

 Receiving the CIMIT fellowship for the second straight year are Katherine Calabro, a student in Professor Irving Bigio’s (BME, ECE) lab, who is developing improvements in optical instrumentation and analytical techniques to make the detection and diagnosis of gastrointestinal diseases faster, easier and cheaper; and Peng Zhang, a student in Assistant Professor Tyrone Porter’s (ME, BME) lab, who is working to significantly reduce the time and acoustic energy required for effective treatment of solid tumors with focused ultrasound. 

 “Working with CIMIT has been very productive in training our graduate students in applied healthcare engineering,” said Professor Selim Ünlü (ECE), associate dean for Research and Graduate Programs. “The excellence of our programs and students continue to be recognized by external funding agencies, institutions and foundations.”

The five CIMIT medical engineering fellowship recipients are among 55 ENG graduate students supported by prestigious fellowships offered by external organizations that include the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. 

Nearly all College of Engineering Ph.D. students participate in external or College-based funded programs. For the 2009-10 academic year, ENG is funding 250 Research Assistantships, 11 Dean’s Fellowships and 31 Graduate Teaching Fellowships to incoming students. ENG departments offer additional fellowships to incoming and continuing students.