BME Undergrad, Alum Receive NSF Graduate Fellowships

Meredith Duffy (BME'11)
Meredith Duffy (BME'11)

Working at the nexus of materials science and engineering, cell biology, biophysics, colloid and interface science, and micro- and nano-technologies, Associate Professor Joyce Wong’s (BME) Biomimetic Materials Engineering Laboratory (BMEL) has been advancing biomaterials to detect and treat cardiovascular disease since 2004. In the process, it has also developed some outstanding biomedical engineers, and the National Science Foundation has taken notice.
Two students who have worked in the BMEL as undergraduates, Meredith Duffy (BME’11) and Jaclyn Lautz (BME’09), have just received NSF Graduate Fellowships. The prestigious award provides a $30,000 annual stipend and $10,500 cost-of-education allowance for up to three years to outstanding graduate students deemed likely to contribute significantly to the advancement of science and engineering in the U.S. Past fellows include several Nobel Prize winners and industry and government leaders.

Duffy, who graduates in May, will pursue graduate studies in biomedical engineering at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“I was very happy to receive the fellowship,” she said. “It will support studies that will most likely be at the interface of biomaterials, tissue engineering and biomechanics, and relate to the design of new biomaterials for repairing damaged or diseased tissue.”

Duffy is currently completing a senior design project in Muhammad Zaman’s Laboratory for Engineering Education and Development that seeks to produce a portable, microfluidic device for counterfeit drug testing.

Lautz is a second-year graduate student pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, where her research focuses on shock wave lithotripsy (SWL), a widely used medical technology for noninvasive treatment of kidney stone disease.

“I was thrilled to receive the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship,” she said, noting that the award will support her investigation of the dynamics and biological effects of shock wave-induced microbubble-cell interaction in artificial blood vessels. “This is an important study because vascular injury, especially damage to small blood vessels and endothelial cells, has been observed following clinical SWL, and the damage processes at the cellular level have not been thoroughly investigated.”

At the BMEL, Lautz, a research assistant for nearly two years, and Duffy, a Beckman Scholar since June 2009, focused on tissue engineering of arteries. In particular, they explored the use of polymers to make temperature-responsive substrates on which to grow cells in vitro in order to develop biological replacements for clogged small arteries.

“Meredith picked up where Jaclyn left off,” said Wong. “Both have gained considerable expertise in surface chemistry techniques from working on this project, and are very driven and passionate about their work.”

The NSF recognized four other BU College of Engineering students who applied for NSF Graduate Fellowships this year with an Honorable Mention. They include three first-year graduate students—Diego Vargas Arango (BME), Schuyler Eldridge (EE’10, ECE), Travis Rich (EE’10, ECE)—and one second-year graduate student, Elizabeth Sloan Peruski (BME).

Jaclyn Lautz (BME'09)
Jaclyn Lautz (BME'09)