Spring 2021 | Issue 2
Department of Bioengineering
A Note From the Chair
The past year has been challenging for all of us – in so many different ways. However, through it all, our students, staff, and faculty have risen to the many trials and kept the Department vibrant and active. Many faculty changed the direction of their research to address directly the challenges that the pandemic has presented to us. We delivered course work on COVID-19 to students residing all over the globe, from Mission Hill to Wuhan to Mumbai to Hawaii. 

Our staff worked hard to get us back - safely - into our research labs and into the classroom. We adapted to hybrid teaching and learned how to be effective remotely in all our encounters (advising, research, group meetings). And as we learned to be effective remotely, we know that in person is far more powerful. When remote, I missed the classroom. I have been so proud of our students, patient as they coped with changing rules and challenging environments; proud of our faculty for navigating the many hurdles required to get research and teaching back up to speed; and to our staff who made it all possible. For all the challenges, there have been huge accomplishments. This newsletter serves to document a few of them. There are many more to come as we transition back to the new normal. We look forward to hearing from you!

Lee Makowski, Professor and Chair
Department Facts and Figures
Three Undergraduate Concentrations:
  • Cell and Tissue Engineering
  • Biomechanics
  • Biomedical Devices and Bioimaging

New Combined Major:
Bioengineering and Biochemistry

New Concentration
Computational and Systems Biology

2021 Graduating Class included 98 seniors, 32 MS and 4 PhD
Three MS Graduate Concentrations:
  • Biomedical Devices and Bioimaging
  • Cell and Tissue Engineering
  • Biomechanics

Four PhD Research Areas: 
  • Imaging, Instrumentation, and Signal Processing
  • Biomechanics, Biotransport, and Mechanobiology
  • Molecular, Cell, and Tissue Engineering
  • Computational and Systems Biology
New Faculty Hires
The Department of Bioengineering is thrilled to announce the addition of Dr. Aileen Huang- Saad and Dr. Raimond Winslow to our team!

Associate Professor Huang-Saad currently serves as the Director of Life sciences and Engineering at the Roux Institute, in Portland Maine. Huang-Saad has a fourteen-year history of bringing about organizational change in higher education, leveraging evidence-based practices at the University of Michigan. She created the U-M BME graduate design program, co-founded the U-M College of Engineering Center for Entrepreneurship, launched the U-M National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Node, and developed the U-M BME Instructional Incubator. She is a canonical instructor for both the NSF and National Institute of Health (NIH) I-Corps Programs. Huang-Saad has received numerous awards for her teaching and student advising, including the 1938E College of Engineering Award, the Thomas M. Sawyer, Jr. Teaching Award, the U-M ASEE Outstanding Professor Award, the International Teaching with Sakai Innovation Award, and the College of Engineering Outstanding Student Advisor Award.
Professor Raimond Winslow currently serves as the Director of Life Science and Medicine Research at the Roux Institute in Portland Maine. Dr. Winslow joined the Roux Institute from his role as the Raj and Neera Singh Professor of Biomedical Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he was the Founding Director of the Institute for Computational Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Whiting School of Engineering. Dr. Winslow’s research is focused on two areas. The first is the use of computational modeling to understand the molecular mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, and sudden cardiac death. The second is the use of modeling methods to predict both the evolution of a patient’s health status over time and the impending occurrence of significant adverse events before they occur.
Developing Electrically Charged Biomaterials for Drug Delivery
BioE Assistant Professor Ambika Bajpayee, in collaboration with Ryan Porter from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, was awarded a $2.2M grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases for “Intra-Cartilage Depot Delivery of Electrically-Charged IL-1RA for Targeting Osteoarthritis-Associated Inflammation and Catabolism in Multiple Joint Tissues”

Despite the existence of promising osteoarthritis (OA) drugs, its treatment remains a challenge due to ineffective drug delivery systems. Intra-articular (IA) delivery is inadequate as drugs rapidly clear out from joint space and are unable to penetrate through the dense, negatively charged cartilage and reach their cell and matrix target sites at optimal concentrations. As a result, no disease modifying OA drugs (DMOADs) have passed clinical trials due to concerns of systemic toxicity and lack of cartilage targeting >>
COVID-19 Can Affect The Blood. Its Spike Protein May be the Culprit
Early on in the pandemic, Lee Makowski read an article about the condition of people’s bodies after dying of COVID-19, and he was shocked by what he learned—there was something very wrong with the patients’ blood.

The autopsy reports revealed COVID-19 patients were suffering from huge amounts of thick, coagulated blood, and dysfunctional blood vessels were tearing through body tissue instead of repairing it—highly uncommon side effects of respiratory diseases >>
Optimizing Mechanical Loading in Bone Formation 
Two Northeastern professors recently received a $650K NSF grant for “Manipulating Fluid Flow in Mechanoadaptation of Bone.” Principal Investigator, MIE/BioE Professor Sandra Shefelbine, said that one of the project’s main goals is to learn how to improve bone strength, especially as individuals age.

Bones are sensitive to mechanical loads, meaning that increased loading can make more bone, and decreased loading can take it away. Exposing bone tissue to a mechanical load, such as through an exercise training program, can improve bone strength >>
Ruberti Awarded Patent for Mechanochemical Collagen Assembly
Professor Jeff Ruberti has been awarded a patient for Mechanochemical Collagen Assembly.

Methods and devices are described for using a controlled extensional strain to organize prefibrillar collagen and/or elastin solutions into an organized array of fibrils. The organized array of collagen fibrils produced by the disclosed methods and devices can be used for tissue engineering applications >>
Niedre and Amiji Receive National Cancer Institute Award
Bioengineering Professor and Associate Chair Mark Niedre and Bouve/Chemical Engineering Distinguished Professor Mansoor Amiji received a 2-year, $400K grant titled “Fluorescence Molecular In Vivo Liquid Biopsy of Circulating Tumor Cells” from the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health.

The goal of this project is to develop new technology to optically detect and count circulating tumor cells directly in the body without having to draw blood. Metastasis is responsible for the majority of cancer-related deaths, and is often mediated by dissemination of tumor cells via the blood system. Ultimately, this technology could aid clinical management of aggressive cancers, for example, in early detection of metastatic recurrence in patients. It would also be a valuable tool for basic cancer research, for example in studying cancer development and testing of new therapies >>
Clark Named 2021 AIMBE Fellow
Bioengineering Professor Heather Clark, who is jointly appointed in chemistry and chemical biology, and is the current director of Northeastern University’s Institute for Chemical Imaging of Living Systems, has been named a 2021 AIMBE Fellow.

Dr. Clark was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for the development of nanoscale optical probes for chemical imaging within live cellular and tissue environments. Election to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer >>
Parameswaran Receives NSF CAREER Award
Any organ in the human body that requires constriction—such as the airways or blood vessels—is lined with smooth muscle that aids in its contraction. In asthmatics, the smooth muscle lining the airways undergoes exaggerated constriction in response to a small amount of inhaled irritants making it difficult to breathe. The exact mechanisms that lead to this behavior are unknown, making effective and universal medical treatment difficult.

Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Hari Parameswaran, who received a $602K CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, seeks to understand how the smooth muscle detects inhaled irritants and generates force at the cellular level to develop better treatment for people with asthma >>
Kerry Eller Receives Prestigious Hodgkinson Award
While visiting an underfunded hospital in Ethiopia’s capital, Kerry Eller was shocked, not by a lack of medical equipment, as one might expect, but by the surplus. Piles of useless medical devices accumulated through years of misguided donations lined the hallways.

“There was no film to put in the X-ray machines. There were no keys to unlock the infusion pumps. There were no training manuals to teach people how to use the devices,” she explains >>
PlusOne to Help Give Back through the Lens of Science and Healthcare
For Michael Parrish, pursuing a degree beyond the undergraduate level was always in the cards. “I declared bioengineering from day one at Northeastern University,” Parrish admits. “But I initially was interested in exploring going to medical school and being in a more patient-oriented career.”

Parrish states that he always has had a passion for “giving back to the community through the lens of science and healthcare.” Through positive experiences with the College of Engineering faculty in diverse research areas, Parrish was able to figure out that his interests fit more with working on the tools healthcare professionals use to treat patients every day >>
Student wins 2021 American Society of Plant Biologists Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship
Amanda Dee, BioE, Class of 2022, was awarded the 2021 American Society of Plant Biologists Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (ASPB SURF) to pursue her research with Prof. Carolyn Lee-Parsons and her graduate mentor, Ms. Krystyna Farrell.  
Amanda Dee is a Bioengineering student with minors in math and music. Originally from Amherst, MA, Amanda was introduced to the field of plant biology by a family friend at the age of 13. Since then, she’s remained enamored with the field. Upon joining NU, Amanda began working in the Cell and Tissue Engineering research area and in the laboratory of Prof. Lee-Parsons during her first semester of her freshman year.  The Lee-Parsons lab studies and engineers the production of critical anticancer compounds, vinblastine, and vincristine, from the medicinal plant Catharanthus roseus, commonly known as the Madagascar periwinkle. >>
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