Winter 2021 | Issue 4
Department of Bioengineering
A Note From the Chair
The fall semester just ending seemed almost 'normal'. Campus was teeming with students. Classrooms were full. Lectures were lectures. Seminars were mostly in person. But things have changed forever. Some meetings are still virtual and I expect always will be. I was late for oh-so-many meetings! It took me a long time to re-learn that attending in-person meetings requires a 7-minute sprint across campus - not a 15-second switch from one zoom call to the next. It turns out there are some advantages to virtual meetings after all! We welcomed new
members of our Industrial Advisory Board from all over the country and know that they can attend future meetings in person or virtual as they please. We have learned to be flexible in our modes of interaction. 
The pandemic made infinitely clear the importance of Bioengineering for maintaining our standard of living and addressing ever-changing challenges to our health. The successes we have watched as our health care systems addressed the challenges posed by the virus reflect decades of research progress that, in a matter of months, proved its value. The experiences we have all lived through these past 2 years have spurred interest in Bioengineering, and enrollments in our BS, MS, and Ph.D. programs have soared. We are working hard to increase our instructional capacity to meet the needs of these new and enthusiastic students. 
The magnitude of the research effort in Bioengineering grew rapidly during the past year, with new grants or awards announced almost every week. The place is 'buzzing' with activity! In this Newsletter, we outline some of the achievements that the faculty, staff, and students of the Bioengineering Department have made over the past year. This is a list of which we can be proud. I hope you enjoy reading about the way we spent our year. How was your year? Please let us know. We look forward to hearing from you! 
Bioengineering CO-OP Gets Hands-On with Moderna's COVID-19 Vaccine
All Northeastern students hope to land a co-op that lets them wrestle with real-world problems while exploring their own academic interests.

For Ella Strzegowski, that combination of hands-on engagement and intellectual curiosity has been delivered in high doses. Since mid-July, the 20-year-old bioengineering student has been working for Moderna, maker of one of several widely distributed COVID-19 vaccines, in the company’s Norwood, Massachusetts, facilities >>
Making Space Accessible For All
As the airplane tilted steeply upward, Mona Minkara experienced gravity like never before.
“It feels like a huge pressure is on you, and the skin of your face is being pulled over the bones of your skull,” she says. “It’s a really bizarre feeling.”

And then, as the plane reached the top of its arc-shaped path, those pressures of gravity lifted. Minkara began to float as her body was introduced to the feeling of zero gravity.

For Minkara, who is legally blind, such weightlessness could have easily been disorienting. “As a blind person, walking around, gravity is always a constant,” she explains. “You always know what’s down” >>
Device for Collagenous Tissue Repair
BioE Professor Jeffrey Ruberti was awarded a patent for a “Collagenous tissue repair device.”

Methods and devices for tissue remodeling and repair of collagenous tissues, including tendons, ligaments, and bone, as well as scalable connective tissue manufacturing, are provided. Collagen fibers are assembled by extensional strain-induced flow crystallization of collagen monomers. Extensional strain also drives the fusion of already formed short collagen fibrils to produce long-range, continuous fibers. >>
BioE Alumna Published and Honored for Community Service and Leadership
Bioengineering alumna Kritika Singh, E’20, who was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge (NIH OxCam) Scholar before she graduated, has had her work on “Bright and stable luminescent probes for target engagement profiling in live cells” featured on the cover of Nature Chemical Biology.

Singh was also awarded the 2021 Leadership Award and Building a Better Community Through Service Award, which is used to recognize OxCam Scholars’ exceptional leadership and service, not only to the Scholars Program but also to the greater community >>
Identifying Novel Markers of Senescence Cells
BioE Associate Professor Nikolai Slavov, in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, was awarded a $588K NIH grant from the National Cancer Institute for “Single-Cell Proteomic Identification of Novel Markers of Senescence.”

Cellular senescence is a stable form of cell cycle arrest associated with pro-inflammatory responses. On the one hand, senescent cells are a barrier for tumorigenesis and promote wound healing and embryogenesis. On the other hand, senescent cells accumulate in aged and diseased tissues, where they impair tissue renewal and contribute to inflammation and disease progression. Identification and characterization of senescent cells in human tissues will contribute to our understanding of human diseases. Thus, mapping senescent cells at the 3-dimensional level and single-cell resolution in human tissues is an important biomedical objective >>
Improving Drug Delivery to Less Receptive Tissues
BioE Assistant Professor Ambika Bajpayee was awarded a $630K NSF CAREER grant for “Developing electrically charged biomaterials for targeted drug delivery to negatively charged complex tissue environments.”

Her research will investigate how to improve drug delivery in tissues within the human body that are not receptive to systemic or local drug delivery methods due to their high negative charge density and lack of blood vessels by using charge interactions >>
Incorporating Autofluorescence Capability into ActivSight System to Correct for Confounded Blood Flow Measurements wins Capstone Cup
 Each year, over 400,000 deaths are caused by preventable surgical complications, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States. Quantifying tissue perfusion, or the rate at which blood is delivered to tissue, is a critical factor in reducing surgical errors, as it provides surgeons with information about the viability of tissue and the structures surrounding a given target area. Activ Surgical, the sponsor company of this project, has developed an imaging system called ActivSight, which leverages laser speckle technology to provide real-time tissue perfusion visualization to surgeons during laparoscopic procedures without the need for exogenous dyes, such as the industry-standard indocyanine green (ICG). ICG, while effective in visualizing tissue perfusion, poses complications such as short half-cycles, allergic reactions, and lengthy preparation times. The ActivSight system currently presents confounded measurements of blood flow velocity due to the presence of tissues and fluids which can obscure blood vessels of interest.
The incorporation of autofluorescence imaging via blue light excitation into the current ActivSight system will correct for confounding factors – such as fat, collagen, and bile – which may interfere with the IR light path to target vessels and diminish the laser speckle signal, resulting in inaccurate perfusion information. Blue light fluorescence will allow for a correction equation to be determined that considers the occluding tissue, which will enable the calculation of true blood flow velocities via corrected speckle signal. Existing autofluorescence imaging devices are not compatible with laser-speckle imaging systems, which fail to provide unconfounded flow velocities. To satisfy the unmet need, the team has conducted extensive research into current imaging technologies, blue light autofluorescence, and fiber optics to define design requirements and solutions to incorporate a blue light source into the current ActivSight system. In doing so, we were able to differentiate fluorescent signatures for various tissue mimics as related to the depth of tissue and also collected data for a velocity correction algorithm based on fluorescence as compared to confounded flow rate.

Two of our group members, Meghan and Alison, previously co-oped at Activ and brought this project to Northeastern. We were particularly inspired to pursue this project due to the enormity of the unmet clinical need: preventable surgical complications. Ultimately, we were able to provide a proof-of-concept device and algorithm to Activ to initiate additional development in integrating autofluorescence into their current device, ActivSight.
We're Hiring!
The Department of Bioengineering includes 27 tenured/tenure-track faculty, 36% of whom are women; five full-time teaching faculty; and 47 faculty with affiliated appointments. BioE enrolls approximately 600 undergraduate students; 100 MS students; and 95 Ph.D. students.

The Department of Bioengineering is actively searching for multiple tenured or tenure-track positions, including:

Interested in learning more about Northeastern's College of Engineering? Check out our College Newsletter

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