Issuu on Google+

The Pioneer Newsletter is brought to you by the students, faculty, and staff of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The newsletter staff and its collaborators strive to bring you the latest news from all aspects of the BME community. To submit articles, opinions, ideas, or events for publication and for more information about the newsletter, please visit:

Inside this issue: MCAT 101: 3 Your Pre-Health Advisor’s Answers to Your Anxieties Georgia Tech Team Helps Decode Newly Sequenced Strawberry Genome


Ask An Alum! Interviewing Strategies From BME Alumni


Culminating Poster Session: Petit Scholars


Coulter Department Recent Publications


Student Spotlight: Arianna Salazar - Creating Your Own Opportunities


January 2011 

Volume V, Issue 4 

Dean Don P. Giddens On the Future of Georgia Tech

By Alex Cooper


he administration’s recent unveiling of the Strategic Plan has stimulated a lot of discussion about the future of Georgia Tech. Technological progress, international education and the undeniable connection between scientific progress and public policy have all become concepts that are rapidly being integrated into the classroom and research facilities. Don P. Giddens, Dean of the College of Engineering, has had a critical role in the reevaluation of what Georgia Tech is and needs to become in the coming decades. Speaking with great optimism and clarity, he described a Georgia Tech that

Continued on Page 9

Dean Don P. Giddens with an award recognizing his work in the founding of the Coulter Department. (Photo: Debika Mitra)

First Year GT iGEM Team Takes Home the Silver!

Faculty Spotlight: 12 Dr. Wendy Newstetter, BME Curricula Mastermind

And More!

Members of the first GT iGEM team from back to front, left to right: Richard Joh, Scott Holmes, Christian Mandrycky, Sid Tantia, Mitesh Agrawal, Rob Fee, Dr. Mark Styczynski, Shadeah Suleiman, Amy Schwartz, Debika Mitra, Atta Hassan, Monica Huynh, Margo Clark, Christina Graves, [not pictured] Gita Mahmoudabadi (Photo: Debika Mitra)

By Willa Ni


eorgia Tech’s first team of undergraduate students at the 2010 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) came home with a silver medal for creating and characterizing a completely novel strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli) which generates heat when a cold shock is administered. As Margo Clark, senior undergraduate student in the Georgia Tech School of Biology and iGEM team member explains, the competition “allows undergraduates to participate in the groundbreaking field of synthetic biology, which is the science of utilizing preexisting bacterial or microbial systems and combining them in novel ways to create new functions.” The Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Continued on Page 10

“That’s So BME!” Voices From The Student Body

- Schooling the Old Schoolers

To Submit Your Own or to Read More, Go to:

Staff Members Editors in Chief Willa Ni Chun Yong Faculty Sponsor Wendy Newstetter Officers Karan Patel Debika Mitra Staff Writers Alex Cooper Dhruv Vishwakarma Andrew Lei Benjamin Thomas Mike Mallow Rachel Stewart Subhendu De Nancy Kim Photographers Saranya Karthikeyan Virginia Lin William Sessions

Page 2

Layout Editors Kevin Lam Victoria Ibarra Candace Law Seung Eun Lee Anum Syed Editors Gopi Patel Nida Dharani Kanav Jain Laura Kish Shalv Madhani Ayesha Patel Elina Sarmah Collaborators Karen Adams Paul Fincannon Sally Gerrish Jennifer Kimble Megan McDevitt Colleen Mitchell Adrianne Proeller Shannon Sullivan John Toon Abby Vogel


“When speaking to older GT alumni, I say my major is biomedical engineering, pause long enough for their faces to contort to confusion, and launch into a (well-versed) one-minute spiel on what BME is.”

By You!

A Couple of Words From the Editors in Chief


ith a white Atlanta Christmas safely tucked away as a happy memory, The Pioneer welcomes the Georgia Tech biotechnology community back! We are proud to bring you the first issue of the spring semester. With features from all across the biotechnology community, this January issue eases you back into the hustle and bustle of a new semester. The commencement of the spring semester also marks the end of the application frenzy to graduate school, medical school, and other programs. Many students are also looking to the future, either the end of their Georgia Tech career or the summer semester. To all, we wish the best of luck in seeking opportunities and we offer our congratulations to the many that have already landed their dream school, job, or internship. The Pioneer stands ready to bring you the information you need to help you succeed. If you have any suggestions or requests, please contact

Yours sincerely,

Willa Ni and Chun Yong Editors in Chief The Pioneer

MCAT 101 By Jennifer Kimble

Your Pre-Health Advisor’s Answers to Your Anxieties


CAT- A four letter word that strikes fear in the hearts of pre-med students. Rest easy, Techies. Overall, Tech students perform much better because Tech pushes you to rise to the occasion. The following chart shows the MCAT scores of 189 Tech students who applied to the 2009 entry class to allopathic medical school; 78 students were accepted.

applying/mcat/admissionsadvisors/mcat_stats/) shows that students do not significantly raise their score upon a retake. Ideally, the MCAT is taken late spring or early summer of the calendar year before you want to start professional school. Applications to professional schools can be submitted with an intended date of taking the MCAT, but no interview offers will be made until the score is available (30-35 days after the test).

MCAT Basics The MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) covers four sections: verbal reasoning, physical sciences, biological sciences, and a writing sample. The highest score you can make in each section is a 15. The highest score for the writing sample is a T – think “terrific score”; the lowest is a J – think “junk score.” The official MCAT website is, which frequently adds new diagnostic tests. In order to maximize preparedness, verify that you have covered the topics tested on the MCAT ( mcat/preparing) and that you are nearing or already have completed your prerequisites. Also, the MCAT is scheduled for a makeover in 2014. I highly recommend only taking the MCAT once. Every attempt you make on it will automatically be reported to medical schools. You don't want to have a bad score to be the albatross around your neck! Also, data (

MCAT Test Day The MCATs are offered about 25 times a year ( applying/mcat/reserving/). I recommend students register early for the date they wish to take the exam to avoid taking the MCAT in another city if all Atlanta spots are filled. One of the biggest student reported differences between diagnostics and the MCAT is the check-in procedure: 1. Put all of your belongings into a locker. 2.Take an "official" picture with digital fingerprints, provide your signature and official identification, enter the room one by one and have a seat assigned to you. 4. You cannot look at your cell phone during the tests or breaks or review your note cards. 5. You will either have scratch paper or a white board. 6. You cannot wear a watch. 8. Breaks are optional; you can eat a snack from your locker during the breaks. You may be videotaped going to your locker. 9. If you have a medical condition (insulin, crutches, cast, etc.) and need

COMPARING GEORGIA TECH WITH NATIONAL CANDIDATES (ALLOPATHIC MEDICAL SCHOOL) GT POOL NATIONAL POOL MCAT Verbal Applied MCAT Verbal Matriculated MCAT Physical Science Applied MCAT Physical Science Matriculated MCAT Biological Science Applied MCAT Biological Science Matriculated MCAT Total Applied MCAT Total Matriculated GPA Science Applied GPA Science Matriculated GPA Non-Science Applied GPA Non-Science Matriculated GPA Total Applied GPA Total Matriculated

8.9 9.4 9.5 10.5 9.6 10.4 28.0 30.3 3.35 3.57 3.55 3.68 3.43 3.62

8.4 9.2 8.6 9.7 9.2 10.2 26.2 29.1 3.41 3.60 3.64 3.74 3.51 3.66

GT students performed higher than the national average on the MCATs in 2009. (Chart: Jennifer Kimble)

accommodations, you can find that information at students/applying/mcat/accommodations. I have never had a student need accommodations due to medical reasons be denied. 10. If you have a learning disability, you can also apply for accommodations, but rarely do I see these accommodations approved. This is because the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is wary of awarding false diagnoses. My recommendation is to prepare like you will not have accommodations. Investing for the MCAT The MCAT costs approximately $235. Taking a preparatory class, such as Kaplan, the Princeton Review and Examkrackers is another approximately $2,000 investment. I can neither advise you on whether a class is worth it nor can I recommend which class is best. You must investigate which class suits you. AMSA membership ( not only offers discounts on preparatory classes, but also hosts preparatory companies to explain their services in detail. WikiPremed (http://, on the other hand, is a free open access course that does not break the bank. Aside from budgeting your expenses, remember to budget your study time. I tell students that their MCAT prep is like another class in their schedule. There is a Fee Assistance Program (FAP) through the AAMC which will help you with the MCAT and AMCAS application fees. For the 2011 calendar year, applicants whose total family income is 300 percent or less of the poverty level for their family size are eligible for fee assistance. Please visit students/applying/fap for more information. “Good vs. ‘Bad’ Score” Students often ask me what score they need to make. MCAT scores are emphasized if your grades are not stellar, but remember that an application is much more than just an MCAT score. Though there are definite exceptions to the rule, generally for allopathic schools, making 10s across the board puts you in a good category, and a score of "7" in any section means that you have to retake the test. For osteopathic medical school, an 8 to a 9 in each section puts you in a competitive category. For podiatric medical school, a 7 to an 8 in the sections is competitive.

Continued on Page 11

Page 3

Georgia Tech Team Helps Decode Newly Sequenced Strawberry Genome


n international research consortium has sequenced the genome of the woodland strawberry, according to a study published in the Dec. 26 advance online edition of the journal Nature Genetics. The development is expected to unlock possibilities for breeding tastier, hardier varieties of the berry and other crops in its family. "We've created the strawberry parts list," said the consortium's leader Kevin Folta, an associate professor with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "For every organism on the planet, if you're going to try to do any advanced science or use molecular-assisted breeding, a parts list is really helpful. In the old days, we had to go and figure out what the parts were. Now we know the components that make up the strawberry plant." From a genetic standpoint, the woodland strawberry, formally known as Fragaria vesca, is similar to the cultivated strawberry but less complex, making it easier for scientists to study. The 14chromosome woodland strawberry has one of the smallest genomes of economically significant plants, but still contains approximately 240 million base pairs. The consortium of 75 researchers from 38 institutions that sequenced the genome included two Georgia Tech researchers. They are Mark Borodovsky, a Regents professor with a joint appointment in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and the Georgia Tech School of Computational Science and Engineering, and Paul Burns, who worked on the project as a bioinformatics Ph.D. student. Once the consortium uncovered the genomic sequence of the woodland strawberry, Borodovsky and Burns led the efforts in identifying protein-coding genes in the sequence. Using a newly developed pattern recognition program called GeneMark.hmm-ES+, Borodovsky and Burns identified 34,809 genes, of which 55 percent were assigned to gene families. The GeneMark.hmm-ES+ program iteratively identified the correct algorithm parameters from the DNA sequence and transcriptome data. The program used a probabilistic model called the Hidden Markov Model to pinpoint the boundaries

Page 4

By Abby Vogel Robinson

between coding sequences -- called exons -- and non-coding sequences, which could be either introns or intergenic regions. In identifying the genes, prediction and training steps were repeated, each time detecting a larger set of true coding and non-coding sequences used to further improve the model employed in statistical pattern recognition. When the new sequence breakdown coincided with the previous one, the researchers recorded their final set of predicted genes. "GeneMark.hmm-ES+ is a hybrid program that uses both DNA and RNA sequences to predict protein-coding genes," said Borodovsky, who is also director of Georgia Tech's Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics. Borodovsky developed the first version of GeneMark in 1993. In 1995, this program was used to find genes in the first completely sequenced genomes of bacteria and archea. The research team then developed selftraining versions of the gene finding Regents professor in the Coulter Department, Mark Borodovsky program for prokaryotic (organisms and bioinformatics Ph.D. student, Paul Burns [not pictured], help that lack a cell nucleus) and eukaryotic identify protein-coding genes in the genome of the woodland (organisms that contain a cell nucleus) strawberry with the GeneMark.hmm-ES+ program. (Photo: genomes in 2001 and 2005, GTRC/GIT) respectively. Development of these This large family includes many programs has been supported by the economically important and popular fruit, National Institutes of Health since 1993. nut, ornamental and woody crops, including Most recently, Borodovsky's team the cultivated strawberry, almond, apple, predicted genes in the genomes of the peach, cherry, raspberry and rose. green alga Chlorella variabilis NC64A and the In the long term, breeders will be able mushroom Coprinopsis cinerea, with reports to use the information to create plants that published in 2010 in the journals The Plant can be grown with less environmental Cell and Proceedings of the National impact, better nutritional profiles and larger Academy of Sciences, respectively. yields. "Our approach to gene prediction in "The wealth of genetic information the strawberry genome proved highly collected by this strawberry genome effective, with 90 percent of the genes sequencing project will help spur the next predicted by the hybrid gene model wave of research into the improvement of supported by transcript-based evidence," strawberry and other fruit crops," added added Borodovsky. Borodovsky. Further analysis of the woodland strawberry genome revealed genes involved This project was supported by the National in key biological processes, such as flavor Institutes of Health (NIH) (Award No. production, flowering and response to HG00783). The content is solely the disease. Additional examination also responsibility of the principal investigator and revealed a core set of signal transduction does not necessarily represent the official view elements shared between the strawberry of the NIH. and other plants. The woodland strawberry is a member of the Rosaceae family, which consists of Abby Vogel Robinson is a communications officer in the more than 100 genera and 3,000 species. GT Research News & Publications Office.

Ask An Alum! Advice Directly From The Keyboards Of BME Alumni

“"What do interviewers look for in an applicant? Describe a tipping point when an applicant absolutely convinced you to hire him/her or vice versa."


irst, interviewers immediately evaluate your communication skills from the minute you walk through the door. Regardless of your superior credentials and experience, an initial bad impression will always stick with him or her. Secondly, go above and beyond in interview preparation. Take the time to put together a packet of your cover letter, resume and research papers, etc. that are relevant to the job and they will be very impressed! Jessica Wyche Class of 2009 EP-TSS Field Intern St. Jude Medical


pplicants are most successful in convincing me of their skills and value to my company when they appear eager to learn. No company expects a you to know everything about the job; showing you are excited to learn and demonstrating how you have conquered challenges in the past is a clear indication of how you will perform in the future. Shelley Eckert Class of 2010 Associate Project Engineer CR Bard


would have to say one major quality that interviewers are looking for is personality. Having experience is always necessary, but having an affable nature will help set you apart from other candidates, even if they have more experience. Do not seem perplexed or uptight no matter what happened before you entered the interviewing room. For example, my car died right before the interview, I called HR immediately, came in 5-10 min late, but was still able to joke about my situation during the interview. Also, make sure you thoroughly research the company and the position. For my second round, I went so far as to research St. Jude's current standing in the stock market, and even compared and contrasted the different divisions. Make sure you think of every interview as high priority, because you never know when that job can be the one. Nikita Bassandra Class of 2010 Regulatory Affairs Specialist

Interested in Answering Future Questions? Email:

Culminating Poster Session Celebrates Petit Scholars’ Undergraduate Research


he 2010 Petit Undergraduate Research Program presented their research at a poster session held on November 30th, 2010 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience (IBB) Atrium. Now in its 12th year, the Petit Undergraduate Research Program is a scholarship that is offered to undergraduate researchers working in the fields of bioscience and bioengineering. With this scholarship, undergraduate researchers are paired with graduate mentors, and are given funds to conduct independent research projects within IBB. The sampling of projects below only hint at the variety and quality of topics present at the poster session. Katy Hammersmith, a third year undergraduate student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, conducted research in the lab of Todd McDevitt, Coulter Department associate professor and Petit Scholars Program faculty

mentor. Prior to participating in the Petit Program, Hammersmith worked in the McDevitt Lab for a year under Andres Bratt-Leal, a fifth year biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate. Hammersmith’s project was titled Heparin-Modified Microparticles for Biomolecule Release within Stem Cell Spheroids. Bratt-Leal explains, “We are interested in how materials interact with stem cells and how to engineer materials to direct the differentiation of stem cells.” Hammersmith’s project involved conjugating heparin microparticles to growth factors, which as Hammersmith explains, “help signal the cell about what kind of cell to change into.” This method allowed Hammersmith to differentiate large quantities of stem cells with greater efficiency. Using funds from the Petit Program, Hammersmith has presented her work at the Georgia Tech Spring Symposium, the ACC Meeting of the Minds, and the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative

Continued on Page 8

By Subhendu De

Katy Hammersmith (left) with her mentor Andres BrattLeal (right). (Photo: Virginia Lin)

Page 5

January Events & Deadlines January 11th - IBB Breakfast Club Garrett Stanley, Ph.D., Reading and Writing the Neural Code Department of Biomedical Engineering. 8:30-9:30AM, IBB1128 January 12th - Gender, Science, and Engineering Lecutre Professors Londa Schiebinger and John L. Hinds, Lecturers, and Professors Gilda Barabino and Anne Pollock, Discussants. 3:30 Reception; 4:00 Lecture, Student Success Center Clary Theater January 13th - Bioengineering Seminar Peter Wang, Ph.D., UIUC "Molecular Engineering and Live Cell Imaging for Studying Cell-Environmental Interactions"11:0012:00PM, IBB 1128 January 13th - Preparing for a Career Fair

January 27th - Bioengineering Seminar Hildete Prisco Pinheiro, PhD UNICAMP, Campina SP Brazil, 11:00-12:00PM, IBB 1128 January 27th - Internship Info Session 11:00-12:00PM Success Center, Clary Theatre or President’s Suite C January 31st - Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Goldwater Faculty Representative must electronically submit applicants’ completed online application(s) by 5:00PM February 1st - The Truman Scholarship All applications must be submitted by 11:59PM

January 14th - Phase II Registration Ends

February 1st - JHU REU Application Due Johns Hopkins University REU in Visualization of Mcaromolecules in biological research. For details see: BioREU/

January 15th - CSHL Application Due Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s (CSHL) Undergraduate Research Program (URP). For details see: education/urp/application-guidelines

February 11th - BTI PGRP Application Due Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research and Cornell University Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP). For details see:

January 17th - Official School Holiday

February 15th - U. of Michigan REU Application Due The University of Michigan Interdisciplinary REU Program in the Structure and Function of Proteins. For details see: http://

11:00-12:00PM Success Center, Clary Theater

January 18th - Internship Fair 10:00-3:00PM, Student Center Ballroom January 20th - Creating a Professional Resume 11:00-12:00PM, Success Center Clary Theater January 24th - BRAIN Application Due Behavioral Research Advancements in Neuroscience (BRAIN) summer research program. For details see: th

January 24 - Whitaker Int’l Program Application Due The Whitaker International Program Grant sends emerging leaders in biomedical engineering (or bioengineering) overseas. For details see: January 25th - Successful Interview Skills 11:00-12:00PM Success Center Clary Theater

February 15th - MIT REU Application Due Department of Biological Engineering (BE) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) REU Program. For details see: February 25th - The Udall Scholarhip Deadline to register students for the online application To submit events and other important dates, please email:!

For more Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) see:

January 25th - Young Innovators Seminar Joel Collier, University of Chicago, “Peptide assemblies: from cell scaffolds to immune adjuvants” 11:00-12:00PM, Location: TBD January 25-28th - Mock Interview Week Success Center Festival Level

Pre‐health? Join the American Medical Student 


Page 6

Association at Georgia Tech for medical school  admissions visits, leadership and volunteer op‐ portunities, mentorship programs, international  experiences, conferences, and much more! 

Recent Coulter Department Publications Acta Biomaterialia PEG-based hydrogels with tunable degradation characteristics to control delivery of marrow stromal cells for tendon overuse injuries. Qiu Y, Lim JJ, Scott L Jr, Adams RC, Bui HT, Temenoff JS.

Journal of the American Chemical Society Bright and Compact Alloyed Quantum Dots with Broadly Tunable Near-Infrared Absorption and Fluorescence Spectra through Mercury Cation Exchange. Smith AM, Nie S.

American Journal of Physiology Endothelial metallothionein expression and intracellular free zinc levels are regulated by shear stress. Conway DE, Lee S, Eskin SG, Shah AK, Jo H, McIntire LV.

Journal of biomedical materials research. Part A Macrophage and dendritic cell phenotypic diversity in the context of biomaterials. Kou PM, Babensee JE.

Annals of Biomedical Engineering Biomechanical and microstructural properties of common carotid arteries from fibulin-5 null mice. Wan W, Yanagisawa H, Gleason RL Jr.

Journal of the Royal Society, Interface / the Royal Society Regenerative medicine: the emergence of an industry. Nerem RM.

Calcified Tissue International Inorganic Phosphate Induces Mammalian Growth Plate Chondrocyte Apoptosis in a Mitochondrial Pathway Involving Nitric Oxide and JNK MAP Kinase. Zhong M, Carney DH, Jo H, Boyan BD, Schwartz Z. Endocrinology 17{beta}-Estradiol Regulates Rat Growth Plate Chondrocyte Apoptosis Through a Mitochondrial Pathway Not Involving Nitric Oxide or MAPKs. Zhong M, Carney DH, Boyan BD, Schwartz Z. Epilepsia Spontaneous and evoked high-frequency oscillations in the tetanus toxin model of epilepsy. Rolston JD, Laxpati NG, Gutekunst CA, Potter SM, Gross RE. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience Modulation of temporal precision in thalamic population responses to natural visual stimuli. Desbordes G, Jin J, Alonso JM, Stanley GB. IEEE/ACM Transactions on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics / IEEE, ACM Non-Parametric Clustering for Studying RNA Conformations. Le Faucheur X, Hershkovits E, Tannenbaum R, Tannenbaum A. IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging Tubular surface segmentation for extracting anatomical structures from medical imagery. Mohan V, Sundaramoorthi G, Tannenbaum A. The Journal of Biological Chemistry Protein-disulfide isomerase-associated 3 (Pdia3) mediates the membrane response to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 in osteoblasts. Chen J, Olivares-Navarrete R, Wang Y, Herman TR, Boyan BD, Schwartz Z. Forcing switch from short- to intermediate- and long-lived states of the {alpha}A domain generates LFA-1/ICAM-1 catch bonds. Chen W, Lou J, Zhu C. Journal of controlled release Separable arrowhead microneedles. Chu LY, Prausnitz MR.

Magnetic resonance in medical sciences : MRMS Simultaneous acquisition of gradient echo/spin echo BOLD and perfusion with a separate labeling coil. Glielmi CB, Xu Q, Craddock RC, Hu X. Mathematical biosciences and engineering : MBE Mathematical modeling of monolignol biosynthesis in Populus xylem. Lee Y, Voit EO. Nature Methods A microfluidic array for large-scale ordering and orientation of embryos. Chung K, Kim Y, Kanodia JS, Gong E, Shvartsman SY, Lu H. Nature neuroscience Thalamic synchrony and the adaptive gating of information flow to cortex. Wang Q, Webber RM, Stanley GB. Neuromolecular medicine An introduction to sphingolipid metabolism and analysis by new technologies. Chen Y, Liu Y, Sullards MC, Merrill AH Jr. Small (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany) An effective lift-off method for patterning high-density gold interconnects on an elastomeric substrate. Guo L, Deweerth SP. Tissue engineering. Part A Guiding Epithelial Cell Phenotypes with Engineered Integrin-Specific Recombinant Fibronectin Fragments. Brown AC, Rowe JA, Barker TH. Biomimetic microenvironment modulates neural stem cell survival, migration, and differentiation. Stabenfeldt SE, Munglani G, GarcĂ­a AJ, LaPlaca MC. Tissue engineering. Part C, Methods Long-term spatially defined coculture within three-dimensional photopatterned hydrogels. Hammoudi TM, Lu H, Temenoff JS. Submit your recent publications to:

Page 7

Poster Session

from Page 5

Medicine International Society, a national conference held in Orlando, Florida. Lauren Troxler, a third year undergraduate student in the Coulter Department, conducted research in the lab of Ajit Yoganathan, Coulter Department Associate Chair for Research & Regents' Professor. Troxler’s project, Effect of Tricuspid Valvular and Subvalvular Geometric Alterations on Chordal Forces, was a branch project off of the thesis of her mentor, Erin Spinner, a fifth year biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate. Troxler worked to find the mechanism of the tricuspid valve and the chordal forces associated with the valve. By studying these forces with force transducer devices called “c-rings,” Troxler and Spinner aimed to understand tricuspid regurgitation, a medical condition in which blood returns through the tricuspid valve to the right atrium instead of going towards the lungs. Spinner designed a device called a flow-loop, which simulates an actual heart. Using the c-rings and the flow loop together, Troxler was able to gather simulated data from a wide variety of heart conditions. Combined with data gathered from patients at Emory Univer-

sity, Troxler and Spinner movement of whiskers of strived to understand the five highly trained rats. By mechanics behind the characterizing deflection tricuspid valve. For Troxvelocities and curvature of ler, the Petit Program the whiskers, Bari was “was a great opportunity looking to see how to get involved now and changes in stimulus reflect see what [undergraduate in changes in the reresearch] is like.” sponses of the cortex in Bilal Bari, a fourth year the brain. Bari highly recundergraduate student in ommended the Petit the Coulter Department, Scholars as a way to enconducted research in the hance the undergraduate area of sensory neuroresearch experience. For physiology in the lab of potential applicants of the Garrett Stanley, Coulter Petit Program, Bari conDepartment associate cluded, “Be actually interprofessor. Bari worked ested in the research. If with Doug Ollerenshaw, a Bilal Bari (left) with his mentor Doug Oller- you are passionate about enshaw (right). (Photo: Virginia Lin) third year biomedical enit, the committee can tell.” gineering Ph.D. candidate. Bari’s project, The poster session generated much Tactile Detection and Discrimination in the interest among the biotechnology and bioRodent Somatosensory System, involved medical engineering community. The large observations of neural responses in the volume of people that attended was indicabrains of rats in response to a physical tive of the high quality of the research that stimulus. Ollerenshaw explains, “We have a had been performed by the exceptional high speed digital camera that sits above the undergraduates in the Petit Scholars Prorats. The whiskers are deflected with a puff gram. of air. We are looking to see what the peripheral stimulus looks like.” Bari’s work Subhendu De is an undergraduate student in the Coulinvolved tracking and characterizing the ter department.

Student Spotlight: Arianna Salazar Creating Your Own Opportunities


very student wants to find the perfect career. However, the path of discovery is often riddled with forking roads and dead ends. Students enter college with preconceived notions of what certain careers entail, but as they move through college and learn both about their major and about themselves, the reevaluated ideas of job satisfaction may be completely different from before. Arianna Salazar is no exception. She, as a fourth year BME undergraduate student, has filtered through the many opportunities within this diverse major to find something she truly enjoys. “People’s expectations of a job are different from what the reality of the work is,” Salazar explains. Coming to Georgia Tech, Arianna wanted to pursue a Ph.D. However, after conducting research at Tech, she realized that although she enjoyed the work, she would not want to pursue research as a career. Continuing forward, she interned at the CDC Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, gathering data on a new tick-borne disease. The work was

Page 8

Arianna Salazar, fourth year BME undergraduate student. (Photo: GTRC/GIT)

very interesting, but she had always wanted to work abroad. She received such an opportunity at Lascco SA in Geneva, Switzerland. Lascco SA develops academic biotechnology ideas into start-up

By Andrew Lei

companies. As the founder’s aide, Salazar worked heavily on management aspects, conducting market research, analyzing FDA regulation and writing business proposals, which complemented her Technology and Management minor. She enjoyed this dayto-day variability the most. She suggests that “if you have the slightest interest in doing something, get a position doing what you think you want to do.” But all work and no play is not Salazar’s motto. “Do something you enjoy every once in a while, and don’t overwhelm yourself.” To take a break from her classes, she also tutors at 1-to-1 tutoring, is a BMED 2210 TA and dances with a ballet company. “Whenever I have a lot of things going on, ballet is the one thing that can bring me back to clarity.” Diversity of activities has in fact brought Salazar peace of mind instead of stress. On one semester in which she worked part-time at the CDC while being a full-time student at Georgia Tech, Salazar says, “I thought it would be incredibly stressful, but in the end it was one of my best semesters, and I was able to

Continued on Page 9

Dean Don P. Giddens

from Page 1

was more than a research university. Giddens sees a Georgia Tech that devotes itself to “improv[ing]e the quality of life by tackling the big problems facing the world. Georgia Tech needs to become the center of problem solving.” He sees the problems plaguing the world, like energy, health and the environment, as opportunity - Georgia Tech’s opportunity to improve the world. Instead of individual professors performing research, he sees institutewide initiatives where teams of professors solve these “big problems.” Giddens also sees a Georgia Tech that helps rebuild the nation’s previous role as a leader in manufacturing and education through “advancements in robotics, materials, nanotechnology and logistics,” specifically mentioning the prestige of the industrial engineering program. When discussing education, Giddens spoke highly of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering’s use of problem-based learning. “The use of PBL simulates the way we learn in life. …It is something I wish more departments would follow,” he stated. Beyond spreading the department’s educational philosophy to other parts of

Georgia Tech, Giddens sees Georgia Tech leading and teaching other universities around the world. He discussed the importance of the Coulter Department’s recent partnerships with universities around the world, which he believes will lead to a new kind of international education and problem solving community. Though a lot of talk about Georgia Tech’s future revolves around the international stage, Giddens stressed Georgia Tech’s continued role as a producer of engineers and leaders for the state of Georgia. When asked about the University of Georgia’s new engineering program, Giddens expressed a mixture of nonchalance and excitement. “UGA’s program relieves Georgia Tech of its previous responsibility of being the primary provider of engineers in the state.” Most importantly, he looks forward to the increased flexibility from the state that Georgia Tech will now have. When asked about the possibility of Georgia Tech becoming a private institution, he immediately dismissed the idea, stating that he had no interest in Georgia Tech becoming an “elitist institution.” Georgia Tech’s connection to the state prevents it from being “disconnected from industry and the world.” Through a rewriting of institute policy of intellectual property, he

sees Georgia Tech becoming a more powerful force in drawing capital to Atlanta, the lack of which, he believes, is holding both the city and Georgia Tech back. With Giddens retiring this coming July, he won’t be able to lead Georgia Tech through all of his vision, but he will be remaining as a part of the biomedical engineering department. He hopes that the new Dean of Engineering will tackle some of the more administrative problems of the institute, such as complications with promotion and tenure and financing of the academic schools and colleges. While they may seem like minor discrepancies, especially when compared to his grander vision, they are necessities to the execution of Georgia Tech’s future. Reflecting on his contributions, Giddens has done incredible things for Georgia Tech, such as the founding of the partnership between Emory University and Georgia Tech for the Coulter Department and the push for problem-based learning. Though the Coulter Department welcomes his return, Giddens’ leadership as the Dean of Engineering will be missed. Alex Cooper is an undergraduate student in the Coulter department.

Get Your Ph.D. From   Three Universities At Once! Arianna Salazar

from Page 8

focus. It was nice for something to not be school, to give my life balance.” Salazar benefited from her willingness to reach for the things she wanted. She began research early to understand what pursuing a Ph.D. would entail. She wanted to work abroad, and heard of the Work Abroad Program for BMEs. Although the program expired before she had the opportunity to join it, she talked with the former coordinator, Thomas Barker, Coulter Department assistant professor, about her opportunities and ended up working at a company she really enjoyed while experiencing a different culture. This leads to another point Salazar makes: professors are on of Georgia Tech’s best assets. Getting to know them and having them get to know you will help you accomplish your goals. “I’ve done the Take-a-Professor to lunch event every semester I could because it’s invaluable to get to know your professors, who can be invaluable to you. They’re all generally pretty nice and willing to talk to you.” Overall, Salazar is living proof of where there is a will there is a way. Her ability to create her own opportunities not only separates her from the status quo, but also testifies to the potential of a human will.

Graduate Program in Biomedical Engineering Research Emphasis: • Biomedical Imaging • Biomedical Implants and Devices • Cardiac Electrophysiology • Computational Multiscale Modeling • Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine

Program Highlights: Strong interdisciplinary research and training • Master’s and Ph.D. degree programs • Competitive stipends and tuition assistance •

• Strong

collaborations with Medicine, Dentistry & Joint Health Sciences

• •

Exceptional research mentors Excellent professional placement

For more information: or

Andrew Lei is an undergraduate student in the Coulter department.

Page 9

candidate in the School of Physics and Ryan Randall, (MIT), the founding university, gives teams research technician in the the freedom to decide which specific School of Biology, presented project path to take while providing each their work to judges and team with genetic parts from a database other teams. called the BioBrick registry. This final celebration of At the 2010 iGEM Jamboree, the scholastic and scientific culmination of a year of research and achievement highlighted the creation, 130 teams representing long road traveled that universities from across the world started with the recruitment gathered at MIT from November 6 to 8. of a Georgia Tech team this G e o r g i a T e c h ’ s t e a m o f 1 3 spring. After an intense undergraduates , advised by Eric Gaucher, literature search starting this In the electron transport chain, the Alternative Oxidase gene (AOX) reduces O2 associate professor in the School of summer, the Georgia Tech to H2O and releases the remaining free energy as heat. AOX was isolated from Biology, Joshua Weitz, assistant professor team first decided to model the sacred lotus. (Photo: in the School of Biology, Mark Styczynski, the heat generating bacterial system. Not Other possibilities range to creating a nonassistant professor in the School of only did modeling predict the temperature traditional “micro-thermoinsulator,” which Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, increase from steady state, but it also would provide heat to systems or areas Megan Cole, postdoctoral fellow in the generated temperature profiles and a heat that traditional heating methods cannot School of Biology, Richard Joh, Ph.D. map of an E. coli colony. Next, the team access. actually placed a heat generating gene, Reflecting on the entire experience, AOX, next to a cold shock promoter, iGEM team member Gita Mahmoudabadi , inserted this into a plasmid and then fourth year student in the Wallace H. Students Shadeah Laila transformed it into a strain of E. coli. In Coulter Department of Biomedical Amy Schwartz Suleiman order to characterize and verify this new Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory Atta Hassan Siddharth Steven construct, the team used infrared imaging University, tells of an incredible application Christian Mandrycky Tantia and a sensitive temperature probe. of coursework to real world experiments. Christina Graves With the realization of such a heat Specifically, Mahmoudabadi “incorporated Debika Mitra Advisors generating bacteria, novel applications heat transfer and projects from BMED abound. Clark describes a possibility of 3300: Biotransport” into the preliminary Gita Mahmoudabadi Dr. Eric Gaucher coupling the “heat generating function computational and analytical modeling. Not Margo McKee Clark Dr. Joshua Weitz only did Mahmoudabadi pull from Mitesh Agrawal Dr. Mark Styczynski with another function that would act as a heat sink when the bacteria” is placed in a resources from her class, such as Monica Linh Huynh Dr. Megan Cole higher temperature. This would allow COMSOL and the PDE toolbox, but she Robert Fee Richard Joh bacteria to self-regulate temperatures and also consulted biotransport professor Scott Holmes Ryan Randall maintain a life-sustaining thermal range. Melissa Kemp, assistant professor in the Coulter Department, and Catherine Rivet, b i o e n g i n e e r i n g P h . D . c a n d i d at e . Additionally, Mahmoudabadi explains that “most BME class groups involve group work and presentations and iGEM group work dynamics was really important.” The final Jamboree presentation also required seasoned students with excellent presenting skills who could “engage the audience… and really connect with the audience and the judges.” Looking back, Clark also chimes in on an obvious, but amazing fact: a team of undergraduate students were given the freedom to run a laboratory and conduct research motivated by their own scientific curiosity. Even though the 2010 competition remains a recent memory, Clark says the team is already looking forward to the 2011 round. New members will be joining a Georgia Tech team with a solid foundation and an unquenchable motivation. First Year GT iGEM

from Page 1

GT iGem Team

iGEM teams from around the world assembled at the iGEM Jamboree at MIT. (Photo: Debika Mitra)

Page 10

Willa Ni is an undergraduate student in the Coulter Department.

MCAT 101

Petit Scholars Program

Additional Advice For students who do not do well on the MCAT, reflect on why, isolate the problem(s) and work on those problem(s). For example, train to focus on a reading passage that is not interesting by reading The Wall Street Journal or other material that does not interest you. Simulate testing conditions as much as possible during practice to ensure that you will be in the right frame of mind when you take your real MCAT. Keep your old textbooks and class notes for your “MCAT-able” classes, so you can review them as you study for the MCAT.

Congratulations to the 2011 Class of Petit Scholars and Mentors Student



Agrawal, Mitesh Al-Khalil, Bilal Bain, Charlo Bloomquist, Megan Chen, Michael Dolensky, Joey Fox, Courtney Ghosh, Ushnik Haddad, Natalie Jilk, Joey Khosravi, Hasan Kilbacak, Baret Lawrence, Kelsey Lundgren, Taran McGrail, Daniel Melomed, Mikhail Milligan, Nicole O'Malley, Tyler Parsons, Kevin

Kinney, Melissa Rood, Michael Reddie, Khalilah Patel, Samir Engelhart, Aaron Couch, Lauren Bandyopadhyay, Sibali Newman, John Pacheco, Patricia Safavynia, Seyed Rubin, Jonathan Tang, Jennifer Hermann, Chris Willett, Nick Ghosh, Deepraj Kiktev, Denis Saikrishnan, Neelakantan Faulkner, Matthew Huffman, Jamie

McDevitt, Todd Bommarius, Andreas Murthy, Niren Prausnitz, Mark Hud, Nicholas Yoganathan, Ajit Merrill, Alfred Potter, Steve Sulchek, Todd Ting, Lena Bommarius, Andreas Sulchek, Todd Boyan, Barbara Guldberg, Robert Dawson, Michelle Chernoff, Yury Yoganathan, Ajit Dixon, Brandon Dixon, Brandon

from Page 3

Jennifer Kimble is the pre-health advisor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

PURA - Summer 2011 Applications Due March 4th, 2011

President’s Undergrad Research Award Congratulations to Spring 2011 BME Awardees Student Aboujamous, Nader


Barker, Thomas Using Fibrin ‘A’ Knob Peptides as Inhibitors of Fibrin Polymerization

Chen, Binbin

Platt, Manu

Gadepalli, Siddharth

Boyan, Barbara

Guo, Cong Gupta , Shabnam

Paper Title

Utilize Cathepsin K Zymograpy for Breast Cancer Diagnosis Accelerated Suture and Synchondrosis Closure in a model of Craniosynostosis

Bellamkonda, Ravi Developing Long Circulating Contrast Agents to Aid in Brain Tumor Removal Yoganathan, Ajit Hemodynamic Assessment of Bicuspid Aortic Valves as a Clinical Diagnostic Tool

Lei, Andrew

Platt, Manu

Mahmoudabadi, Gita

Bost, Franklin

Designing Insulin Injection Device for the Blind or Visually Impaired Diabetics

Mitra, Debika

Kemp, Melissa

Investigating TNF- α regulation of mTOR via Akt dependent/independent IKK-β pathway.

Ni, Willa

Kemp, Melissa

The application of long term, low levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) to HeLa cells, a model of chronic ROS

Patel, Gopi

Babensee, Julia

Developing Tolerance-Inducing Niche using Multifunctional Biomaterial assessing release profiles and in vitro induction of Alternatively Activated Dendritic Cells.

Riemenschneider, Kelsie

Boyan, Barbara

Oxygen Tension Regulates VitaminD3 Signaling in Growth Plate Chondrocytes

Schwoebel, James

Quantitative Analysis of Kinase Inhibition on Monocyte Differentiation into Osteoclasts and Macrophages

Bellamkonda, Ravi Examining the Regenerative Capacity of an Acellularized Nerve-based Substrate Cross-linked with Genipin

Strane, Patrick

Barker, Thomas Identification of Fibroblast Subpopulations in Living Lung Tissue

Menon, Rohan

Taite, Lakeshia

Blenden, Mitchell

A Novel Elastin Mimetic Peptide for Improved Matrix Deposition in Tissue Engineered Vascular Grafts

Yoganathan, Ajit Computational Modeling of Mechanical Heart Valves

Kim, Byung Kyu

Sulchek, Todd

Mechanical Diagnostics of Ovarian Cancer

Korneva, Arina

Dixon, James

Biological Response of Lymphatic Endothelial Cells to Mechanical Stretch

McKinnon, Michael

Forest, Craig

Spectral characterization of ex-vivo thrombosis

Moran, Shamus

Guldberg, Robert Quantitative Comparison of Functional & Structural Changes in Two Rat Osteoarthritis Models

Page 11

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Wendy Newstetter By Dhruv Vishwakarma

BME Curricula Mastermind


are is a BME faculty member with an educational background in linguistics. Rarer even is a BME faculty member studying the science of human learning and developing a curriculum based on research findings on the mechanisms of learning. This is precisely the role of Wendy Newstetter, Director of Learning Sciences Research. After earning her B.S. in Asian Studies at Colby College, Newstetter went on to Lancaster University for her Masters and Ph.D. in Linguistics. At Georgia Tech, she has worked in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture, the College of Computing and currently in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia and Emory University. What separates the Coulter Department from other schools or colleges at Georgia Tech is the unique and innovative pedagogic approach it embraces. Any student past BMED 1300 or BMED 2210 can attest to the implementation of such practices and some may question their educational worth. However, these courses are designed based on knowledge from cognitive science research conducted by Newstetter. “Cognitive science has 5 pillars - Psychology, Anthropology, Linguistics, Artificial Intelligence, and Neuroscience. Cognitive scientists are interested in how the mind accrues, stores and uses knowledge. And a language is one of the hardest things you'll learn in your life.” Though her training is in sociolinguistics, she is ultimately interested in the question of how to design “optimal learning environments.” Newstetter’s approach involves studying learning in research labs and applying the results to improve the Coulter Department curriculum. “If we imagine that these [research labs] are rich sites of authentic learning - learning in the wild - what are the ecological features of the lab that support this robust learning? How are students apprenticed in this situation? What do learning and cognition look like?” In an effort to try to make the traditional lecture-based classroom into a more “authentic learning environment”, the department has had to radically retool a number of courses. Research labs are the centers of scientific progress where breakthroughs occur regularly and students succeed in obtaining doctorate

Page 12

degrees. To study these labs, Newstetter conceptual understanding of a system is uses an ethnographic approach to study the needed to solve a problem. The student then needs to question all parts of the lab population. Ethnography connects system. This thinking process is an cultural, communal practices to certain important trait of the “innovative thinker.” groups of people - in this case, BME In BMED 1300 and BMED 2210, the researchers. Newstetter may, for example, essential quality that is impressed upon follow the experience of a new Ph.D. students is to question all parts of the student for a year to understand how his problem to gain a deep conceptual or her understanding changes over time. understanding of the parts. Finding the Biomedical engineering, as a discipline, answers and relating the knowledge to requires students to obtain a highly integrative thinking process to be successful. The design of such a curriculum is no easy feat. Back in 2000, the BME department was tasked with just such a challenge – how to train students to integrate engineering and biosciences seamlessly. A good example of the solution is the problembased learning (PBL) rooms in the U. A. Whitaker building. These rooms are based on the idea that expert problemDr. Wendy Newstetter (left). BMED solving is mediated by the 1300 students working in a problem environment. Expert based learning room (right). (Photo: GTRC/GIT) problem solvers write out ideas and provisional o t h e r knowledge to assist with designing knowledge innovative solutions – hence the writable allows the walls in the PBL rooms. In fact, this design students to provides a way for students to “own the refine their rooms for a few hours because we only mental model have classes Tuesdays and Thursdays.” The of the PBL rooms pave the way for BMED 1300. problem. In this class, students are thrown into the What sets apart the expert from the novice role of a biomedical engineer and tasked is the accuracy with which their mental with an open-ended problem that requires model reflects the real world. a highly integrative solution. Students The unique design of Georgia Tech’s present their proposed solutions to faculty, BME curriculum is a major factor in its which in most cases, results in students’ consistently high ranking when compared realization of the incompleteness of their to other BME programs. To effectively solution. This approach values failure and teach the integrative thinking process that teaches students to learn from external BME requires, the design of courses needs critique. Ultimately, what were various to be based on successful learning compartmentalized ideas become a systems approaches. The 21st century classroom -based approach to problem solving. needs severe retooling to leverage the new Another example of a unique course ways of the world – huge information design is BMED 2210. It is based on a selfhighways such as the internet, new thinking paced learning of a certain number of processes and new technologies. concepts determined to be vital to solving Newstetter is leading the way to a more biomedical problems. At this point, the informed and innovative biomedical student has to step back and ask whether engineer. his or her inherent knowledge is accurate. Dhruv Vishwakarma is an undergraduate student in the This occurs when a comprehensive Coulter Department.

January 2011