2020 Bioengineering Annual Report

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bi engineering V O L G E N A U S C H O O L O F E N G I N E E R I N G D E PA R T M E N T O F





years of innovation Since its creation in 2011, Mason’s Department of Bioengineering has grown into a leadership position in Northern Virginia. We have increased our student enrollment, hired talented faculty, started new educational programs, enlisted

the help of a prestigious advisory board, and are becoming known for impactful research. Our proximity to top research and clinical facilities sets us apart from other programs.

When students study with us, they benefit from our BS and PhD programs that include concentrations in biomedical imaging and devices, computational biomedical engineering, neurotechnology and computational neurosciences, and biomaterials and nanomedicine. We also have two additional concentrations in prehealth and health informatics in our BS program that provide a breadth of

choices to our students, and our new MS program is helping undergraduates transition to top-level industry jobs.

Our undergraduate program is distinguished by our commitment to offer research and internship experiences to all students. Our research faculty host many undergraduates in their labs, and

students benefit from scholarships. Thanks to the growing strength of local industry and government institutions, we have established a network of opportunities that our students can choose from to gain the experience they need to make crucial employment decisions after graduation.

Mason Bioengineering students benefit from strong ties and collaborations with local clinical

University centers including the Inova Fairfax Medical Campus, Children’s National Hospital, and

Georgetown University Medical Center. We recently won an National Institutes of Health grant to fund a clinical immersion experience for our rising seniors in these clinical sites where many will spend six weeks in the summer discovering the challenges that physicians face daily.

As a top-rated Carnegie R1 research institution, George Mason University is on a steep upward

trajectory in research activity, funding, publications, and technology transfer where bioengineering

plays a significant role. Bioengineering’s yearly research expenditures exceed $3 million, and last year alone we brought in more than $6 million of new funding. I invite you to look through

the extensive list of newly funded awards on page 17 that demonstrate the importance of our faculty’s research programs and the talents of our growing cohort of PhD students.

As you read about the accomplishments of our students and faculty and discover their amazing

accomplishments you will see how much progress we’ve made in our first 10 years. We look forward to more success in the next decade as we contribute solutions to society’s medical challenges. g


Using Ultrasound Technology to Improve the Lives of Amputees

They are collaborating with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to test this technology in a military population using

another new grant award from the Department of Defense. They also have a grant from the

Commonwealth Research Commercialization

Fund to explore prosthetic training applications using a wearable ultrasound system.

The team is completing additional preliminary

studies in amputee subjects using a benchtop system. In the meantime, they are in the process of miniaturizing the ultrasound instrumentation to incorporate inside a

prosthetic socket and developing and testing embedded algorithms for interpreting the ultrasound signals for controlling the


ioengineering Professor Siddhartha

Sikdar is using technology to help individuals with limb loss better control their prostheses.

The next steps are to perform laboratory

tests of an integrated system with people with amputations and perform safety evaluations in preparation for seeking FDA approval.

The successful completion of this research

His team is investigating a new way to operate

will lead to the first human evaluation of an

muscle activity.

portable imaging sensors and real-time image

“Our goal is to help amputees go about their

prosthetic control, he says.

Siddhartha Sikdar, who is director of the

“In the long term, we anticipate that the

Interactions (CASBBI).

of control will increase acceptance by

prostheses using ultrasound waves to sense

daily lives with improved function,” says

Center for Adaptive Systems of Brain-Body

His research group was recently awarded a Bioengineering Research Partnership grant from the National Institutes of Health to

develop this technology for commercial use and perform clinical trials.


prosthetic hands.

integrated prototype that uses low-power

analysis to sense residual muscle activity for

improvements in functionality and intuitiveness amputees,” Sikdar says. g

Professor Siddhartha Sikdar is director of the Center for Adaptive Systems of Brain Body Interactions (CASBBI) which pursues transdisciplinary research 3 and translational innovations aimed at challenges related to disability. He is also the principal investigator of the transdisciplinary NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program at CASBBI which is a bold, new model for community-engaged STEM graduate training in disability-related research.


Associate Professor Qi Wei is fine-tuning a computer model that will help with the diagnosis and treatment of crossed eyes. Qi was recognized in 2020 with the university’s Teaching Excellence Award.

Professor’s Eyes Are on the Prize


hen Associate Professor Qi Wei

sees people with vision troubles, she knows

there is more to the problem than meets the eye. She researches strabismus, which is crossed

Although a few computer models for the

don’t line up to look at the same place at the

colleagues are fine-tuning their model, which

eyes. “When people have strabismus, their eyes same time,” says Wei.

One or both eyes may turn in, out, up or down.

It’s a prevalent problem, especially with children. It affects 18 million people in the United States.

“Strabismus can be debilitating because people

with the condition develop double vision, blurred

treatment of the condition exist, Wei and

will overcome others’ critical limitations. Using clinical data from 50 strabismic patients

who’ve been operated on, the team will test hypotheses that they hope will advance the knowledge on treating two common types of strabismus. g

vision, eyestrain, or other symptoms impairing daily activities.”

Wei and three other principal investigators from different universities are creating a data-driven computer model of the eye for diagnosing and treating strabismus with almost $1.8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

“We hope the neuro-biomedical model we are developing will help doctors better determine how best to treat strabismus,” she says.

It’s complicated and hard to diagnose and treat effectively, she says. Typically, the condition is

Although a few computer models for

more extraocular muscles. Generally, surgeons

the treatment of the condition exist,

treated with surgery that manipulates one or

rely on experience and intuition to decide the best surgical treatment, she says.

Wei and colleagues are fine-tuning their model, which will overcome others’ critical limitations.


New Framework for Future Vaccines


ioengineering researchers’ work with

DNA nanotechnology could be adapted to fight viruses such as the coronavirus.

He and his colleagues are using DNA

“We are designing a unique vaccine

nanotechnology to lay the foundation

development of vaccines,” says Assistant

infection. Nanotechnology involves

development tool that would enable the rapid

for developing vaccines that could block

Professor Remi Veneziano.

manipulating matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale.

“It’s a safe and elegant way to design

vaccines,” Veneziano says. “If successful,

our strategy could be adapted for emerging viruses and applied to several other

pathogens, including the new coronavirus.” Pathogens are microorganisms, such as

viruses and bacteria, which cause disease. “Many biological mechanisms involving

bacteria, viruses, and cells happen at the nanoscopic scale, which is very small

and requires specialized techniques to

investigate,” Veneziano says. “When working on the nanoscale, DNA can be made in the same shape of the virus and modified with viral proteins to mimic viruses.”

Remi Veneziano and his colleagues are using DNA nanotechnology to lay the foundation for developing vaccines that could block infection. Nanotechnology involves manipulating matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. 6

The goal is to make the immune cells believe the nanoparticle is a virus and trigger an immune response, he says. g

7 Assistant Professor Remi Veneziano is using DNA nanotechnology to lay the foundation for developing vaccines that could fight viruses such as the coronavirus.

8 Associate Professor Parag Chitnis is designing active bandages that will be integrated with ultrasound systems for sensing wound state.


Active Bandages Hasten Healing

ason Engineering researchers

are developing new “active bandages” and

implantable devices to improve the healing of serious combat wounds.

“We are tasked to reduce the healing time

There is a critical need for this innovative

two. The hope is that this will lead to better

technology because recovery and rehabilitation after traumatic injury is a major challenge for military personnel.

of difficult-to-treat wounds by a factor of healing, faster rehabilitation, and fewer

psychological consequences from a long recovery,” Chitnis says.

“The active bandages will be integrated with

The beauty of using ultrasound to assess

state as well as for triggering the release of

cost-effective, and portable, he says. g

ultrasound systems for sensing the wound

therapeutic compounds from biocompatible

wounds is that it is non-invasive, safe,

devices implanted in the wound,” says

bioengineering Associate Professor Parag

Chitnis, co-director of the Biomedical Imaging Lab, which is part of the Institute for Biohealth Innovation.

Chitnis was awarded a $1.2 million grant as a

member of a consortium of nine academic and

industry entities led by Columbia University with a total budget of $16.4 million, funded by the

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Conventionally, wounds are treated with

medications and dressing, which can result

in significantly slower or incomplete healing outcomes, but the bioelectronic interfaces developed in this project combined with

There is a critical need for this

and track the progress of wound healing and

innovative technology because

artificial intelligence (AI) will be able to sense actively regulate tissue repair to tailor the treatment for each person, he says.

recovery and rehabilitation after traumatic injury is a major challenge for military personnel. 9

Getting a Leg Up on Research to Halt Knee Pain


ason bioengineering Professor

Caroline Hoemann is making significant

Athletes, physically active adults, people with osteoarthritis, and others sometimes have

strides in developing treatments for chronic

significant pain and limited movement in their

knee pain.

knees from damaged cartilage, she says.

She is creating new biomaterials that might

To repair the tissue, surgeons use a

a tissue that acts as a shock absorber for

make multiple small holes in the bone exposed

one day be used to treat damaged cartilage,

procedure called microfracture, in which they

the bones.

at the surface of the joint to stimulate a healing response. “They have a good success rate in younger patients, but the repair tissues regenerate in an unpredictable manner,” she says.

“My long-term goal is to restore pain-free knees to patients and reduce their need for knee replacement. It would give them back their lives.” That’s where biomaterials come in. “Our “My long-term goal is to restore pain-free

knees to patients and reduce their need for knee replacement. It would give them back their lives,” says Hoemann, director of the

Laboratory of Biomaterials and Nanomedicine

approach is to prompt the immune system

to cooperate with the bone marrow to regrow damaged cartilage. Some biomaterials have a unique potential to stimulate the patients’ own cells to preserve and regenerate cartilage,” Hoemann says.

This type of research takes years. “We’ve

been looking at the whole knee, which is why the research is drawn out. It’s a multifactorial problem because the knee is so complex,” Hoemann says. g


11 Professor Caroline Hoemann is developing biomaterials to help repair damaged knee cartilage.

12 Professor Juan Raul Cebral is using image-based computational modeling to study blood flow in the brain to learn more about aneurysms.

Developing Better Diagnosis, Treatment for Brain Aneurysms


ioengineering Professor Juan Raul

Cebral combines math and medicine to help patients who are suffering from strokes and other cerebrovascular disease.

He uses image-based computational modeling

to study blood flow in the brain so he can learn

more about aneurysms. A cerebral aneurysm is a ballooning, weak area in the wall of an artery that supplies blood to the brain. If it ruptures,

it can cause a hemorrhagic stroke, which can lead to death or brain damage.

computational models. “In those models,

“We are trying to understand how aneurysms

we’re solving the mathematical equations

Computational Sciences and Informatics ’96.

and combine this information with ex-vivo

It is not well understood how the aneurysms

conditions that predispose the walls for further

form, progress, and rupture,” says Cebral, PhD

that represent the flow inside these arteries, analysis of tissue samples to understand the

form in the first place, but it’s thought that

degeneration and failure.”

biological responses in the wall that result in

This research also may help identify which

wall progressively degenerates, the aneurysm

interventions. If physicians treat everybody,

to effectively remodel the wall to reinforce it.

invasive surgical treatment, but if they don’t

To gain insights into this process, Cebral

aneurysms may rupture, Cebral says.

aneurysms and constructing patient-specific

“I hope our work may one day result in new

abnormal blood flow conditions induce

arterial degeneration, he says. As the artery

patients to treat with medications or surgical

grows and eventually ruptures if it is not able

they may injure many people who don’t need

uses three-dimensional images of patients’

treat the patients who need it, then their

diagnostic tools and novel, non-invasive

therapies that will transform brain aneurysms into an innocuous disease that’s easy to manage,” he says. g


Neural Reconstruction Database Accelerates Research


iorgio Ascoli, a professor of

bioengineering, and his team created

NeuroMorpho.Org in 2006 to store the

large amounts of data they needed to make computational models of neurons.

have been published using or describing data available in the NeuroMorpho.Org database. The National Institutes of Health has

The open-access repository for neural

funded over 140 applications mentioning

exchange data freely. The project makes

summary. Those numbers translate to big

efficient, says Ascoli.

be awarded and spent over the duration of the

reconstructions allows researchers to

NeuroMorpho.Org in the title, aims, or

neuroanatomy research faster and more

money; more than $200 million is projected to funded projects.

Bengt Ljungquist, a research assistant

professor at Mason and IT manager for the

project, notes the exponential growth of the

database since its inception and what it means for the project’s future.

“As a now true big data project with more than 130,000 neurons, with a novel automated

data processing pipeline allowing for even

faster growth, there is increased load on the

project IT infrastructure,” he says. “In addition, not only human scientists are interacting with The reconstructions have been used to

investigate the pathways of Alzheimer’s

disease, epilepsy, and memory capacity. They have also been used to investigate the effects of cosmic radiation on astronauts’ central nervous systems.

“Real-world applications may include solving neurological and psychiatric problems and

designing next-generation computers capable of human-like cognition,” Ascoli says.

With such vital and varied applications, it is

no surprise that over 1,700 scientific papers


the database, but also a growing number of computers directly analyze the data.

“With the current version of NeuroMorpho.

Org using modern data cloud and virtualization technologies, we may now take the next step to develop new interfaces for both humans

and computers to scale up interactions, deliver new analysis functions, and increase search speeds,” he says. g

Professor Giorgio Ascoli developed NeuroMorpho.Org, which stores large amounts of data needed to make computational models of neurons. Ascoli is director of the Center for Neural Informatics, Structures, and Plasticity. The center pursues fundamental breakthroughs in neuroscience by fostering neuroinformatic and computational approaches to neuroplasticity and neuroanatomy.


Research Funding


Start Date

End Date

Award Amount

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Generation and Description of Neuronal Morphology and Connectivity

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Ascoli, Giorgio

Cytoskeletal Mechanisms of Dendrite Arbor Shape Development

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Ascoli, Giorgio

Contribution to Center for Neural Informatics

Unrestricted Research Support (Private donation in memory of Harold Morowitz)




Blackwell, Kim L

Disruptions in Spine Dynamics Caused by Changes in Cofilin Controlled by cAMP Signaling Pathways

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Blackwell, Kim L

Synaptic Integration, Calcium Dynamics, and Plasticity in Striatum Spiny Projection Neurons

National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Buschmann, Michael Daro

Clinical Immersion with Health Professionals and Industry Advising in Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Capstone Design

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Cebral, Juan Raul

Improving Cerebral Aneurysm Risk Assessment through Understanding Wall Vulnerability and Failure Modes

National Insitute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Cebral, Juan Raul

Neuroscience and Brain Aneurysm Research

GMU Foundation, College of Science, GMU




Cebral, Juan Raul

Hemodynamics and Flow Divertion in Cerebral Aneurysms

Philips Healthcare




Cebral, Juan Raul

Computational and Biological Approach to Flow Diversion

National Insitute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Chitnis, Parag

TRAUMAS: Treatment and Recovery Augmented with Electrical and UntrasoundMediated Actuation and Sensing

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)




Chitnis, Parag

Vaginal Birth Induced Pelvic Floor Muscle Injury and Recovery

Center for Innovative Technology Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CIT-CRCF)




Salinas, Armando

Chronic Ethanlol Effects on Cholinergic Interneurons of the Striatum

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Sikdar, Siddhartha

NRT-HDR: Transdisciplinary Graduate Training Program in Data-Driven Adaptive Systems of Brain-Body Interactions

National Science Foundation




Sikdar, Siddhartha

Sonomyogaraphic Upper Limb Prosthetics: A New Paradigm

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Sikdar, Siddhartha

An Open Data Sharing Platform for Substance Use Disorders

National Science Foundation




Sikdar, Siddhartha

Wearable Ultrasound System for Robust Sensing of Muscle Activation

Commomwealth Research and Commercialization Fund (CRCF)




Sikdar, Siddhartha

Asymptomatic Carotid Stenosis and Correlates of Cognitive Function (ACCOF)

Department of Veterans Affairs




Sikdar, Siddhartha

Planning Grant: Engineering Research Center for Technology-Empowered Communities of Recovery (TECOR)

National Science Foundation




Sikdar, Siddhartha

CPS:Synergy: Collaborative Research: Closed-loop Hybrid Exoskeleton Utilizing Wearable Ultrasound Imaging Sensors for Measuring Fatigue

National Science Foundation




Sikdar, Siddhartha

An Integrated Sonomyographic Prosthetic Control System

Department of Defense




Veneziano, Remi

Exosomes on a Chip: Real-time Monitoring of Intercellular Communication and Immune Responses During Infections

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Veneziano, Remi

DNA-Nanoparticles (DNA-NP) for Antigen Presentation and Vaccine Design for Aerosolized Pathogens

United States Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity (USAMRAA), Department of Defense (DOD)




Wei, Qi

Data-Drive Biomechanical Simulation of Eye Movement and Strabismus

National Eye Institute (NEI), National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Wei, Qi

The Neural Control of Internal Joint State Variables

Northwestern University/National Institutes of Health (NIH)




Wei, Qi

Life STEM EAGER: Exploring the Relationship between High School Mathematics and Bioscience, Standardized Testing and College Performance in Biotechnology-related Fields

Division of Research on Learning (DRL), National Science Foundation (NSF)







Ascoli, Giorgio

Anatomical Characterization of Neuronal Cell Types of the Mouse Brain

Ascoli, Giorgio


Learning to Make a Difference in Human Health

Multidisciplinary training makes

The curriculum provides a strong

positions in biomedical, biotech

and biological fundamentals

Bioengineers save lives.

academia, and government. Mason

bioengineering is a commitment

some of the nation’s top medical

our graduates competitive for

and pharmaceutical industries,

Choosing a degree in

bioengineers have been placed in

to a challenging and rewarding

schools and graduate schools.

solutions to improve health.

Our current concentrations in the

field dedicated to creating

BS bioengineering program are:

background in the engineering of bioengineering as well as

breadth courses in biomechanics, biomaterials, bioinstrumentation,

imaging, computational modeling, and neuroengineering.

The Mason bioengineering BS

program provides students with a

• Biomedical Imaging

complete and in-depth education

the foundations of engineering

• Computational Biomedical

attractive industry positions or

them understand and successfully

• Neurotechnology and

As undergraduates in

bioengineering, our students learn and health sciences that will help address the nation’s leading health problems.

and Devices

in bioengineering that leads to


further graduate study. g

Computational Neuroscience

• Biomaterials and Nanomedicine • Bioengineering Prehealth • Bioengineering Health Care Informatics

18 Bioengineering student Alexander Nixon works at the Nanotechnology laboratory in the Krasnow Institute.

Engineering students in the Applied Neurotechnologies class work with faculty and clinicians in a clinical environment.

New Clinical Immersion Initiative Crosses Disciplines to Solve Medical Problems

for the summer. “Bioengineering

After the summer immersion

hospitals looking at various clinical

will start their year-long senior

students will spend time in the

issues and problems, and I will be

working with them to identify critical

The Department of Bioengineering

needs that they can target and build

College of Health and Human

design projects,” says Shani Ross,

from different disciplines together

of Bioengineering.

is partnering with units in Mason’s

solutions for, as part of their senior

Services (CHHS) to bring students

associate chair of the Department

program, bioengineering students design projects. Collaborating with students from nursing,

health administration, and health informatics, they will devise

solutions to the clinical needs that they identified over the summer.

to identify medical problems and engineer holistic and innovative solutions.

The new program, funded by a

nearly $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will take bioengineering students on a six-week clinical

immersion into major hospitals in the

D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia area, starting in summer 2021.

Students will be placed in Inova

Hospital, Georgetown Hospital, or

Children’s National Medical Center


“We are providing an enriched real-world environment for students to work in and develop their network of colleagues with complementary skill sets.” Students will also be advised by

and pathways for bioengineering

hospitals, a faculty advisor in the

education, he says. “Currently, our

a clinical mentor from one of the

Department of Bioengineering, an advisor from either the School of

Nursing, the Health Administration

program, or the Health Informatics program, and then an industry advisor from the Mason

Bioengineering Alliance. “We are providing an enriched real-world environment for

students to work in and develop their network of colleagues with

students to complete their

senior design projects are either

faculty or industry-sponsored and the problems they need to solve are already given to them. The

clinical immersion approach allows our undergraduate students to

experience a clinical environment and to identify challenges where

they can apply their knowledge and skills to find workable solutions,” says Buschmann.

complementary skill sets,” says

“Everything needs to be

Department of Bioengineering.

lot of new medical technologies is

Michael Buschmann, chair of the

This new way of completing

senior design offers new skills

considered. The end-user for a

nurses, and ease of use and patient care is the top priority from our

perspective, and health informatics and bioengineering have different

lenses too,” says Cheryl A. Oetjen, interim director of the School of Nursing. g


Senior Allison Dockum majored in bioengineering so she can create medical devices that help others.

Life-Changing Experience Shapes Students’ Studies Senior Allison Dockum is

used a device called an external

“I would like to work either in

new bone formed. Her legs are now

assistive technology—prosthetics

fixator to slowly stretch the limb as about the same length.

majoring in bioengineering to

“Growing up, I was fascinated by

has first-hand experience in the

and her surgeon took the time to

change lives for the better. She

how the fixator worked,” she says,

impact of this expertise.

explain his work with the surgical

Surgeons and bioengineers “gave


life, and I want to do the same for

Dockum knew bioengineers also

me the ability to live a semi-normal

tool developed by a Russian

others,” she says.

often develop such devices, and

Dockum was born with proximal

was born. “What I like about

meaning her left leg was about

of the body through an engineering

She underwent multiple limb-

on solutions to physiological

her interest in bioengineering

industry or research and focus on and biomechanical devices, says Dockum, who is earning a BS in

bioengineering in combination with an accelerated master’s degree in data analytics engineering. Dockum worked two years

as a research assistant in the

Biomedical Imaging Lab under the direction of professor Siddhartha

Sikdar, whose team is investigating a new way to operate prostheses using ultrasound waves to sense

femoral focal deficiency,

bioengineering is the understanding

half the length of her right leg.

lens. It expands your perspective

“Dr. Sikdar encouraged me to

lengthening surgeries in which

problems,” she says.

she says. “He has provided help

a surgeon cut the bone, then

muscle activity.

pursue what I’m passionate about,” and resources and mentorship.” g


Freshman Lina Alkarmi chose Mason for its research, faculty, and the career opportunities in bioengineering.

Making an Impact and an Impression

“The research areas were all so

and engineering, she decided the

thought, ‘wow, this is something

profit and her interest in math

Lina Alkarmi has always had

bioengineering field was a perfect fit.

a desire to help others. Through

Alkarmi chose Mason for many

bioengineering freshman, she

was the first deciding factor. “It was

an interest in for healthcare and

interesting. I looked through and that I could really see myself participate in.’”

her non-profit, and now as a

reasons, but her visit to campus

Despite all her classes being

strives to make a difference.

in February or March that there was

Alkarmi is still excited for the

In high school, she and a friend

where they invited us to tour and

opportunities in healthcare, and they

I started opening my eyes and

an accepted students’ weekend

were looking for volunteer

meet some faculty, and that’s when

decided to start their own non-profit.

realized this is where I want to go.”

“When I was a sophomore,

Alkarmi says access to

Princess Packages. We started

appealed to her. “I like how it

to young children suffering from

where there are a lot of places

online during her first semester, college experience and sees it as

another learning opportunity. “I do wish it was more traditional, but I

understand why. It’s important that we all social distance so we can

manage the cases of COVID-19.

I’m really grateful that Mason has

I co-founded a non-profit called

opportunities in the area also

by delivering handmade packages

is close to Washington D.C.,

terminal illnesses in local hospitals,

for internships and connections.”

Alkarmi knows there are

club at our high school, and now

The chance to take part in

great experiences to research, learn,

all over the U.S.,” says Alkarmi.

biggest draw for Alkarmi.

but then we expanded, started a

we deliver packages to hospitals


Based on her work with the non-

innovative research was the

such amazing professors who

seem like they’re trying to keep us all engaged.”

opportunities at Mason for new and and make a difference, and she is

eager to see what comes her way. g

Student-athlete Juggles Dreams and Achieves Goals Rising senior Ashley Lewis is

some bioengineering seminars

Within the broad field of

Scholarship, Creative Activities,

are still a lot of things to figure out,

through the Office of Student and Research (OSCAR).

no stranger to hard work and

She connected with one of the

student, member of the Mason

her first research position with

endurance. As a bioengineering

presenters and eventually started

track team, blogger, and former

Assistant Professor Jeff Moran.

Summer Research Program, she

“I always had an interest in

dreams and aspirations.

something works. I want to know

“I have a lot of interests, and my

way it is, but I want to know the

more things I enjoy,” says Lewis.

in biology wasn’t satisfying that

summer intern for the Stanford

has found ways to juggle her many

time at Mason showed me even

Lewis came to Mason’s

analyzing and asking how

not only why is something the

nitty-gritty, and my course work curiosity,” says Lewis.

Fairfax Campus from Boston,

After Lewis took some engineering

and member of the track team.

engineering was where she wanted

bioengineering after attending

bioengineering her sophomore year.

Massachusetts as a biology major

courses, she realized that

She discovered her passion for

to be. She changed her major to

bioengineering, Lewis admits there but she knows she will find an area within bioengineering that she is enthusiastic about.

In her internship, Lewis focused on genetics-based projects that look at how different factors

affect immune responses and

other disease pathologies. Moran says, “From the beginning of her work with me, Ashley displayed

a rare combination of work ethic, intellectual curiosity, and drive to

succeed. As soon as she started, she hit the ground running.

Throughout her time in my group, she was continually asking for

more work to do, more papers to

read, and other ways she could be helpful. Ashley has a stellar future ahead of her.” g

23 Senior Ashley Lewis is a bioengineering student, member of Mason’s track team, and a blogger.

Transforming Surgical Options David Thompson’s inspiration to

The program offers three options for

dates back to his childhood.

extra coursework, or a practicum.

pursue a career in bioengineering

“My grandfather on my father’s

side lost his leg at a factory and that lead to the deterioration of

his health. I wondered if we had

completing the degree—a thesis, Thompson chose the practicum,

and he’s currently working as an intern at Inova’s Biomechanics Research Laboratory.

easier access to higher forms of technology, would he have lived longer,” he says.

Research in bioengineering, which leads to the development of new

life-changing medical devices and technology, seemed like the best Graduate student David Thompson interned at Inova as part of his master’s degree program in bioengineering.

way to make a difference in the

lives of people like his grandfather. So Thompson decided to pursue a

tool that uses data about various aspects of the patient’s health, gathered from MRIs and other

tests, to predict how the patient would react to different surgical options, he says.

master’s degree in bioengineering.

“This kind of technology is the wave

summer 2020, one of the first students

than training. It will allow surgeons

He should be finished at the end of to receive the new degree from the Department of Bioengineering.


He helped develop a virtual reality

of the future. It’s more for planning

to visualize and execute the things they want to do,” he says. g

Bioengineering Alumni Share Insights to Success Bioengineering opens a variety of career paths to our graduates. Here are some young alumni who are beginning their promising careers. After graduation our students have a vast array of options open to them from working in Industry or Government or continuing in Graduate School or Medical School.

g 50% Industry

g 20% Government

g 15% Graduate School

“I work in the air systems division, so I regularly operate in helicopters and fixed wing aircraft,” he says. “My job allows me to contribute to very large efforts that give me fulfillment and enables me to learn more on a daily basis.” Working in several bioengineering labs at Mason provided an excellent opportunity to hone his critical thinking skills in independent research. “My classes in machine learning and graduate image processing help me adapt to the defense environment where I apply these skills regularly,” Bussler says.

g 10% Medical School g 5% Miscellaneous

Forrest Bussler BS Bioengineering ’17, a general engineer for Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Bussler says a degree in bioengineering was a perfect fit for him “because it offered electrical engineering skills along with human factors elements that are critical to interpreting algorithm performance. My job is largely image processing type work.”

Sameen Yusuf BS Bioengineering ’17, a data analyst at Socially Determined, a startup in Washington, D.C., where she analyzes how social factors impact health. She pursued a degree in bioengineering “because I wanted to build a foundation in engineering principles to think critically about healthcare disparities.” Yusuf did just that in her senior design project. She and three other bioengineering students worked with Mason researchers to develop an affordable, user-friendly diagnostic test for deadly communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. After graduation, she went to Nepal on a Fulbright research fellowship to

conduct a user acceptability study for the technology. “The degree equipped me with the problem-solving skills I need to identify social needs and address them with technical solutions,” she says.

Tyra Bookhart BS Bioengineering ’19, a patent examiner/biomedical engineer at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia. Bookhart, who examines patent applications for new inventions within the medical device field, decided to major in bioengineering with a concentration in biomedical signals and systems because “I have always had a passion for medicine and engineering. What better way than to pick a major where I could practice both.” She says the bioengineering classes in conjunction with working in a research lab gave her a rich college experience. “The art of problem-solving that I learned at Mason created a solid foundation for my career,” Bookhart says. “The people I work with now are knowledgeable and eager to help explain cases to me. There are a lot of novel medical devices in development.” g


Bioengineering Faculty


Primary Faculty AY 2020-21 Our faculty members—who combine practical experience with in-depth scholarly studies— instruct students, guide them, and make them partners in advanced research projects. For more information go to bioengineering. sitemasonry.gmu.edu/people/meet-our-faculty

Giorgio Ascoli Professor Research Interests: Neuroinformatics and Data-Driven Brain Simulations

Kim Blackwell Professor Research Interests: Mechanisms of Memory Storage in Neurons

Laurence Bray Associate Professor Research Interests: Computational Neuroscience

Michael Buschmann Professor and Chair Research Interests: Messenger RNA Nanotherapeutics

Juan Cebral Professor Research Interests: Image-based Computational Modeling of Blood Flows, Cerebral Aneurysms, Stroke

Parag Chitnis Associate Professor Research Interest: Wearable Sensors, Focused Ultrasound, Photo Acoustic Imaging, Drug Delivery

Caroline Hoemann Professor Research Interests: Biomaterials and Nanomedicine

Vasiliki Ikonomidou Research Interest: Computational Biomedical Engineering

Eugene Kim Term Assistant Professor Research Interests: Engineering Education, Synthetic Biology, Bioadhesive Materials

Nathalia Peixoto Associate Professor Research Interests: Neurotechnology and Computational Neuroscience

Shani Ross Assistant Professor and Associate Chair Research Interests: Neural Engineering

Siddhartha Sikdar Professor Research Interests: Biomedical Imaging and Devices

Remi Veneziano Assistant Professor Research Interests: DNA Nanotechnology

Qi Wei Associate Professor Research Interests: Computational Biomedical Engineering


Administration and Staff AY 2020-21

Faculty Affiliates AY 2020-21 Our faculty affiliates are clinicians, scholars, and researchers with years of experience in industry, government, and healthcare. They bring unique and valuable perspectives to our students’ educational experience.

Michael Buschmann Department Chair and Professor

Shani Ross Associate Chair and Assistant Professor

Claudia Borke Academic Advisor and Success Coach

Jonia Alshiek Senior Research Scholar Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology Inova Health, Falls Church, Virginia Urogynecologist/Clinical Instructor Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, Hadera, Israel

Robert Caldwell President and CEO Strategic Health Solutions Washington, D.C.

David J. Hamilton Neuroscientist Intelligent Mission Consulting Services (IMCS)

Wilsaan Joiner Assistant Professor Davis Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior University of California, Davis, California

Peter Katona Former Professor Department of Bioengineering Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Terry McGowan Fiscal Coordinator Bong Jae Chung Assistant Professor Department of Math & Sciences Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey Carol McHugh Academic Program Assistant

Randy Warren Lab Manager/Adjunct Faculty, Bioengineering


Felicitas Detmer Postdoc Research Fellow Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

Alexander Komendantov Former Assistant Professor Krasnow Institute George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Joseph Marr Chief Data Strategist Huntington Ingalls Industry Term Associate Professor Department of Computational and Data Sciences George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Igor Medintz U.S. Navy Senior Scientist for Biosensors and Biomaterials U.S. Naval Research Lab, Washington, D.C.

Jay Shah Education Coordinator, Medical Section Senior Staff Physiatrist Rehabilitation Medicine Department, Clinical Center NIH, Bethesda, Maryland

S. Abbas Shobeiri Professor and Vice Chair Gynecology Inova Women’s Hospital, Fairfax, Virginia Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, VCU Professor of Medical Education, UVA

John Cressman Associate Professor Physics and Astronomy College of Science George Mason University

Pilgyu Kang Assistant Professor Department of Mechanical Engineering George Mason University

University Affiliates

Sridevi Polavaram Senior Information Scientist The MITRE Corporation, McLean, Virginia

Darwin Reyes Project Leader Physical Measurements Lab National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Gaithersburg, Maryland

Ruggero Scorcioni Vice President, Principal ML Engineer Factset

Our university affiliates are professors in other departments at George Mason University who supervise our students’ research and collaborate with our faculty on research projects.

Nelson Cortes Associate Professor Exercise, Fitness and Health Promotion College of Education and Human Development George Mason University

Lance Liotta Professor College of Science Co-Director, Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine George Mason University

Jeffrey Moran Assistant Professor Department of Mechanical Engineering George Mason University


Mariaelena Pierobon Associate Professor, Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine School of Systems Biology George Mason University

Huzefa Rangwala Professor Department of Computer Science George Mason University

Padmanabhan Seshaiyer Professor, Mathematical Sciences College of Science Associate Dean for Academic Affairs College of Science George Mason University

Amarda Shehu Professor Department of Computer Science George Mason University

James Thompson Associate Professor Psychology George Mason University

Thomas A. Haag Managing Partner, Linden Lake Venture Capital Bethesda, Maryland

Patrick Vora Assistant Professor, Physics and Astronomy College of Science Director, Quantum Materials Center George Mason University

Christopher Juncosa Life Sciences Consultant Dalya Partners Haymarket, Virginia

Martin Wiener Assistant Professor, Psychology College of Humanities and Social Sciences George Mason University

Adjunct Faculty AY 2020-21 Our adjuncts are clinicians, industry experts, and consultants who teach highly specialized courses that prepare our students for their future careers.

John F. Deeken Inova Schar Cancer Institute, Senior Vice President, Professor of Medicine Inova Fairfax Hospital, Inova Health System, University of Virginia Fairfax, Virginia


Caitlin Laurence Adjunct Faculty, Bioengineering

Fernando Mut Research Assistant Professor, Bioengineering

Mahesh B. Shenai Clinical Director of Inova Neurosurgery Director of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery Inova Hospital Fairfax, Virginia

Bioengineering Alliance Supports Our Mission

S. Abbas Shobeiri Professor & Vice Chair, Gynecology Inova Women’s Hospital Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Virginia Commonwealth University Professor of Medical Education, University of Virginia

Behnam Tehrani Co-Director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories, Inova Fairfax Medical Director, Coronary Care Unit, Inova Heart and Vascular Institute Co-Director, Cardiogenic Shock Program, Inova Heart and Vascular Institute Interventional Cardiologist, Inova Medical Group Falls Church, Virginia

Marinka Tellier Director of Regulatory Affairs NSF International Washington, D.C.

The Mason Bioengineering Alliance is a distinguished group of accomplished individuals from our biomedical and health sciences community. The alliance serves as the critical industry and institutional advisor to the department’s activities and programs. Members play a key role in advising and planning new courses in biomanufacturing, biomedical robotics, and digital health. They link our department to industry and commercialization by sponsoring workshops in university startups, financing, and intellectual property. The board is composed of 32 members:

Alliance Members AY 2020-21 Robert Caldwell President & CEO Strategic Health Solutions, LLC Washington, D.C. Charles Anamelechi Manager Deloitte Consulting, LLP Strategy & Operations Arlington, Virginia Vizma Carver Founder & CEO Carver Global Health Group LLC Jeff Arndt Senior System Engineering Centauri Corp Chantilly, Virginia Jeff Conroy CEO Embody Inc. Norfolk, Virginia

Randy Warren Lab Manager/Adjunct Faculty, Bioengineering Sean Yun Deputy Division Chief Federal Communications Commission Washington, D.C.

Peter Basser Senior Investigator, Intramural Research Program (IRP), NIH Head, Section on Quantitative Imaging and Tissue Sciences (SQITS), Associate Scientific Director (ASD), Division of Imaging, Behavior and Genomic Integrity (DIBGI), Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) National Institutes of Health (NIH) Bethesda, Maryland

Krishna Balakrishnan Senior Technology Transfer Manager National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), NIH Rockville, Maryland


Kevin Cleary Scientific Lead, The Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation Children’s National Medical Center Washington, D.C.

John F. Deeken Inova Schar Cancer Institute, Senior Vice President, Professor of Medicine Inova Fairfax Hospital, Inova Health System, University of Virginia Fairfax, Virginia

Ross Dunlap CEO Ceres Nanosciences, Inc. Manassas, Virginia

Arthur L. Edge III Associate Director Global Technical Operations AstraZeneca


Stanley Thomas Fricke Director of Medical Physics, Department of Radiology Georgetown University CEO, HyperMC2, LLC Washington, D.C.

Thomas Haag Managing Partner Linden Lake Venture Capital Bethesda, Maryland

David J. Hamilton Neuroscientist Intelligent Mission Consulting Services (IMCS)

Steve Hoang Head of Computational Biology Hemoshear Therapeutics Charlottesville, Virginia

Richard Hughen CEO Linshom Annapolis, Maryland

Praduman Jain Founder and CEO Vibrent Health Fairfax, Virginia

Erin O. Johnson Executive Director, Operations, Vaccines Expansion Merck Elkton, Virginia

Christopher Juncosa Life Sciences Consultant Dalya Partners Haymarket, Virginia

Neal Koller Chairman and CEO Alphyn Biologics, LLC Annapolis, Maryland

R. Prakash Kolli CEO and Founder Blue Point Materials Research, LLC

John Newby CEO VirginiaBio Richmond, Virginia

Nnamdi Nwachukwu Vice President, Regulatory Science & Quality Operations RRD International, LLC Rockville, Maryland

Todd Pantezzi Vice President, Federal Health Business Development Perspecta Chantilly, Virginia

Roland Probst Founder & Chief Innovation Officer ACUITYnano, LLC Rockville, Maryland

Steven Roberts Research Scientist Geneva Foundation/USUHS Rockville, Maryland

Mahesh B. Shenai Clinical Director of Inova Neurosurgery Director of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery Inova Hospital Fairfax, Virginia

Eric Vollmecke Deputy Director, Rapid Prototyping Research Center George Mason Volgenau School of Engineering Fairfax, Virginina

Morgan Sisk Modeling & Simulation Engineer Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) McLean, Virginia

Irving Weinberg President Weinberg Medical Physics, Inc. Rockville, Maryland

Michael Tarlov Chief, Biomolecular Measurement Division National Institute of Standards and Technology Gaithersburg, Maryland

Chris Wimmer Executive Vice President SPGlobal Chantilly, Virginia

Marinka Tellier Director of Regulatory Affairs NSF International Washington, D.C.


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