Magazine Cover Story Shows How Engineers Are Addressing Challenges of Sustainability
Introducing the Imogene Baswell Society
In 1967, Imogene Baswell became the first woman to graduate from what would soon become the UAB School of Engineering. Since then, hundreds of female engineers have followed in her footsteps, and from those ranks, dozens of the school’s most accomplished alumni have emerged.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of Baswell’s groundbreaking step, the School of Engineering plans to officially launch the Imogene Baswell Society in 2017. This giving society is being formed to honor the legacy of a pioneering graduate and to support the future of female engineering students at UAB.
The heart cannot regenerate muscle tissue after a heart attack has killed part of the muscle wall, and that dead tissue can strain surrounding muscle, leading to a lethal heart enlargement.
To prevent this heart failure and restore heart function, UAB researchers led by Biomedical Engineering Chair Jianyi “Jay” Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., as well as personnel at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Duke University, will work to create a bioengineered, human heart-tissue patch that is large, standardized and highly functional. This preclinical work will be supported by a seven-year, $8 million grant just awarded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The research hub is led Zhang, Timothy Kamp, M.D., of Wisconsin and Nenad Bursac, Ph.D., of Duke. Their teams in this cooperative effort will work with individual cells and bioengineered patches made up of many cells. They will test the bioengineered cells in mice and the bioengineered patches in pigs.
The goal is to bring cardiac tissue engineering therapies into the clinic for human use by the end of the grant. Ischemic heart disease from restricted blood flow and oxygen starvation is a leading cause of death in the United States. One in every seven deaths in the United States results from coronary artery disease.
“At the end of seven years, we will be ready for clinical trials,” Zhang said.
Zhang is the T. Michael and Gillian Goodrich Endowed Chair of Engineering Leadership at UAB in addition to being the chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint department of the UAB School of Medicine and School of Engineering. Kamp is a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and co-director of the university’s Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center. Bursac is professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University.
A group of UAB engineers has gained wide recognition in recent years for its work on building freezers that can maintain extreme cold temperatures in space. Now that same group has refined its focus to tackle a new challenge— designing a rapid-freeze unit that could potentially influence the types of science performed in space.
The Engineering and Innovative Technology Development (EITD) team in the School of Engineering recently received a pair of new contracts from NASA worth a combined $3.6 million to develop rapid-freeze technology and hardware for use on missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
The contract seems like a natural fit for EITD, which has worked with NASA for more than 10 years developing the high-tech cold-stowage units MERLIN, GLACIER, and Polar—all of which are currently in use aboard the ISS. However, EITD director Lee Moradi, Ph.D., says the ability to rapidly freeze biological samples requires a fundamentally different approach, and UAB was one of several “high-profile” research entities that submitted proposals.
“The capability to rapidly freeze biological samples on the ISS to preserve the microgravity effects has long been a priority,” Moradi explains. “To freeze a biological sample in normal, ground-based research, a scientist will dip the sample into liquid nitrogen. They don’t maintain liquid nitrogen stores on the ISS, so the intent of the NRA (NASA Research Announcement) was to find a safe, efficient alternative.”