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Department of Biomedical Engineering-Distinguished Lecture Series 2020/21- Hosted Via Zoom

Monday, September 14, 2020 to Monday, March 29, 2021
12:00 pm to 12:50 pm

Distinguished Lecture Series in Biomedical Engineering

The Distinguished Lecture Series in Biomedical Engineering is designed to bring innovative leaders in the biomedical engineering field to the WPI campus to meet our outstanding faculty and students, and visit our interdisciplinary research facilities in the heart of Central Massachusetts.



Monday, September 14
  • Monday, September 14, 2020
    12:00pm to 12:50pm

    BME Distinguished Lecture Series: "The Virtual Cell Project" by Leslie Loew, PhD, Professor and Director, UCONN Medical School - Via Zoom


    Leslie Loew, PhD
    Professor of Cell Biology
    Director of the Richard D. Berlin Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling
    Boehringer Ingelheim Chair in Cell Sciences
    UCONN School of Medicine


    Abstract: Cells and the tissues that they form are composed of highly regulated dynamic chemical factories containing millions of different interacting molecular species within multiple flexible and geometrically intricate compartments. Transport of molecules through membranes separating these compartments is regulated by both chemical and electrical signals. The energy produced in biochemical reactions can also be transduced to generate mechanical force to drive alterations in cell shape, cell division or cell migration. To understand how all these physical and chemical events are coordinated to produce the multitude of specialized cell functions is the long-term ambition of the Virtual Cell (VCell) Project. VCell is a modular computational framework that is easily accessible to cell biologists and that permits construction of models, application of numerical solvers to perform simulations, and analysis of simulation results. VCell supports a number of key biophysical mechanisms, including reaction kinetics, diffusion, flow, membrane transport, lateral membrane diffusion, electrophysiology and rule-based models of multi-state/multimolecular interactions. Simulations can be based on 0D, 1D, 2D or 3D analytical or experimental image-based geometries. Users may choose among multiple available simulation approaches: ordinary differential equations, partial differential equations, stochastic reaction kinetics, network-free simulations, spatial particle-based simulations and spatial hybrid stochastic/deterministic simulations. As of September, 2020, more than 23,000 users have registered to download VCell or access the VCell database. They have collectively stored more than 95,000 models and 600,000 simulations in the VCell database system, and over 1,100 models were made public by their owners to be available to the world-wide VCell community.
    BiographyLeslie M. Loew is Professor of Cell Biology, Director of the Richard D. Berlin Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling (CCAM) and holds the Boehringer Ingelheim Chair in Cell Sciences at the UCONN School of Medicine. He established CCAM in 1994 to consolidate research in new optical, photonic, image processing and computational techniques for the investigation of the behavior of living cells. He also holds an appointment as Professor of Computer Science and Engineering within the UCONN School of Engineering. In July 2012, he was selected by the Biophysical Society to serve a 5 year term as Editor in Chief of Biophysical Journal.
    Dr. Loew pioneered the synthesis of fluorescent dyes to probe membrane potential, including di-4-ANEPPS, considered the gold standard voltage sensitive dye (VSD). He has applied his) VSDs to imaging electrical activity in neuronal and cardiac systems, including measurement of electrical signals in single dendritic spines. He supplies VSDs to hundreds of laboratories throughout the world and recently helped establish a company, Potentiometric Probes, LLC, to help disseminate the VSD technologies. Dr. Loew has developed several high resolution imaging approaches toward recording spatio-temporal activity in single cells and tissue. Using a VSD he invented, TMRE, he was the first to quantitatively image mitochondrial membrane potential in live cells with sufficient resolution to follow the voltage in individual mitochondria. Another major contribution to live cell imaging was the introduction of high resolution second harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy, which has since been adopted for 3D non-invasive imaging of many intrinsic biological molecules. He is probably best known for his work in computational modeling of cell biophysics. With his colleagues, he developed the Virtual Cell computational system for modeling and simulating complex biological processes. It is the only software to permit stochastic or deterministic simulation of both compartmental kinetic models (ODEs) and full reaction diffusion systems (PDEs) in arbitrary 3D geometries (including from experimental microscope images). Since 1998, he has been the PI of an NIH Research Resource Center, which supports the Virtual Cell project. Virtual Cell has over 23,000 registered users worldwide. He has recently moved down in spatial and temporal scales to publish several papers modeling multi-molecular cell signaling clusters, including a spatial modeling tool, SpringSaLaD, employing Langevin dynamics.
    Please contact Ina Gjencaj ( for a Zoom Link to this event.
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  • Monday, October 05, 2020
    12:00pm to 12:50pm

    BME Distinguished Lecture Series: "The Mitral Valve - From cellular biophysics to surgical repair" by Michael Sacks, PhD, Professor, The University of Texas at Austin - Via Zoom


    Michael Sacks,PhD
    W. A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr. Endowment
    Chair in Simulation-based Engineering Sciences
    Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences
    Professor of Biomedical Engineering
    The University of Texas at Austin


    Abstract:Heart valves regulate the unidirectional blood flow and normal functioning of the heart. Currently, repair and replacement of the mitral valve is the most common heart valve treatment in the United States. While successful in the short term, there remains major issues with long-term treatment outcomes, largely due to the limitations in our understanding of mitral valve disease and means to develop improved treatment modalities. High-fidelity computer simulations provide a means to connect the cellular function with the organ-level valve via tissue mechanical responses, and to help the design of optimal repair strategies and novel biomaterials. As in many physiological systems, one can approach heart valve biomechanics from using multiscale modeling (MSM) methodologies, since mechanical stimuli occur and have biological impact at the organ, tissue, and cellular levels. Yet, MSM approaches of heart valves are scarce, largely due to the major difficulties in adapting conventional methods. Moreover, existing physiologically realistic computational models of heart valve function make many assumptions, such as a simplified micro-structural and anatomical representation of the valves, and thorough validations with in-vitro or in-vivo data are still limited. Finally, few attempts have been made to connect the underlying cellular function with changes in tissue and organ level stresses, which are paramount to improving our understanding of the effects of mitral valve repair on the underlying tissue degenerative processes. Details of what we know about mitral heart valve function and how these are being integrated into left-ventricle models can guide such approaches will be presented.

    Biography:  Professor Sacks is a world authority on cardiovascular modeling and simulation, particularly on developing patient-specific, simulation-based approaches for the understanding and treatment of heart and heart valve diseases. His research is based on multi-scale modeling, quantification, and simulation of the biophysical behavior of the constituent cells and tissues and translation to the organ level in health, disease, and treatment. For example, he has developed novel non-invasive methods to quantify pre- and post-surgical state of the mitral valve from pre-surgical clinical images. He has determined the how local stress environments of heart valve interstitial cells alter their biosynthetic responses in the context of altered heart and valvular organ-level responses. His research also includes developing novel cardiac models to simulate growth and remodeling of the myocardium in pulmonary hypertension, the first full 3D approach for left ventricular myocardium mechanical behavior. Dr. Sacks is also active in modeling replacement heart valve materials and in understanding the in-vivo remodeling processes.

    Please contact Ina Gjencaj at for a Zoom link to this seminar.


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  • Monday, November 09, 2020
    12:00pm to 1:00pm

    BME Distinguished Lecture Series| Speaker - Jane Grande-Allen, PhD| Professor in Biomedical Engineering| Rice University| Via Zoom


    Jane Grande-Allen, PhD
    Isabel Cameron Professor
    Department of Biomedical Engineering
    Rice University




    Abstract: The material behavior of many biological tissues is due to their unique microstructural arrangements of fibrous extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, i.e., collagen and elastin, within the more amorphous matrix. The orientation of these fibers, and their segregation into discrete regions within the tissues, often gives rise to anisotropy and unique biological stress-strain behavior that enables the essential function of the tissues. Layered or segregated structuring allow hierarchical tissue organization in a manner designed to withstand external forces efficiently while protecting more delicate tissues and cells from damage. These structure-function relationships within biological tissues have been studied for decades but have not been widely translated into the creation of biomimetic scaffolds for use in tissue engineering and in vitro analyses of cell and tissue biology. The Grande-Allen research group has focused on integrating these structural and material characteristics into hydrogel and fibrous biomaterials using a range of fabrication techniques including molding, photolithography, electrospinning, and 3D printing. The majority of our investigations have addressed heart valve disease, which is widely prevalent in our society, with valve replacement or repair in almost 100,000 people in the United States and 275,000 people worldwide each year. More recently, we have translated our fabrication strategies to generate biomaterial platforms for investigating intestinal epithelial cell biology and enteric diseases.

    BiographyDr. Jane Grande-Allen is the Isabel Cameron Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice University.  Her research group investigates the structure-function-environment relationship of soft connective tissues through bioengineering analyses of the extracellular matrix and cell mechanobiology, with a focus on cardiovascular and intestinal diseases. Their goal in characterizing the mechanisms of remodeling is to derive novel therapies that can be used to treat patients earlier in the disease process.  Her research has been funded by NIH, NSF, Pfizer, the American Heart Association, the Whitaker Foundation, and the March of Dimes, and is described in more than 130 peer-reviewed publications.  Dr. Grande-Allen received a BA in Mathematics and Biology from Transylvania University in 1991 and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Washington in 1998.  After performing postdoctoral research in Biomedical Engineering at the Cleveland Clinic, she joined Rice University in 2003 and was promoted to full professor in 2013.  Dr. Grande-Allen is a Fellow of the American Institute of Biological and Medical Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Society for Experimental Mechanics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Heart Association. From 2009-2018, she served the on the Board of Directors and the Executive Board of the Biomedical Engineering Society. Dr. Grande-Allen is currently a Deputy Editor of Annals of Biomedical Engineering and serves on the science advisory committee for the American Heart Association.

    Please contact Ina Gjencaj at for a zoom link to this event.

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  • Monday, November 30, 2020
    12:00pm to 12:50pm

    BME Distinguished Lecture Series| Tammy Haut Donahue, PhD| Professor in Biomedical Engineering| UMass Amherst| via Zoom


    Tammy Haut Donahue, PhD
    Department of Biomedical Engineering
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst




    Abstract: Menisci are C-shaped fibrocartilaginous tissues responsible for distributing tibial-femoral contact pressure and are crucial for maintaining healthy joints and preventing osteoarthritis.  Meniscal damage can be caused by age related degradation, obesity, overuse from athletic activities, and trauma. Due to their primarily avascular nature, once damaged there is limited healing capacity and surgical intervention is often required. Limited technologies exist to replace damaged menisci, and standard treatment is to leave asymptomatic damage alone or perform partial meniscectomies, however, these treatment options lead to increased risk of OA. Attempts at tissue engineered meniscal scaffolds, and replacements have had mixed results due to design limitations and inability to recapitulate native tissue’s material properties, shape, and pressure distribution. This presentation will detail the development of an artificial meniscus from a polystyrene-polyethylene oxide diblock copolymer.  Material properties of the novel artificial meniscus will be detailed, in addition to molding a 3D construct for joint implantation and the ability of the copolymer hydrogel meniscus to protect the underlying articular cartilage. Recent advances in material development will be discussed. We expect this meniscal replacement to provide a revolutionary addition to the field of osteoarthritis and treatment following meniscal injury.

    BiographyTammy Haut Donahue joined the faculty at The University of Massachusetts, Amherst in June 2018. She was the inaugural chair of the newly established Biomedical Engineering Department. She came to UMass after spending seven years in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University. Her PhD was in Biomedical Engineering from the University of California at Davis where she earned the Allen Marr Award for distinguished dissertation in Biomedical Engineering in 2000. She is an Editorial Consultant for the Journal of Biomechanics, and was integral in the establishment of the Orthopaedic Research Society Meniscus Section. Dr. Haut Donahue’s research includes analytical and experimental biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system with ongoing research in orthopedic biomechanics and post-traumatic osteoarthritis.  An emphasis is put on prevention, treatment, and repair of injuries to the soft tissue structures of the knee, focusing primarily on the meniscus. With over $15 million in funding from Whitaker Foundation, CDMRP, NIH, NSF, as well as industrial sponsorship her research program has had more than 60 mentees. Dr. Haut Donahue has more than 80 peer-reviewed publications.  Dr. Haut Donahue was awarded the Ferdinand P. Beer and E. Russell Johnson Jr. Outstanding New Mechanics Educator Award from the American Society of Engineering Education for exceptional contributions to mechanics education. Dr. Haut Donahue is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

    Please contact Ina Gjencaj at for a zoom link to this event.


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  • Monday, March 15, 2021
    12:00pm to 12:50pm

    BME Distinguished Lecture Series: Celeste M. Nelson, PhD| Professor| Princeton University - via Zoom


    Celeste M. Nelson, PhD
    Wilke Family Professor in Biomedical Engineering
    Professor in Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering
    Princeton University




    Abstract: “Our real teacher has been and still is the embryo, who is, incidentally, the only teacher who is always right.” – Viktor Hamburger

    Evolution has generated an enormous diversity of biological form. Given this diversity, it is highly likely that every tissue structure that one can imagine has been built by the embryo of one species or another. We are interested in uncovering the physical (mechanical) mechanisms by which epithelial sheets fold themselves into branching tubes in the embryo, and using those mechanisms to engineer tissues in culture. Over the past half century, developmental biologists have identified several biochemical signaling pathways and genetic control mechanisms necessary for tissue morphogenesis. In parallel, biological systems must obey Newton’s laws of motion, and physical forces need to be generated in order to sculpt simple populations of cells into complex tissue forms. Inspired by the evolutionary diversity of embryonic forms, we have created microfabrication- and lithographic tissue engineering-based approaches to investigate the mechanical forces and downstream signaling pathways that are responsible for generating the airways of the lung. I will discuss how we combine these experimental techniques with computational models to uncover the physical forces that drive morphogenesis. I will also describe efforts to uncover and actuate the different physical mechanisms used to build the airways in lungs from birds, mammals, and reptiles.

    Biography: Celeste M. Nelson is the Wilke Family Professor in Bioengineering and a Professor in the Departments of Chemical & Biological Engineering and Molecular Biology at Princeton University. She earned S.B. degrees in Chemical Engineering and Biology at MIT in 1998, a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2003, followed by postdoctoral training in Life Sciences at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory until 2007. Her laboratory specializes in using engineered tissues and computational models to understand how mechanical forces direct developmental patterning events during tissue morphogenesis and during disease progression. She has authored more than 140 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Nelson’s contributions to the fields of tissue mechanics and morphogenesis have been recognized by a number of awards, including a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface (2007), a Packard Fellowship (2008), a Sloan Fellowship (2010), the MIT TR35 (2010), the Allan P. Colburn Award (2011), a Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2012), and a Faculty Scholar Award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2016).

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  • Monday, April 05, 2021 12:00pm
    BME Distinguished Lecture Series: Jennifer Elisseeff, PhD| Professor| Johns Hopkins - via Zoom
    Jennifer Elisseeff
    Professor and Director
    Translational Tissue Engineering Center
    Wilmer Eye Institute and Departments of Biomedical Engineering,
    Orthopedic Surgery, Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering
    Johns Hopkins University

    Lessons in Translation: How Clinical Experience Guides Discovery in Regenerative Medicine


    Abstract: Biomaterial implants have a long history in the clinic but regenerative biomaterials and regenerative medicine therapies have been slow to reach patients. Clinical translation provides a unique and critical opportunity to investigate the key therapeutic drivers of technology efficacy in people. Our clinical translation experiences in orthopedics and plastic surgery yielded the unexpected discovery of adaptive immune cells in the biomaterial response. We are now working to understand the role of the immune system and cellular senescence in the biomaterial response and repair across different tissues. This research now serves as the basis for the design of regenerative immunotherapies and a new therapeutic target in regenerative medicine.

    Biography: Dr. Elisseeff is the Morton Goldberg Professor and Director of the Translational Tissue Engineering Center at Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Wilmer Eye Institute with appointments in Chemical and Biological Engineering, Materials Science and Orthopedic Surgery.  She received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University and a PhD in Medical Engineering from the Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. She was a Fellow at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Pharmacology Research Associate Program, where she worked in the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Dr. Elisseeff is committed to the translation of regenerative biomaterials and has founded several companies and participates in several industry advisory boards including the State of Maryland’s Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). She was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the National Academy of Inventors, a Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum. In 2018, she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Medicine. In 2019, she received the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award.

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Friday, April 16
  • Friday, April 16, 2021
    4:00pm to 5:00pm

    Sotak Lecture in BME| Ronke Olabisi, PhD| Assistant Professor, Samueli Development Chair| University of California, Irvine| Via Zoom


    VIRTUAL LECTURE 4 – 5pm 


    Using Secrets of the Maya to Control Bone Formation



    Ronke Olabisi, PhD

    Samueli Development Chair
    Assistant Professor
    University of California, Irvine
    The Department of Biomedical Engineering at WPI cordially invites colleagues, alumni, students, families and friends to the Christopher Sotak Lecture in Biomedical Engineering.
    This annual event perpetuates Chris’s passionate commitment to supporting and promoting innovative scholarship and research efforts in the field of bioengineering.


    Prof. Christopher Sotak
    1951 - 2011
    Our lecture will be given by Ronke Olabisi, Assistant Professor at UC Irvine in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
    Ronke Olabisi earned her bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from MIT. At the Uni-versity of Michigan she completed one master’s degree in mechanical engineering and one in aeronautical engineering. Olabisi received her doctorate in biomedical engineer-ing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2020 she joined the UCI Biomedical Engineering department from Rutgers University where she was an assistant professor with an appointment in Biomedical Engineering and an affiliation with the Institute of Ad-vanced Materials, Devices, and Nanotechnology. Olabisi is the recipient of a 2016 Engi-neering Information Foundation Award, a 2018 NSF CAREER Award, a 2019 Johnson & Johnson Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Manufacturing, and Design (WiSTEM2D) Scholar Award, and in 2019 she was named one of the Bio-medical Engineering Society’s Young Innovators in Cellular and Molecular Bioengineer-ing. She is a member of 100 Year Starship, an interdisciplinary DARPA-funded initiative that seeks to replicate the rapid technological development stimulated by the moon landings by tackling human interstellar travel. Olabisi’s research involves modifying syn-thetic materials with the natural, from small molecules, to large proteins, to cells, in or-der to develop cell-responsive materials for tissue engineering and wound healing.


      Please contact Ina Gjencaj at for a zoom link to this event.

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