BME Briefs

Welcome to BME Briefs, a place to find quick notes and posts from the faculty, students, staff and alumni of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia.

    UVA Chemical Engineering Hosts CHEERS 2022, a Research Symposium and Networking Event

    March 14, 2022


    Department of Chemical Engineering chair Bill Epling gave opening remarks at the annual Chemical Engineering Research Symposium, known as CHEERS. Click HERE for more photos

    CHEERS 2022, UVA’s annual Chemical Engineering Research Symposium, took place Friday, March 11, bringing together graduate students, faculty, alumni and industry experts to showcase research in the department and create networking opportunities for students.

    This year’s keynote speaker was Tucker Norton, Cyrel Solutions general manager at Dupont. Norton, a Louis Rader Award recipient and 1997 chemical engineering Ph.D. alumnus, also received his MBA from the Darden School of Business.

    In addition to students’ oral presentations and poster sessions highlighting research ranging from battery technology to tissue engineering, the daylong symposium included an industry panel in which CHE alumni shared experiences, insights and advice for Ph.D. students preparing to enter the workforce.

    Alan Hunter (Ph.D. 2002), a senior director at AstraZeneca, kicked off the panel with a short presentation. He was then joined by Erica Hui (Ph.D. 2021), an investigator in downstream process development at GSK; Tara Tibbs Jones (M.S. 2001, Ph.D. 2003), vice president drug substance manufacturing at Amgen; and Rob Kasprow (M.S. 1997, Ph.D. 2000), an executive director at Merck.

    CHEERS is organized by members of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Board, led by this year’s coordinator Tori Vigil.

    “CHEERS not only showcases the great research coming out of our department, but also the supportive community that we have built,” said Vigil, a Ph.D. student in her second year. “Seeing our awesome alumni is a reminder that at the end of the day, a CHE Ph.D. from UVA not only represents a rigorous education, but also great personal and professional growth.”

    Other Graduate Board members who were instrumental in organizing the symposium were Greg Grewal, the CHEERS 2020 coordinator, and president Rhea Braun, Vigil said, adding, “Our department first-year students were a tremendous help in day-of behind-the-scenes support.”

    CHEERS 2022 was sponsored by GSK.

    Lazzara Lab Wins Presenter Awards at Commonwealth of Virginia Cancer Research Conference

    February 22, 2022
    BrookeKarl_sq composite.jpg

    Brooke McGirr Brown and Karl Kowalewski, Ph.D. students in associate professor of chemical engineering Matt Lazzara’s lab at the University of Virginia, recently won breakout session presentation awards at the Commonwealth of Virginia Cancer Research Conference.

    Brown earned the breakout session award for presenting, “Signaling regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in the hypoxic tumor microenvironment of pancreas cancer.” Kowalewski won for “Cancer-associated fibroblast signaling regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in pancreas cancer.”

    Cancer of the pancreas is one the most deadly cancers, in large measure because the tumors don’t respond well to standard therapies. Both Brown and Kowalewski focus on the mechanisms that cause the tumor cells to resist therapy, with the goal of identifying what processes to target with cancer-killing drugs to overcome the resistance and improve outcomes. Kowalewski specifically homes in on how fibroblasts, cells that form connective tissue and scarring, contribute to therapy resistance.

    The annual Cancer Research Conference, hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center, invites cancer research trainees, such as graduate students and postdoctoral and clinical fellows, to present their work in oral sessions. A goal of the conference is to promote collaboration and networking among clinicians and researchers interested in basic, translational and clinical cancer research.

    Mukti and Bryana Earn Graduate Research Fellowship Awards from the American Heart Association

    January 24, 2022

    More than half of UVA’s BME PhD students will graduate with a prestigious named fellowship from the National Science Foundation, American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health, the University of Virginia or a private foundation. Mukti Chowkwale and Bryana Harris, graduate students in Dr. Saucerman's Cardiac Systems Biology Group, have been awarded competitive Graduate Fellowship Awards from the American Heart Association. Learn more about Mukti in this Profile.  Learn more about Bryana in this Profile.

    More: BME Students Continue Their Success in Securing Competitive Fellowships

    Bryana Earns a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Award

    January 24, 2022

    More than half of UVA’s BME PhD students will graduate with a prestigious named fellowship from the National Science Foundation, American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health, the University of Virginia or a private foundation. Bryana Harris, a graduate student in Dr. Saucerman's Cardiac Systems Biology Group, has been awarded a coveted Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Learn more about Bryana in this Profile.

    MORE: BME Students Continue Their Success in Securing Competitive Fellowships

    Bryana Earns Best Poster Award at Cardiac Physiome Society Workshop

    January 14, 2022

    Bryana Harris, a graduate student in Jeff Saucerman's Cardiac Systems Biology Group, won a James B. Bassingthwaighte Best Poster Award at the 2021 Cardiac Physiome Society Workshop. See Bryana's winning poster HERE and below:

    Ph.D. Student Bev Miller Earned Women in Chemical Engineering Travel Award to Present at AIChE Annual Meeting

    November 17, 2021


    Bev Miller (left, with fellow ChemE Ph.D. student Ashley Conley), a chemical engineering Ph.D. student in assistant professor Steven Caliari’s biomaterials lab at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, recently attended the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting in Boston with support from a 2021 Women in Chemical Engineering Travel Award.

    The award included Miller’s registration for the meeting, an $800 stipend for travel expenses and complimentary membership in AIChE for the 2021 and 2022 calendar years. Earning the award allowed her to present during a poster session for postdoctoral candidates and give a talk on her research, “Guest-Host Supramolecular Assembly of Injectable Hydrogel Nanofibers for 3D Cell Encapsulation and Pelvic Organ Prolapse Repair,” during the conference.

    AZtecTimed is now AZtecFlex

    November 03, 2021

    Heads up if you use AZTtec software for your SEM/TEM analysis.

    AztecTimed is no longer free to download, and has been updated.



    AZtecTimed is now AZtecFlex and for students the licence is discounted, from ($1,399.00) to ($139.00). For more information on how to access this discount as a student, click here.


    AZtecFlex is a 12-month personal subscription licence for installation on your desktop or laptop, designed to let you use AZtec anywhere and without needing to access shared facilities. 

    AZtecFlex includes advanced data processing features, for example, particle analysis and EBSD data processing, allowing you to access them even if they aren’t enabled on the system used to acquire the data.  Your licence will also provide access to the latest AZtec release as soon as it is available.


    Tutorials and Demos can be found here.



    3D Reconstruction Software Now Available for Phenom SEM

    October 07, 2021
    3D Reconstruction Software Image.JPG

    3D Reconstruction Software is now available on the NMCF Phenom Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).


    3D Reconstruction Software can generate three-dimensional images and provide submicrometer roughness measurements over areas and lines. Calculation of Rz, Rz, and Sa, as well as topographical surface scans and line scans can be acquired. Scans can be displayed as heat maps (image below) or as profiles. Data can be exported to be displayed in user software.


    Details can be found here:

    A brief User Guide is available on Sharepoint, and additional information can be found in the Phenom Manual.

    Note that NMCF has a temporary license (expiration: 1 November 2021), so get your measurements in now!


    Would this software would be a useful permanent addition to the SEM toolkit? Let NMCF know! (email:

    Surface Area Roughness Image.JPG



    Student-Run Coalition Creates Internships to Assist Community Advocacy Groups on Environmental Issues

    July 28, 2021

    An environmental advocacy organization founded at the University of Virginia by Linnea Saby, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment, has hired four UVA student interns this summer to work on projects ranging from protecting a native fish species to monitoring the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s impact on vulnerable communities.

    The organization, known as Virginia Scientist-Community Interface, is a coalition of graduate students in engineering, science and policy programs in Virginia and the Southeast. The group’s mission is to provide scientific data and analysis to environmental advocates and community organizers who may not have the means or expertise to access science resources, according to a news release.

    “[Virginia Scientist-Community Interface] advocacy-relevant technical reports have been cited in federal litigation, distributed through grassroots advocacy networks, and lauded by senior scientists who review their work,” the release said.

    The UVA Sustainability Committee provided funding for this summer’s four interns, Boyang Lu, John Leo Luecke, Veda Raghu and Holly Sims, whose projects are summarized below:

    • Lu is a Ph.D. student in engineering systems and environment with research interests in sustainable cultivation technologies, especially hydroponics. He is part of a team making culverts more wildlife-friendly and a team dedicated to protecting endangered species. His internship focuses on local and regional issues by studying advocacy documents and learning to recognize what community partners need and how scientists can help.
    • Luecke is compiling publicly available pollution reports related to the Radford Army Ammunition Plant to address a lack of transparency and effective communication with the plant’s neighbors regarding potentially dangerous incidents. He also has attended meetings organized by Citizens for Arsenal Accountability. The information Luecke, who is majoring in environmental thought and practice in the College of Arts & Sciences, is collecting will be published online to increase public awareness of the arsenal’s impact on surrounding communities and the environment.
    • Raghu, a biomedical engineering major, is learning to conduct graduate-level research and contributing to a white paper for a group helping to protect the endangered candy darter, a freshwater fish species found only in the watersheds of the Gauley, Greenbrier and New rivers. Raghu is also independently researching how legislation helps perpetuate inequity in the healthcare system.
    • Sims is on two Virginia Scientist-Community Interface teams, one reviewing technical documentation for the Mountain Valley Pipeline and another related to improving environmental justice. She has reviewed literature that can be used to hold the Mountain Valley Pipeline accountable to environmental regulations. She has also studied analysis methods to better recognize marginalized communities disproportionately affected by natural gas pipelines. Sims is an undergraduate student in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and environmental science.

    Virginia Scientist-Community Interface seeks new members, including UVA undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty interested in its work.

    “Students have a lot of knowledge and power that can be useful in the world of environmental advocacy,” Saby, who is president of the organization, said. “We provide an opportunity to put that knowledge to work and have a real-world impact.”

    To learn more, visit or email

    NMCF moves into Research Phase III, allowing enhanced instrument access

    June 04, 2021

    The NMCF, along with the rest of UVa's Research Community, has been upgraded to COVID Safety Phase III

    This allows increased access to NMCF instrumentation for students, faculty, and researchers with no room occupancy restrictions. There are no restrictions on trained personnel instrumentation use, with both graduate and undergraduate students allowed access.

    For vaccinated members of the faculty, students, staff, and visitors, the use of face coverings is not longer required. Researchers and visitors who are not yet fully vaccinated are asked to continue wearing masks.

    Instrument training sessions are now conducted in person, although remote training may be requested. 

    Visitors to laboratory spaces no longer need to be logged.


    More information about UVa's Phase III safe research guidelines can be found on the VPR's "Research Ramp Up Guidance" Webpage.