By  Jennifer McManamay

The School of Engineering and Applied Science congratulates the 2024 Outstanding Ph.D. Student Award winners, announced during Final Exercises weekend at a reception for graduating Ph.D. students, their advisers and their families.

The award recognizes excellence in service, teaching, research or leadership. These students exemplify all of the above, whether they’re discovering treatments for debilitating diseases or helping other students grapple with the ethical ramifications of the technologies they design.

Delaney Fisher portrait

Delaney Fisher
Biomedical Engineering
Adviser: Richard Price, Nancy and Neal Wade Professor of Engineering and Applied Science and co-director of the UVA Focused Ultrasound Cancer Immunotherapy Center

Fisher is the first person ever to explore focused ultrasound in lieu of brain surgery to treat cerebral cavernous malformations, a devastating disease. In this pursuit, she pioneered magnetic resonance imaging tools for guided drug delivery — work that has been published in high-impact journals, earned international recognition and led to ongoing groundbreaking research.

A teaching assistant and mentor to UVA undergraduates, Fisher also was elected president of the Graduate Biomedical Engineering Society and led diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including a DEI townhall, equity workshop and BME’s Candid Conversations series.

She received the American Heart Association Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, UVA’s National Institutes of Health Cardiovascular Training Grant, and a coveted Wagner Fellowship given for research impact and productivity to UVA life sciences graduate students.

Bryana Harris portrait

Bryana Nycole Harris
Biomedical Engineering
Adviser: Jeff Saucerman, professor of biomedical engineering and cardiovascular medicine

At UVA, Harris developed a new computational model of how cardiac muscle cells regenerate, leading to better understanding of how heart disease treatments might harness the body’s ability to self-repair.

Wide recognition for this work includes competitive fellowships from the Southern Regional Educational Board, American Heart Association and National Science Foundation, and an award at the international Cardiac Physiome Conference. 

As a guest lecturer, TA and mentor, Harris taught computational methods for analyzing biomedical data and modeling biomedical systems, including with generative AI. She also has inspired undergraduates to begin original research in machine learning for heart regeneration. She was president of the Graduate BME Society, chaired BME’s DEI committee and co-founded the Society for Black Biomedical Scientists and Engineers.

She also championed graduate program improvements such as supplemental mental health funding.

Julie Leonard Duke portrait

Julie Leonard-Duke
Biomedical Engineering
Adviser: Shayn Peirce-Cottler, professor and chair of biomedical engineering

Leonard-Duke’s computational model of how tiny blood vessels reconfigure in fibrotic lungs is a major innovation in multiscale modeling, a technique for simulating biological systems’ behavior on multiple levels — for example, at the single and cell population levels.

Combined with creative lab experimentation to validate her models, Leonard-Duke’s multiple-award-winning work offers new tools for understanding disease progression and finding treatments for deadly lung fibrosis. She is on track to publish five first-authored papers as a Ph.D. student and has presented at prestigious meetings such as the American Thoracic Society Conference and the World Congress of Biomechanics.

In addition to two teaching assistantships, Leonard-Duke mentored five undergraduates at UVA. She also served as president of the Graduate Biomedical Engineering Society and as co-chair of both the DEI and graduate recruitment committees.

Jing Ma portrait

Jing Ma
Computer Science
Advisers: Jundong Li and Aidong Zhang

Ma’s research focused on data mining techniques used in artificial intelligence and its associated algorithms that are integral to our lives today — such as in banking, health care and consumer recommender systems. Her innovations made sure that these advancements work reliably and fairly for all people, e.g. information used for credit application decisions.

Of 19 papers published while at UVA, Ma first-authored 11, including the 2022 ACM Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining Conference Best Paper winner for a collaboration with Microsoft that also resulted in a U.S. patent application. She has won numerous fellowships and awards.

Ma has taught graduate and undergraduate courses as a TA and mentored over a dozen student researchers. She has chaired several academic meeting sessions and served as a committee member and reviewer for prestigious conferences. Ma champions women in STEM as a mentor and participant in events such as the Grace Hopper Celebration.

Sid Shenoy portrait

Sudhir “Sid” Shenoy
Computer Engineering
Adviser: Afsaneh Doryab

Beyond tackling the challenging new field of human-robot interaction — for example, training machines to read and adjust to human emotions to improve outcomes in uses such as pain management in children and mental health — Shenoy took on the policy and ethical implications of robots.

He co-designed and taught an ethics course for cyber physical systems graduate students. He mentored undergraduate students as a TA and as a liaison in UVA Engineering’s Policy Internship Program, and interned at the National Academy of Engineering’s ethics center.

Shenoy also served on numerous University- and school-level student support organizations, STEM outreach programs, and as a volunteer and academic reviewer for several professional conferences. 

He’s been named to UVA’s Raven Society and to the Omicron Delta Kappa and Eta Kappa Nu honor societies for leadership and electrical engineering respectively. 

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