Horenberg is among four winners this year. Other winners are Anna L. Cerf and Emily C. Chen, graduating fourth-years from the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment, and Jonathan Zheng, a graduating fourth-year from the Department of Chemical Engineering.
Horenberg graduates May 16, 2020, with high distinction and a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering and a second major in mathematics. She is a Rodman Scholar, and served as an instructor for two student-taught classes, one for biomedical engineering in regenerative medicine and one entitled “Exploration of Cheese” for the Rodman Seminar. She served in various roles for the Engineering Student Council, including president, vice president and service director, and participated in the Rodman Council as wellness chair, service chair and first-year service liaison.
"Allison really shines in her ability to perform cutting-edge research, and her level of talent in this area sets her apart from other researchers at the undergraduate level," said Shannon Barker, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and the department's undergraduate program director, in a nomination letter for Horenberg on behalf of the department's Undergraduate Program Committee.
Working in the laboratory of Thomas Barker, professor of biomedical engineering and leader of UVA's Fibrosis Initiative, Horenberg developed a novel approach to understanding how the cell communication system, also called cell signaling pathways, respond to mechanical forces in the cells’ environment, both in normal and fibrotic tissue. She looked for key protein players in these interactions. Finding these players is integral to understanding the root causes of pulmonary fibrosis, a disease in which scar tissue builds up in the lungs. Her work resulted in a poster presentation at the national Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting.
She held two summer research internships at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, working on reliable cell viability measurement techniques in tissue engineered scaffolds. Under the mentorship of Dr. Carl Simon, Horenberg's work led to three manuscripts prepared for peer-reviewed publication, and four poster presentations, one at the national Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting.
"In his letter, Dr. Simon wrote about being impressed with Allison’s ability to trouble-shoot problems and pose creative and insightful solutions, solutions others in his laboratory had missed. He also noted her team-player attitude and willingness to help others when needed," Shannon Barker wrote in Horenberg's nomination letter. "He, as well as many others I’ve spoken to in this nomination process, were really struck by Allison’s maturity and work ethic."
Barker added in Horenberg's nomination: "Allison is truly representative of the ideal UVA student: one who is well-rounded and excels across a spectrum of abilities. She is an impressive academic and a burgeoning researcher with the potential to lead her field. But she is also humble and cares about those around her. These are the kinds of individuals we want to lead us in the future, and I for one am looking forward to what Allison will no doubt accomplish."