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New Bioengineering in Psychiatry Training Program Receives ~$1.1M from NIH T32

PITTSBURGH (July 11, 2019) … The University of Pittsburgh Departments of Bioengineering and Psychiatry received a $1,107,386 T32 award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a unique multidisciplinary program that prepares students with a background in engineering and other quantitative sciences for careers in mental health research.

Tamer S. Ibrahim, PhD, associate professor of bioengineering, radiology, and psychiatry, and Howard Aizenstein, MD, PhD, Charles F. Reynolds III and Ellen G. Detlefsen Endowed Chair in Geriatric Psychiatry and professor of bioengineering and clinical and translational science, are co-principal investigators of the Bioengineering in Psychiatry Training Program.

Predoctoral trainees in this program will benefit from a dual mentorship with advisors from both the Swanson School of Engineering and the School of Medicine. Their research will focus on neuroimaging, neurostimulation, and neural engineering - all of which are widely used in mental health research including mood disorder, anxiety disorder, psychotic disorder, suicide, and cognitive impairment.

Aizenstein said, “There's been a huge increase in the application of engineering and quantitative science within psychiatric research. We're so excited to be part of training a new generation of interdisciplinary scientists to help lead these efforts.”

“There has been significant growth in neuroimaging research within bioengineering, especially with 7-Tesla human MRI, and many of our studies are in collaboration with psychiatry,” said Ibrahim. “This program will help formalize the connections that we’ve already established between these two dynamic fields.”

With the addition of this program, the Department of Bioengineering will administer a total of four T32 training grants.1Each of these programs are collaborative efforts that utilize Pitt’s strengths in medical research.

“The Department of Bioengineering has a rich history of interdisciplinary research and education, capitalizing on the strengths of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and other academic departments at Pitt and our neighboring Carnegie Mellon University,” said Sanjeev Shroff, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “This training program reflects the strong partnership between us and the Department of Psychiatry, which Tamer has helped reinforce with his vibrant 7-Tesla human MRI research program.”

This is the first T32-funded program that trains engineering students in psychiatry. It helps support the National Institute of Mental Health’s initiative to develop computational approaches that may provide novel ways to understand relationships among datasets and further the understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of diseases.

“This T32 training program will address the increasing need for engineering expertise in these key areas of mental health research,” said David Lewis, MD, distinguished professor of psychiatry and neuroscience and chair of psychiatry. Dr. Lewis is also the Thomas Detre Professor of Academic Psychiatry.

The Bioengineering in Psychiatry Training Program is slated to begin in July 2019. 

“This effort is an example of the pioneering and collaborative research between the Swanson School and the School of Medicine,” said James R. Martin II, PhD, US Steel Dean of Engineering. “I look forward to our continued growth and leadership in this area.”


The Department of Bioengineering now administers a total of four T32 training grants: Bioengineering in Psychiatry (BiP), Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine (BiRM), Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program (CBTP), Cellular Approaches to Tissue Engineering and Regeneration (CATER)

Contact: Leah Russell