00:00 AM


PITTSBURGH (January 9, 2017) … The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering has announced that Jonathan Vande Geest, Mark Gartner and Warren Ruder have joined its faculty in the Department of Bioengineering. Vande Geest formerly taught at the University of Arizona, and Ruder taught at Virginia Tech. Gartner will be moving from part-time to full-time status within Pitt.

“All three of our new faculty members in the Bioengineering Department have proven to be outstanding educators with an excellent mix of experiences inside and outside of the classroom to aid them in teaching our students,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering at Pitt. 

Jonathan Vande Geest

Dr. Vande Geest received his BS in biomedical engineering from the University of Iowa in 2000 and his PhD in bioengineering from Pitt in 2005. After graduation, Vande Geest began his career at the University of Arizona in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and joined the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2009. Vande Geest held positions as an assistant and associate professor while at the University of Arizona.

In Arizona, Vande Geest led the Soft Tissue Biomechanics Laboratory (STBL), which aims to develop and utilize novel experimental computational bioengineering approaches to study the structure function relationships of soft tissues in human growth, remodeling and disease. The STBL has also devoted significant effort to the development of novel endovascular medical devices. Advances in bioengineering are established in the STBL by seamlessly bringing together state of the art techniques in tissue fabrication, nonlinear optical microscopy, finite element modeling and cell mechanobiology. Current projects in the STBL are focused on neurodegenerative diseases, including primary open angle glaucoma and vocal fold paralysis, as well as the development of a compliance matched tissue engineered vascular graft.

Vande Geest is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Physiological Society. Vande Geest’s prior National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award focused on the development of a novel smart polymer based patient specific endovascular device for treating abdominal aortic aneurysms. His laboratory has been funded by more than $4 million in extramural grants from the National Institutes of Health, NSF, AHA and various industrial partners. In 2013, Vande Geest was awarded the Y. C. Fung Young Investigator Award—a society wide medal awarded by the Bioengineering Division of ASME to recognize those demonstrating significant potential to make substantial contributions to the field of bioengineering. In 2015, he became chair of the ASME Bioengineering Division Solids Technical Committee and was selected as a member of the Western States Affiliates Research Committee for AHA. He also currently serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.

Mark Gartner

Dr. Gartner received his PhD in bioengineering and his ME degree in mechanical and biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. He also earned an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship and his BS in mechanical engineering from Pitt. 

Beginning his career in medical product design and development, Gartner worked as a clinical bioengineer in the mechanical circulatory support program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. His work included clinical care of patients supported by various types of mechanical circulatory support devices, including total artificial heart and ventricular assist devices. He later designed several types of integrated pump-oxygenator devices and became the director of the Pittsburgh chronic artificial lung program. Gartner’s direct clinical experiences with advanced medical technologies encouraged his interest in the unique design requirements of medical products, and he co-founded Ension, Inc., in 2001. He oversees several medical product development initiatives at Ension, including serving as principal investigator on grants and contracts, most notably, the National Institute of Health’s recent Pumps for Kids, Neonate and Infants (PumpKIN) effort.

Gartner developed, and has since taught, the Senior Design course in Pitt’s Department of Bioengineering. The two-semester capstone course requires bioengineering students to synthesize and extend principles from prior coursework toward the design or redesign of medical products. He remains particularly interested in cross disciplinary, non-traditional engineering education opportunities. Gartner received the Outstanding Teaching award from the Department of Bioengineering in 2011 and the Outstanding Part-time Instructor award from the Swanson School in 2015. He has more than 20 years of teaching experience.

Warren Ruder

Dr. Ruder graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a BS in civil and environmental engineering in 2002. He completed his MS in mechanical engineering and his PhD in biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Ruder was also part of the inaugural “Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine” class, which is a joint program between Pitt and CMU that receives funding from the National Institutes of Health and aims to provide training in biomechanical engineering principles and biology to students pursuing doctoral degrees in bioengineering.

His work focuses on merging biomechanical systems and the microscale and nanoscale with engineering living cells and smart material systems, the latter of which involves synthetic biology. Over the years his research has included: two years of research on mammalian cell signal transduction in the laboratory of Professor Aldebaran Hofer at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Surgery; one month in the field in Antarctica studying organismal biomechanics and responses to ice encapsulation (a field of ecological mechanics); and two and a half years as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Professor James Collins, at Boston University, Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 

Ruder left his position as an assistant professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech to teach at Pitt as a Bioengineering Assistant Professor. For the past four years at Virginia Tech, Ruder directed the “Engineered Living Systems Laboratory,” a group focused on merging synthetic biology with biomimetic systems. 

He has published 20 archival papers in journals such as Science, PNAS, Lab-on-a-Chip and Scientific Reports, and his group’s work has been highlighted in Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and Wired (UK). The student honor society in his department at Virginia Tech selected Ruder as his department’s “Faculty Member of the Year” in 2014. 

While at Pitt, Ruder will be applying his work to medical technologies and cures for disease.


Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Contact: Paul Kovach