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Three BioE Graduate Students Receive Internal Fellowships

These PhD students are being recognized for their commitment to and accomplishments in cardiovascular research and regenerative medicine

The Leonard H. Berenfield Graduate Fellowship in Cardiovascular Bioengineering

Reyhaneh Gholami and Gabby Lorenz, both PhD students at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, are this year’s Leonard H. Berenfield Graduate Fellowship in Cardiovascular Bioengineering recipients.

Screenshot 2023-09-26 at 3.42.56 PMGholami, a second year PhD student on the Biomechanics track, is interested in research on atherosclerotic plaque rupture simulation, cardiovascular graft modeling, and cardiovascular ultrasound imaging. Lorenz is a third year PhD student on the Medical Product Engineering track who is working to develop and validate antimicrobial treatment to eliminate infection and promote healing in chronic wounds.

The Leonard H. Berenfield Graduate Fellowship in Cardiovascular Bioengineering honors two Bioengineering PhD students each year. Recipients of this award receive one year of funding for cardiovascular research performed at the Swanson School and retain the title of Berenfield Fellow throughout their PhD studies. 

Along with funding, the two will participate in monthly meetings for this fellowship, learning about the landscape of cardiovascular bioengineering research and hearing from guest speakers. According to Lorenz, this fellowship will help her begin to work independently as she works toward her PhD. Screenshot 2023-09-26 at 3.44.14 PM

“This fellowship is meant to promote student independence, so that by the end of your PhD you are able to operate independently,” Lorenz said. “With the support of the fellowship and its mentors, I'll have access to invaluable opportunities that enhance the impact of my research, such as interacting with experts from research, clinical, and industry backgrounds and honing my communication and technical skills to support the translation of my device."

The McGinnis Fellowship

Shanae Butler, a third-year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was awarded the McGinnis Fellowship for her work in using microspheres to heal skin wounds and minimize scars. 

This fellowship supports PhD students who have a strong interest in developing innovative medical technologies with significant near-term clinical translational potential. McGinnis fellows participate in both clinical and medical technology internships and are required to take five program-specific courses. 

According to Butler, the McGinnis Fellowship is an incredible opportunity that provides an enabling framework for candidates to develop innovative medical products, and its availability to international students is crucial. 

Screenshot 2023-09-26 at 3.44.42 PM“I’m a Jamaican international student, and that provides me a really unique perspective in the United States, but what it doesn't do is provide me with a lot of opportunities to access resources in the academic and research world,” Butler said. “Because a lot of the funding for performing research is government-based and you need to be a citizen to qualify. But, I was actually eligible to apply for this, which offers this amazing balance between scientific research and progress and how that can directly impact somebody in real life.” 

Butler will be a McGinnis fellow for the next two years, and is optimistic about the challenges it may present that will help her grow as a PhD candidate. 

“A PhD is really humbling because you don't know anything- and you spend a lot of time not knowing things and failing,” Butler said. “But being able to have a group of people as a support system devoted and dedicated to you feeling capable even as you fail is amazing, and this fellowship is just one more instance of me testing my capabilities.” 

About Leonard H. Berenfield (1943-2021)

Leonard H. Berenfield received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1964. In 1965, after one year at Westinghouse, he moved to Warren, Pa. to use his engineering knowledge to help grow Berenfield Steel Drum Co. – the family steel drum manufacturing business. The firm’s continued growth led to reorganization as Berenfield Containers, Inc. in 1985 with Mr. Berenfield assuming the role of President. Further expansions of existing plants over the years and the acquisition of plants in Harrisburg, N.C. and Pine Bluff, Ark. as well as new factories to diversify the product line into fibre drums established the company’s legacy. Mauser USA purchased Berenfield Containers in 2016. Mr. Berenfield was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area and was an active volunteer. He held posts in several nonprofit and industry boards including the American Heart Association, the United Way, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College, the Steel Shipping Container Institute, the International Fibre Drum Institute, and the Industrial Steel Drum Institute. In 2018, he was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Swanson School’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.