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Twenty-two bioengineering PhD students receive external fellowships in AY20

Over the past ten years, the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh has made a concerted effort to help its PhD students compete for external fellowships, with the goal of providing a well-rounded educational experience.

These efforts have led to an overall increase in external funding, and during AY20, there were a total of 38 external predoctoral fellowships in the Department of Bioengineering, which represents 30 percent of its PhD student population.

The Swanson School of Engineering holds workshops, led by Professor Patrick Loughlin, to encourage graduate students to apply to for external funding and help guide them through the process.

“In these workshops, we help students iterate through their fellowship applications and cultivate better writing and communication skills,” said Loughlin, professor of bioengineering at Pitt. “These awards are indicative of a vibrant, healthy graduate program and the excellence of our students and their research. They increase the visibility and stature of the program, and enhance our ability to compete for additional research and graduate student funding, such as NIH training grants.”

The workshop, which originally served bioengineering students, has expanded in the past few years to the rest of the Swanson School of Engineering and eventually inspired the University Honors College (UHC). Josh Cannon, a scholar mentor at UHC, recently received Pitt Seed Funding for the “NSF GRFP Preparation Program,” a University-wide effort to increase the number of fellowship winners among graduate and undergraduate (seniors) populations.

As a part of this overall effort, the Department is proud to have four training grants from the National Institutes of Health, which provide an institutional award for students to advance their predoctoral research in health-related areas. This funding, along with external awards, enhances research opportunities for students in the Swanson School of Engineering.

“Being part of a training grant program has really helped me plug into the cardiovascular bioengineering community at Pitt and has introduced me to the various resources available through the NIH and other external funding sources,” said Haley Fuller, a graduate student in the Synthetic Biology and Biomimetics Laboratory. “This program, community, and opportunity has helped guide my own progress as an investigator, as well as opened the door for multidisciplinary discussion with faculty and like-minded students that otherwise would be difficult to facilitate.”

“Sharing research and communicating with members of my cohort provides me support outside of the lab,” said Abigail Allen, a graduate student in the Cell Migration Lab. “Additionally, the stipend provided by the program gives me more flexibility to conduct the research I am interested in.”

Through a competitive application process, a new cohort of students are appointed to the training grants each year. The following students were appointed as training grant fellows during the 2020 academic year, Sept. 1, 2019 – Aug. 31, 2020.

Training grants within the Department of Bioengineering

Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program (CBTP)

Abigail Allen (PIs: Partha Roy and Steven Little)

Haley Fuller (PI: Warren Ruder)

Katelin Omecinski (PI: William Federspiel)

Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine (BiRM)

Sommer Anjum (PI: Lance Davidson)

Bioengineering in Psychiatry (BiP)

Jessica Kleinbart (PI: Doug Weber)

Nadim Farhat (PI: Tamer Ibrahim)

Salem Alkhateeb (PI: Tamer Ibrahim)

Training grants outside of the Department of Bioengineering

Training in Transplantation

Elizabeth Bentley (PI: Steven Little)

Interdisciplinary Research Training in Rehabilitation

Camille Johnson (PIs: William Anderst and Chris Connaboy)

Julie Rekant (PI: April Chambers)

Jennifer Mak (PI: George Wittenberg)

Carl Beringer (PI: Robert Gaunt)

In addition to these T32 training grants, the following bioengineering PhD students received external fellowships in AY20 to enhance their education and research efforts.


Madeline Cramer (PI: Stephen Badylak)


Stephanie Rigot (PI: Lee Fisher)

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GRFP)

Nathan Brantly (PI: Jen Collinger)

Dulce Mariscal-Olivares (PI: Gelsy Torres-Oviedo)

Drake Pedersen (PI: William Wagner)

Andrea Sajewski (PI: Tamer Ibrahim)

American Heart Association Fellowship

Ali Behrangzade (PI: Jonathan Vande Geest)

Soroosh Sanatkhani (PIs: Sanjeev Shroff and Prahlad Menon)

Danial Sharifi Kia (PIs: Marc Simon and Kang Kim)

National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program (NDSEG)

Maria Jantz (PI: Robert Gaunt)

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Contact: Leah Russell