CU Anschutz and CU Boulder scientists receive NIH OT2OD023852 award

Weir Headshot 142x212.jpgRichard Weir, Associate Research Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, and colleagues receive funding to develop an Optical Probe capable of Activating/Reporting on axon activity in nerves of parasympathetic nervous system.  Current neuro-modulation approaches for the vagus nerve (aka parasympathetic nervous system) are generally all or nothing events that cause simultaneous changes in heart rate, for example, along with changes in pancreatic function. Our goal for this project is to develop a novel compact Optogenetic based Optical Probe capable of optically neuromodulating individual afferent and/or efferent axons within nerves of the parasympathetic, or peripheral, nervous system. We seek to read-in or read-out from these nerves with the goal of modulating the organs or brain circuits innervated by them.

Our central premise is that we can use optics to communicate with axons in a nerve. For optical approaches to work we need to convert action potentials into an optical signal. This can be done using reporter proteins or by some other means that is ancillary to action potential generation. Because nerves do not naturally express optical proteins, we will work with transgenic mice that express these proteins and use these mice to refine our system before making it available for other researchers to use. We are proposing to couple an optical fiber with an electrowetting lens head to allow remote interrogation of the vagus nerve with a bench top (i.e. portable) laser system. Integration of miniature (1mm diameter) scale electrowetting electrically tunable optics with an optical fiber-based imaging system will enable two-photon fluorescence imaging of neuron activity by readout of a fluorescent indicator.

We will work with collaborators in the field of pancreatic research to test, refine and demonstrate our ability to activate/report from in-vitro mouse vagus nerves and to see if we can control and/or sense pancreatic responses in the absence of other responses, such as a change in heart rate, using targeted neuro-modulation of specific axons in the vagus in in-vivo transgenic mice experiments.

CEAS kickball 2016-photos and recap

On Friday, October 7, more than 40 students, staff and faculty convened on the CU Denver athletic field to play kickball. The weather was beautiful, and everyone had a great time. The first game between the Hemoglobin Trotters (bioengineering) and the Bit Kickers (computer science) ended with a Hemoglobin Trotters victory. Game two was ASCE/civil engineering versus the Grass Kickers (electrical, mechanical and college staff), and resulted in a ASCE/civil engineering victory.

Check out the pictures below. We can’t wait for next year’s games!

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Golkowski discusses the science of sparking veggies with NPR

Golkowski (9-12)-WEBMark Golkowski, associate professor of electrical engineering, recently spoke with NPR about why veggies sometimes spark while being cooked in the microwave.

According to Golkowski, “The sparking happens because of a local field enhancement. A very specific kind of geometry leads to this effect, so you could have one set of beans that does it and one that doesn’t.”

Read the story here.

Dr. Joshua St. Clair awarded NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Joshua St. Clair, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Richard Benninger’s research
group in the Department of Bioengineering, has been awarded a 2-year Individual Postdoctoral National Research Service Award from the National InStClair.jpgstitutes of Health, totaling $113,412. Josh’s studies will be focused on determining how the electrical activity of pancreatic islets is altered in pre-type2 diabetes. Specifically, Josh will study the mechanisms by which electrical coupling of pancreatic beta-cells is dysregulated in the early type2 diabetic environment, and exploit these mechanisms to engineer novel biologics in hopes of preventing disease progression.

In Memoriam: Titsa Papantoni, professor of electrical engineering

titsa-papantoni238by Demetrios Kazakos, ex husband of Titsa (

The unexpected and untimely passing on July 8, 2016 of our beloved and highly esteemed colleague, Dr. Titsa Panayota Papantoni-Kazakos, is a great loss to our professional global community of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and to her family and friends. It is difficult to describe accurately her contributions to the profession. The reason is that her illustrious career has been an inspiration to all women who aspire to contribute to society and to the Engineering profession, and to everyone to aspire to achieve excellence in science.

Titsa was born in Piraeus, Greece in 1945. She grew up in a society in which Engineering was a highly prestigious profession, possibly the most prestigious one. At the same time, it was highly dominated by males. This was a global, not Greek, tendency and attitude. Titsa was a highly motivated, talented, hard working and focused student. With the strong support of her parents, Thanassis and Helen, she succeeded in being admitted to the highly competitive School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers of the National Technical University of Athens, Greece (NTUA). She was one of only two women in a freshman class of about 70. (The number of applicants exceeded 1000 for the 70 prestigious positions).

Upon graduation with a Diploma in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering from NTUA in 1968, she started Graduate Studies with a full Graduate Research Assistantship at Princeton University.   She received her Master’s Degree in 1970, under the mentorship of Professor John Thomas, a legend in the field of Communication Theory. In 1969, she was married to Demetrios Kazakos, a fellow graduate student at the time. She then continued her Ph.D. studies at the University of Southern California, together with her husband, and under the inspired mentorship of the distinguished Communications researcher, Dr. Lee D. Davisson. Titsa’s daughter, Effie Kazakos, was born in 1971, while Titsa was completing her research for her Ph.D. As a tribute to her professionalism, and to the admirable support of her advisor, Lee Davisson, Titsa continued her studies and she received her Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering in 1973.

She was immediately offered the position of Assistant Professor at the Electrical Engineering Department of Rice University in July 1973. The distinguished Dr. Henry Bourne was the Chairman who hired her. She was the first female Professor of Engineering at Rice University. She remained in this position until 1977, when she longed to obtain industrial experience, thus she accepted the prestigious position as Member of the Technical Staff of the prestigious Bell Laboratories, where she remained for one year.

During this one year at Bell Laboratories, she developed an algorithm for a distributed monitoring system for the reliable performance of high speed communication networks, using powerful statistical quality control monitoring algorithms. Her algorithm has been widely used by Bell Labs and AT&T in reliably operating data networks. But, after completing one year in industry, academia lured her back.

The freedom to conduct advanced research and the mentoring of students were factors that convinced her to accept the position of Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut, where, again, she was the first female professor of Engineering. She remained in this position as Associate Professor until 1983, then promoted to Professor in 1983. She remained in this position until 1986. While on leave of absence from the University of Connecticut, she was for one year, 1981-1982 a program officer at the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

In 1986 she moved to the position of Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Virginia, and, again, became the first ever female Professor of the Department. She was hired by the Department Chair, Dr. Edward Parrish, who was an inspired leader. He later became Dean of Engineering at Vanderbilt University and President of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She remained in this position until 1993. In 1993 she was appointed to the highly prestigious Canada Industrial Chair for High Speed Networks at the Electrical Engineering Department of the University of Ottawa, hired by the highly distinguished Dean of Engineering, Dr. Nicolas Georganas, recently deceased. Again, she was the first ever woman to be appointed to a Canada Industrial Chair position in the whole country. This chair was endowed by $1,000,000 for a five year period. However, being very homesick for her adopted country, the United States, after only one year, in 1994, she was appointed to another Endowed Chair Professorship, at the University of Alabama. It was the named Professorship: E.A. ”Larry” Drummond Chair of Computer Engineering, within the Electrical Engineering Department. Again, she was the first ever woman to hold an endowed Professorship in the Department. She remained in this position until 2000, when she moved to become Professor and Department Chair at the Electrical Engineering Department of the University of Colorado at Denver.

Being absorbed by her research, she stepped down from the position of Chair, and remained as Professor until her untimely passing. It was her passion for her field and her fearlessness that drove her to her great achievements. It is evident that she was a pioneer in breaking the GLASS CEILING in ENGINEERING FACULTY POSITIONS FOR WOMEN, an incidental result of her passion for science and her drive for and achievement of excellence. She is an inspiration to us all.

She received several honors:

  • Recipient of National Greek Fellowship throughout college (top 5 students get this)
  • Recipient of full graduate research fellowship at Princeton University and the University of Southern California throughout her graduate studies.
  • Awarded Fulbright Fellowship
  • ELECTED FELLOW of the INSTITUTE OF ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONICS ENGINEERS in 1991 for: ”Contributions to Communication Networks and to Detection and Communication Theory”

She mentored many Ph.D. graduates. Some of these are:

  • Michael Georgiopoulos, presently Dean of Engineering at the University of Central Florida.
  • Sotirios Vassilopoulos, presently Engineer employed in Greece
  • Anthony Burrell, presently Associate Professor of Computer Science at Oklahoma State University.
  • Haralambos Tsaknakis, presently Engineer employed in Greece
  • Leonidas Georgiadis, presently Professor at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece
  • Chatschik Bisdikian, Member of the Technical Staff of IBM, presently deceased.
  • Ramesh Bansal, presently Professor in India
  • George Collins, presently professor in Texas
  • Michael Paterakis, Dean of Engineering, Technical University of Crete, Greece
  • Ming Liu, presently Professor in China
  • Demetrios Pados, presently Professor at SUNY Buffalo
  • Karen Halford, whereabouts unknown.
  • Steven Halford, whereabouts unknown
  • Hakan Delic, presently Professor in Turkey
  • Robert Li, last known position was Staff Member at IBM
  • Glenn Marcus, whereabouts unknown.

She also mentored numerous M.S. graduates.

Her publication record was highly prolific. Based on her CV that dates up to June 2002, her publication record consists of:

1) Two books

2) 65 refereed journal papers

3) 4 Book Chapters

4)151 Refereed Full Conference Proceedings Papers

She received many grants and contracts by Federal Agencies and Private Industry.


She was a very enthusiastic and helpful advisor, working hard to be a role model to women and to all of her students. Hard working, dedicated, a great mother and wife, life and math teacher, best friend and inspiration to her adoring daughter, and a very supporting friend.

TITSA, THE WORLD WILL NOT BE THE SAME WITHOUT YOU!!! REST IN PEACE!!!                                    





ATP moves to Auraria Campus

This week, Assistive Technology Partners is moving onto the Auraria Campus from their 18th Ave. location. The new space includes about 2500 sq feet of office space in the Administration Building and almost 3000 sq ft in the 5th Street Hub.  The new space will serve as a bioengineering presence on the Auraria Campus; host the Assistive Technology clinic; and provide research and engineering space for ATP students and our grants.

The Colorado Construction Industry, which has supported the ATP program for over a decade, funded close to $250,000 in Hub renovations and then came together across the industry to donate more than $100,000 in in-kind services and materials. They’ve also funded an endowed professorship and have also started an endowment to support the overall program within bioengineering and are starting a scholarship fund for students this year.  To date, they’ve raised almost $2 million.

The program would like to thank Dean Marc Ingber and Bioengineering Chair Robin Shandas for their support in this transition.

Henao named Mountain Plains Consortium 2015 Student of the Year

2015_HenaoAlejandro Henao, PhD student in civil engineering, was named the 2015 Student of the Year by the Mountain Plains Consortium (MPC) and is featured in the MPC 2015 Annual Report.

Henao is president of the Institute of Transportation Engineers CU Denver Student Chapter and student leader of the active communities/transportation research group. He has published several papers in peer-reviewed journals and presented his work at numerous national conferences.

Read the entire MPC story.

Congratulations, Alejandro.

Gibson and CU Researchers win National Science Foundation grant to study brain

CU Anschutz and CU Boulder scientists to use unique microscope for high risk brain research

AURORA, Colo. (August 18, 2016) – Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Colorado Boulder have won a $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to try and reconnect neural communication between parts of the brain where it has been severed.

If successful, this could have major implications for those suffering brain injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological problems.

The team of neuroscientists and engineers will use a special lightweight microscope, which they designed, to peer into and control the living brain of a mouse as they try to reconnect parts of the brain that no longer communicate with each other.

The miniature microscope, using a unique electrowetting lens, is mounted on the head of a mouse and with its high-powered, fiber-optic light can actually view and control neural activity as it happens.

“Adaptive optical devices that are included in a miniature microscope are a game changer,” said grant co-investigators Juliet Gopinath, assistant professor in electrical, computer and energy engineering and Victor Bright, professor of mechanical engineering, both at CU Boulder. “They enable truly miniature 3D imaging devices without mechanically moving parts.”

According to Gopinath and Bright, the electrowetting lens is compact, low power and has good optical quality making it ideal for this kind of research. The liquid lens can change shape when voltage is applied.

The team will use an optic fiber to disrupt the signals between the olfactory bulb of a mouse, which receives information on odors, and the olfactory cortex, the part of the brain that allows it to smell. In essence, they will shut down its ability to smell and then try to restore it by activating the olfactory cortex using the miniature microscope.

The mouse will be awake and behaving normally throughout this while the team views and controls what is happening in the brain with the electrowetting fiber-coupled microscope. They can stimulate the animal’s brain activity using powerful laser light that flows through the microscope’s fiber-optic bundle.

“One major problem with the brain is that with certain diseases or injuries, one part of the brain stops talking to another,” said co-investigator Diego Restrepo, professor of cell and developmental biology and director of the Center for NeuroScience at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “If someone has a stroke they may no longer be able to speak.”

Once connections between brain areas are lost, it is difficult to get them communicating again.

Restrepo said if researchers are successful reestablishing brain connections in a mouse, they may be able do the same in humans with brain injury or disease.

“For example, if there is loss of connection between the retina that detects the image in the eyes and the visual cortex, in the back of the brain the patient has a problem detecting images that in the worst case leads to blindness,” Restrepo said. “That loss of connection between the retina and visual cortex can be due to neural problems such as stroke, neuro-immune disease or traumatic brain injury.”

If this experiment is successful, he said, this microscope could eventually be modified to activate neurons in the visual cortex based on the visual input. In other words, creating a bridge between two parts of the brain where communication has stopped.

“This is an interdisciplinary grant which combines bioengineering with neurological applications,” said Emily Gibson, assistant professor of bioengineering at CU Anschutz. “The idea is to use this device which can image individual neurons and stimulate those individual neurons in that 3D volume.”

She also noted that two of the principal investigators on the grant are women, a rarity in the field of engineering.

“This particular grant is for high risk, high payoff approaches,” she said. “And this is a very high risk project. We are pushing the technology farther and seeing if we can use these optical tools to ultimately make an impact on humans.”

The grant is funded under a program from the National Science Foundation known as the “Integrative Strategies for Understanding Neural and Cognitive Systems (NSF-NCS).”

It is one element of NSF’s broader effort directed at Understanding the Brain, ( a multi-year activity that includes NSF’s participation in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

The team also won a second NSF grant of $200,000 to be used in the dissemination and commercialization of its microscope.

See the corresponding story in The Denver Post.

Mays recognized as Outstanding ASCE Faculty Advisor

David-Mays- (10-2014)-webDavid Mays, associate professor of civil engineering, has been recognized as the outstanding Faculty Advisor for a Student Chapter in Region 7 of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Region 7 comprises the states of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming, and the cities of Kansas City and St. Louis in Missouri. Mays won this recognition after being nominated by several CU Denver students following the success of the 2016 Rocky Mountain Student Meeting which was co-hosted with Metropolitan State University of Denver in March-April 2016, and will accept his award at the September 2016 monthly meeting of the Colorado Section ASCE.