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Bioengineering awards

Bioengineering researchers have received more than $25 million in grant awards for 2020. Learn more about these awards, as well as additional student and faculty recognitions.


Name: Richard Benninger, PhD
Awarding Body: NIH/NIDDK 1T32DK120520-01A1
Total Award: $863,307
Project Title: Interdisciplinary Bioengineering Research Training in Diabetes
Specific Aims: 1. Attract high-quality trainees with engineering/quantitative backgrounds 2. Provide in-depth, multi-disciplinary research training integrating bioengineering and diabetes 3. Prepare trainees for transition to individual fellowships and research careers in academia, industry. 

Name: Richard Benninger, PhD
Awarding Body: University of Miami
Total Award: $35,856
Project Title: nPOD: Characterizing endocrine cross talk in human islets insitu during T1D
Specific Aims: 1. Quantify β-cell function and electrical cross-talk in the human islet in healthy and T1D cases. Hypothesis: Beta cell electrical responses and gap-junction mediated communication are disrupted in T1D, including in AA+ cases prior to T1D onset. 2. Quantify paracrine networks in the human islet in healthy and T1D cases. Hypothesis: Paracrine cross-talk between α-, β-, and δ-cells that involves factors unique to the human islet are lost in T1D, including prior to T1D onset.

Name: Richard Benninger, PhD (Lori Sussel, PhD MPI)
Awarding Body: NIH/ NIDDK 1P30DK116073-01A1
Total Award: $6,871,349
Project Title: UC Denver Diabetes Research Center
Specific Aims:  Fulfilling their mission to establish a unified Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes research community at the School of Medicine (SOM) a new five-year, $6.7 million grant from the NIH/NIDDK Diabetes Research Center (DRC) grant will broaden its reach in strengthening diabetes research across the campus, the state and the CU system.  Already a recognized diabetes research hub, the university beat out other major institutions for the highly competitive Center Core Grants (P30) DRC award. The designation opens its doors wider to the most advanced diabetes technologies and resources in the Rocky Mountain region. In addition to joining the minds of existing researchers, directors hope the program helps attract new investigators to the field through grants and other opportunities.

Name: Cathy Bodine, PhD (co-PI Maureen Melonis)
Awarding Body: Administration for Community Living/DHHS
Total Award: $515,888
Project Title: AT ACT State Grants for Assistive Technology

Name: Cathy Bodine, PhD (co-PI Maureen Melonis)
Awarding Body: Colorado Department of Education/COLO
Total Award: $520,169
Project Title: SWAAAC Assistive Technology Regional Pilot Project

Name: Mark Ciccaglione, PhD Candidate (Benninger)
Awarding Body: TOTTS TL1 Pre-doctoral Award
Total Award: $42,560
Project Title:  Nanobubble Ultrasound Contrast Agents to Monitor Type 1 Diabetes Progression and as Therapeutic Delivery Vehicles
Specific Aims: 1) Monitor immunotherapy-induced type 1 diabetes reversal with contrast enhanced ultrasound.  2) Use nanobubble ultrasound contrast agents as image-guided vehicles to deliver therapeutic peptides to diabetic islets and demonstrate that doing so expands insulin-reactive regulatory T cells and delays diabetes onset. 

Name: JaeAnn Dwulet, PhD Candidate (Benninger)
Awarding Body: NIH/NIDDK
Total Award: $45,520
Project Title: How Human Beta Cell Heterogeneity Impacts Islet Function
Specific Aims: This funded project will use a combination of novel live-cell imaging techniques and computational modeling to investigate pancreatic islet function. It will examine how functional subpopulations of human beta cells contribute to insulin release and how these populations are affected in Type 2 diabetes. The goal of this work is to determine which beta cell subpopulations are required for proper islet function and insulin release. If successful, this work can be used to improve treatment options, by directing treatments to retain these required subpopulations, ultimately improving the quality of life of patients with diabetes.

Name: Margaret Ferrari, PhD Student (Hunter)
Awarding Body: American Heart Association and Children’s Heart Foundation
Total Award: $62,032
Project Title: Identification of novel imaging biomarkers for improved prognosis of patients with single ventricle disease
Specific Aims:  The goal of this project is to develop a new diagnostic model for patients born with single ventricle disease, and in the long-term determine cardiac imaging measures that preemptively describe cardiovascular failure in this population. Aim 1 will examine variances in waveforms across multiple sites in the single ventricle circulation using dimensionality reduction of waveform shape. Aim 2 will test relationships between invasive measures of ventricular function to noninvasive imaging data, and identified noninvasive parameters will be associated to patient status.  

Name: Emily Gibson, PhD
Awarding Body: NIH NINDS UF1 NS116241 (Restrepo, Gibson MPI)
Total Award: $2,990,152
Project Title: Shedding light on brain circuits mediating navigation of the odor plume in a natural environment
Specific Aims: This proposal will make an important contribution to the understanding of brain function by critically using newly developed miniature microscopes and analytical methods to evaluate circuit activity in multiple brain areas in odor plume navigation, a well-characterized naturalistic behavior.

Names: Emily Gibson, PhD, Richard Weir, PhD
Awarding Body: NIH NINDS R01NS118188-01(Weir, Gibson, Caldwell, MPI)
Total Award: $2,977,123
Project Title: Optimization of a Minimally-Invasive Bidirectional Optogenetic Peripheral Nerve Interface with Single Axon Read-in & Read-out Specificity
Specific Aims: We are proposing to develop an axon-specific bidirectional optical neural interface and test the system’s efficacy to neuromodulate the parasympathetic nervous system by modulating heart function. We will use optogenetics and multiphoton optical excitation to simultaneously detect the neural activity and photostimulate individual axons from the exterior of the nerve i.e. an approach that is non-invasive yet has specificity. This technology has potential for major impact on the ability to treat many conditions; for example, vagal nerve stimulation in humans has been found to control epilepsy and depression, and evidence points to improvements in treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Name: Morris Huang, PhD
Awarding Body: National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, & Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)
Total Award: $70,000
Project Title:  Implementation of a sensor platform for multi-day measurement of manual wheelchair user mobility patterns in real-world environments to inform clinical training and improved contexts for research
Specific Aims: 1) Optimize and validate the design of a portable sensor platform capable of measuring and recording manual wheelchair kinematics across multiple days. 2) Determine the mobility patterns of manual wheelchair users in their real-world environments and compare results to the propulsion tasks of the Wheelchair Skills Test (WST).

Name: Dillon Jarrell, PhD Candidate (Jacot)
Awarding Body: NIH/NHLBI F31HL154606
Total Award: $71,502
Project Title: A Translational Bioreactor for the Construction of Off-the-Shelf, Patient-Specific Heart Tissue for the Permanent Correction of Congenital Heart Defects
Specific Aims: Aim 1: Construct an automated flow-perfusion bioreactor that can drive the differentiation, growth, and maintenance of 3D cardiac tissue patches (CTPs). Aim 2: Validate the CTPs in vivo in a rat model of a full-thickness right ventricular (RV) defect.

Name: Chelsea Magin, PhD
Awarding Body: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Total Award: $501,768
Project Title: CAREER: Spatiotemporally Addressable Hydrogel Biomaterials as Tools for Investigating Fibroblast Mechanobiology
Research Objectives: 1.  Tailor polymer architecture, composition and multi-stage reaction scheme to create hydrolytically stable, hybrid hydrogels with spatiotemporal control over elastic modulus; Objective 2. Recapitulate the dynamic, heterogeneous patterning of elastic modulus that is a hallmark of fibrotic disease in pulmonary tissue using hybrid hydrogels containing healthy or fibrotic dECM; and Objective 3. Investigate how composition (healthy or fibrotic dECM) and real-time changes in mechanical properties influence activation and plasticity of healthy and diseased fibroblasts. Educational Objectives: Objective 1. Innovative Biotechnology Experiences for Students and Teachers and Objective 2. Translational Education in Biomedical Engineering.

Name: Chelsea Magin, PhD
Awarding Body: NIH/NHLBI R01 HL153096
Total award: $2,575,208
Project Title: Hybrid Hydrogel Biomaterials Comprising Clickable Decellularized Extracellular Matrix for Engineering Dynamic 3D Models of Fibrosis
Specific Aims: Aim 1: Engineer the structure, composition, and dynamic mechanics of PEG-dECM cell culture platforms to recapitulate distal lung tissue; Aim 2: Interrogate the impact of composition and mechanical properties on cellular activation using dynamic PEG-dECM biomaterial platforms; and Aim 3: Identify druggable mechanosensitive targets of the fibrotic activity recreated in dynamic 3D models.

Name: Chelsea Magin, PhD
Awarding Body: NIH/NCI R21 CA252172 (Meredith Tennis, MPI)
Total Award: $307,434
Project Title: Engineering ex vivo models of lung cancer and chemoprevention
Specific Aims: Aim 1: Engineer hydrogel biomaterials and PCLS culture conditions to recapitulate chemical mouse models of lunge cancer and Aim 2: Investigate the effects of lung cancer chemoprevention in hydrogel-embedded PCLS.

Name: Chelsea Magin, PhD
Awarding Body: Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) (Eva Nozik, Co-Investigator)
Total Award: $30,000
Project Title: Mechanically tunable hydrogel biomaterials to improve in vitro models of pulmonary fibrosis
Specific Aims: Aim 1: Tailor polymer composition and multi-stage reaction protocols to add reversibility (i.e., softening) capabilities to a mechanically tunable hydrogel platform and Aim 2: Investigate how mechanically tunable biomaterials can dynamically establish localized regions of fibroblast activation in vitro.

Name: Keith Neeves, PhD (Hunter Moore MPI)
Awarding Body:  NIH/NHLBI K99HL151887
Total Award: $256,564
Project Title: Persistent Microvasculature Thrombosis Caused by Fibrinolysis Shutdown Driving Delayed Graft Function in Liver Transplant Recipients
Specific Aims: AIM 1. Define the association of microvascular thrombosis with low systemic fibrinolytic activity in organ donors. AIM 2. Determine if low systemic fibrinolytic activity in the transplant recipients is associated with impaired early graft function AIM 3: Determine the local liver proteomic signature characteristic of microvascular clot

Name: Keith Neeves, PhD
Awarding Body:  NIH/NHLBI R21HL152350
Total Award: $420,688
Project Title: Encapsulated platelets in cast hydrogels (EPIC) to measure single platelet structure-function relationships in old age
Specific Aims: Aim 1: Fabricate and test encapsulated platelets in cast (EPIC) hydrogels to quantify single cell structural and functional heterogeneity.  Aim 2: Measure changes in platelet structure and function with age.

Name: Keith Neeves, PhD
Awarding Body:  NIH/NHLBI R33 HL141794
Total Award: $646,004
Project Title: A systems biology approach to identifying the mechanisms of sex hormone induced thromboembolism in pre-menopausal women
Specific Aims: Aim 1. Measure changes in platelet function following acute exposure to exogenous hormones ex vivo. Aim 2. Measure changes in gene expression and platelet function following chronic exposure to OC.

Name: Keith Neeves, PhD
Awarding Body:  Colorado School of Mines/COLO – NIH/NHLBI R01HL151984  PI:  Karin Leiderman
Total Award: $823,140
Project Title: An integrated computational and experimental approach to understanding the hemostatic response during treatment of bleeding
Specific Aims: Aim 1: Develop and refine our mathematical models of hemostasis and thrombosis. Aim 2: Determine the mechanistic link between bleeding site and bleeding cause. We will update our mathematical models to account for measured vascular bed characteristics and mathematical descriptions of three anticoagulants: warfarin, dabigatran, and rivaroxaban. Aim 3: Identify modifiers of hemostasis that regulate responses to prohemostatic agents in hemophilia.

Name: Daewon Park, PhD
Awarding Body: NIH/NEI EY031461 (R01)
Total award: $1,537,240
Project Title: Engineered multi-therapeutic agents delivery system towards retinal ganglion cell axon regeneration
Specific Aims: Optic neuropathies, a leading cause of blindness, accompany neurodegeneration caused by the blockage of neurotrophic factor (NTF) transport and vicious cycle of neurotoxicity. With this funding, we will develop an engineered polymeric nanoparticles to continuously supply NTFs and inhibit the neurotoxicity with programed release periods, and ultimately improve the visual function. Upon successful completion, it will establish a new concept of delivery system, tightly controlling co-delivery of NTFs and an anti-neurotoxic agent for the treatment of optic neuropathy.

Name: Daewon Park, PhD
Awarding Body: Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI)
Total award: $60,000
Project Title: Engineered nanoparticles towards visual function recovery
Specific Aims: Previously, our laboratory reported that the intravitreous delivery of a neurotrophic factor using the engineered nanoparticles provided neuronal protection from the optic neuropathy. With this funding, we will further investigate if the system not only provides neural protection but also improves visual function.

Name: Brisa Pena-Castellanos, PhD
Awarding Body: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute/NIH/DHHS
Total award: $891,216
Project Title: Injectable Carbon Nanotube-Functionalized Hydrogel for miRNA Delivery
Specific Aims:  1) Quantify the biocompatibility and the magnitude of improved localization of our RTG-CNT-miRNA delivery system over liposomal and viral vectors approaches, 2) Measure the improved efficiency of the RTG-CNT hydrogel as pro-regenerative miRNA delivery system vs. liposomal and viral vector deliveries in a mouse MI model and 3) Determine the potential of the RTG-CNT hydrogel to deliver anti-fibrotic miRNAs to further improve myocardial structure and rescue function in a mouse MI model.

Name: Alison Wallbank, PhD Candidate (Smith)
Awarding Body: TOTTS TL1 Program
Total Award: $42,560
Project Title: Testing a novel therapeutic for acute and ventilator-induced lung injury
Specific Aims: 1) To quantify the restoration of alveolar dynamics by CNP-miR146a in two-hit models of acute and ventilator induced lung injury. 2) To determine if lung function restoration and VILI protection by CNP-miR146a is due to reduction in microatelectases.

Name: Richard Weir, PhD (PI of UCD SubK)
Awarding Body: NIH NICHD 2R44HD096942-02A1 (Sliker)
Total Award: $1,499,694 (Notice of intent to fund received, JIT delivered – NOA expected)
Project Title: A ratcheting prosthetic partial finger using advanced rapid manufacturing
Specific Aims: Project to 1) scale the Point Partial to a production ready device, 2) to validate the user needs of the Point Partial for regulatory requirements in a laboratory setting, and 3) assess the utility of the Point Partial in a clinical take-home study. 

Name: Richard Weir, PhD
Awarding Body: VA RR&D 1I21RX003471-01A1 (Weir, Pelligrino, Segel)
Total Award: $184,000
Project Title: Power Hungry: Fuel Cells Harvesting Biofluids for Renewable Power of Wearable Medical Devices
Specific Aims: Goal is to create an alkaline fuel cell that uses blood sugars as a renewable power source for implantable and wearable medical devices.

Name: Richard Weir, PhD (PI of UCD SubK)
Awarding Body: NIH NICHD 1 R43 HD101162-01(Sliker)                                                                 Total Award: $224,994
Project Title: The Point Powered: A Robust Actuated Prosthetic Finger for Partial Hand Amputation
Specific Aims: Point Designs LLC proposes to develop and commercialize a robust, powered prosthetic finger which will be custom-made for each patient using advanced metal 3D-printing technology. The amputation of full fingers can cause physical, psychosocial, and economic damage to an individual. Replacement of a full finger requires an electromechanical design that can fit on the residual limb, produce appropriate forces and speeds, and withstand the rigors of everyday life.

Name: Michael Yeager, PhD
Awarding Body: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)/NIH/DHHS      
Total Award: $3,057,165
Project Title: RAT21: Generation and Characterization of Rat Models of Down Syndrome
Specific Aims: Aim 1: To use CRISMERE to construct rat models of DS with germ-line transmissible duplication of DNA sequences on rat Chromosome 11 and Chromosome 20 that are syntenic to HSA21. Aim 2: To construct humanized rat models of DS with germ-line transmissible transchromosomal HSA21 DNA sequences. We will use microcell-mediated chromosome transfer to create transgenic rats carrying a freely segregating complete HSA21 chromosome that expresses HSA21 genes. Aim 3: To construct an online portal through which researchers can access information, generate hypotheses, and obtain phenotyped trisomic rats and related banked resources quickly and affordably.

2019-2020 Bioengineering Awards

Certificate of Merit, 2020 Colorado Engineering Council Silver Medal: Anne Lyons, BS

2020 College of Engineering, Design and Computing Outstanding Bioengineer Award: Hend Elzarad, BS, Niki Clark, PhD

Spring 2020 College of Engineering, Design and Computing Outstanding Graduating Student Award: Niki Clark, PhD

2020 Department of Bioengineering Outstanding Student Awards:
Odalis Castro, BS Student
Vinh Pham, MS
David Ramirez, PhD candidate

 2020 Department of Bioengineering Outstanding Postdoctoral Researcher Award: Vira Kravets, PhD

CU Denver Engineering, Design and Computing View All

At the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we focus on providing our students with a comprehensive engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. Faculty conduct research that spans our five disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering. The college collaborates with industry from around the state; our laboratories and research opportunities give students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the professional world.

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