We are happy to announce this year’s Department Achievement Award winners. The award committee honors the following recipients on their talents, achievements and dedication to the department in the following categories:
Teaching/Mentoring – Faculty. The award for the Teaching/Mentoring faculty category goes to Dr. Amy Adkins, Assistant Teaching Professor.
Excelling at teaching sophomores and juniors, Amy regularly receives rave reviews despite teaching challenging classes that some students are reluctant to take. This is demonstrated by over 2/3 of the undergraduate class at NC State taking her solid mechanics class, one of seven electives. Additionally, Amy has quickly become integral to the undergraduate program by helping with ABET and curriculum development and adding a technical writing sequence across the sophomore and junior years. The writing modules she has developed, founded and supported by education literature, will be presented at the 2023 ASEE meeting, and she intends to write a journal article on the subject. This fills a critical need in the department for technical writing.
Teaching/Mentoring – Postdoc. The award for the Teaching/Mentoring Postdoc category goes to Dr. Andreea Biehl, Postdoc.
As a quiet leader in her research group, Andreea is always willing to lend a helping hand to her colleagues and mentees. She naturally connects with people and has been an excellent mentor to many undergraduate students working in the lab. She has always been patient and supportive, providing guidance and feedback that has helped these students develop their research skills and grow as scientists. She is an exceptional mentor and leader who has significantly impacted the students and colleagues with whom she has worked.
Research – Postdoc. The award for the Research Postdoc category goes to Dr. Sharda Pandit, Postdoc.
Sharda has been an outstanding researcher in the field of CAR T cell generation. She currently has a transformative paper in review at Science Translational Medicine. In this paper, Sharda demonstrated the transformative impacts of biomaterials in CAR T cell therapy, showing complete tumor eradication in multiple, complex, and difficult-to-treat solid tumor models (orthotopic pancreatic cancer, orthotopic ovarian cancer and metastatic lung cancer). Sharda developed these tumor models independently in the Brudno lab. In addition, Sharda has several published and submitted manuscripts in drug delivery and virus design.
Research – Ph.D. Student. The award for the Research Ph.D. category goes to Changjia Cai and Xinrui Ma, Ph.D. Students.
Changjia has made exceptional contributions to experimental neurosciences by developing two platforms, Filoa, a real-time operating Calcium Analysis software suite, and VolPy, an automated analysis pipeline for Voltage imaging Analysis. Changjia’s research has been recognized with invited talks at HHMI Janelia Research Campus and the Simons Foundation, where he helped organize workshops and train the next generation of users. Changjia’s work is made public, openly accessible and with tutorials that facilitate dissemination and contributes to the visibility and excellence of UNC research. The work that Changjia contributed has already had a significant impact on our community and has helped neuroscientists obtain reliable neural activity readouts in their experiments. The flexibility, automation and turn-key capabilities that Chanjia’s software brings are critical to interpreting calcium imaging data in all experimental laboratories.
Xinrui’s research primarily focuses on advancing innovative molecular imaging probes and techniques, particularly in non-invasive cancer detection through nuclear medicine, photomedicine and nanomedicine. During the first year of Ph.D. studies, Xinrui successfully co-authored and published six articles in prestigious peer-reviewed journals, including Chem, Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Bioconjugate Chemistry, Molecular Pharmaceutics and Molecules. These publications exemplify the dedication to producing high-quality research. Also, Xinrui’s presentation on “64Cu labeled Neurotensin Receptor antagonists for theranostic application” was honored with the Best Oral Presentation Award at the Radiology Department.
Service – Staff. The award for the Service Staff category goes to Laura Rohrbaugh, University Program Associate, and Stephanie Teeter, Research Technician.
Laura is the coordinator for the Closed-Loop Engineering for Advanced Rehabilitation (CLEAR) research core in BME. Laura’s unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her work impresses her colleagues. She was hired immediately before the pandemic, a challenging time for everyone to adjust their working style and to react to the rapid changes in policy dictated by COVID-19. Laura adapted seamlessly to the new policies and work requirements, successfully supported CLEAR faculty and trainees and worked with the department staff. Her efforts enabled many research activities (such as CLEAR seminars) to continue during the lockdown period without disruption. Laura is conscientious and meticulous. She completes all assigned tasks with minimal supervision. Laura manages the day-to-day operations for CLEAR. Laura played an invaluable role in developing a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) grant proposal and coordinating the site visit for the application, which ultimately got funded. Laura is highly respected by her peers and superiors for her positive attitude, excellent communication skills, and willingness to help others. Due to her thoroughness in performing work, and her interpersonal relationships with her colleagues, the BME administration office has recently increased Laura’s workload to include additional job duties for the department. Laura has excelled in the new tasks within a short period of time.
Stephanie has worked in BME since 2007, acting as lab manager for five labs throughout the department. During this time, she has played a crucial role in our department’s growth, including helping to orchestrate the move of 15 NC State-based labs from spaces across campus to a new building, then again facilitating the move of three labs from that building to CVM. For the last ten years, Stephanie has worked as a Research Technician for both the Fisher and Cole labs, skillfully balancing the responsibilities of both. Respected widely for her competence and organizational prowess, Stephanie is also a chief contact for the four BME labs within the Biomedical Partnership Center. If anyone has a problem, they go to Stephanie first. She has played an integral leadership role in several highly visible STEM outreach efforts for the department, including SciRen and National Biomechanics Day, reaching over 1,000 K-12 students and earning national-level awards. Stephanie is highly deserving of this award.