Lecture to Feature Expert in Engineering of Living Tissue

A researcher internationally recognized for using tissue engineering to solve a critical shortage of donor tissues for transplantation will speak at the University of Houston Feb. 27.

Jennifer West, Cameron Professor of Bioengineering and director of the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering at Rice University, will discuss “Engineering Living Tissues” as part of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean’s Lecture Series.

Her talk will begin at 4 p.m., Feb. 27 in Room 101 of the Social Work Building.

Tissue engineering applies engineering principles to the design of tissue replacements, which typically are created from cells and biomolecules. West’s lab is developing new materials to use in small-diameter vascular grafts – those used in heart-bypass surgery, for example. Such new materials could eliminate the need for a surgeon to take veins from a patient’s leg.

Another facet of her research focuses on biomedical applications of nanoshells, which are very small metallic spheres. These spheres have unique optical qualities and promise to be beneficial in diagnosing and treating cancer.

In 2000, West founded Nanospectra Biosciences Inc. to commercialize the nanoshell technology.The company received a $2 million Advanced Technology Program Award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2004. She is a director of the company.

Last month, the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas honored West with the O’Donnell Prize in Engineering, one of the state’s highest scientific awards. In 2006, she was named one of 20 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professors, recognizing integration of world-class research and teaching. MIT Technology Review listed her among the 100 most innovative young scientists and engineers worldwide. Other recognitions include the Christopher Columbus Foundation Frank Annunzio Award for scientific innovation, Nanotechnology Now’s Best Discovery of 2003, a Small Times Magazine’s Researcher of the Year in 2004 and the Society for Biomaterials Outstanding Young Investigator Award.

She has authored more than 95 research articles and holds 14 patents licensed to seven companies. She has lectured at numerous institutions, including Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, Massachusettes Institute of Technology, the Federal Drug Administration and the National Cancer Institute. She was an invited speaker at a 2006 Nobel Symposium.

The NSM Office of the Dean, the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) and the Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation sponsor the lectures, which are designed to expose minority students to the possibilities of research and encourage them to pursue graduate studies in science and engineering.

For more information about the lecture, contact Christina Chan, UH-AGEP director, at (713) 743-3242 or agep@nsm.uh.edu.