$24 Million from National Science Foundation for Penn Scientists to Establish Mechanobiology Center
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the University of Pennsylvania a $24 million, five-year grant to establish a Science and Technology Center (STC) focused on engineering mechanobiology, or the way cells exert and are influenced by the physical forces in their environment. This award is part of an overall $94 million from NSF to support four new STCs. In addition to these latest awards, NSF supports eight other STCs.
The Center for Engineering Mechanobiology will foster collaborations between Penn researchers and colleagues at the University of Washington at St. Louis, the University of Maryland, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Alabama State University, Bryn Mawr College and Boston University.
The Penn contingent draws from the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. It will be led by co-directors Yale E. Goldman, a professor of physiology and biochemistry and molecular biophysics in Penn Medicine and mechanical engineering and applied mechanics in Penn Engineering; and Vivek Shenoy, a professor with appointments in Penn Engineering’s departments of materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering and applied mechanics, and bioengineering.
Other members of the Center’s leadership include Rebecca Wells, an associate professor of medicine; Robert L. Mauck, the Mary Black Ralston Professor for Education and Research in Orthopaedic Surgery; and E. Michael Ostap, a professor of physiology and director of the Pennsylvania Muscle Institute, all from Penn Medicine.
Other participants from the other institutions include William Hunter, a professor of bioengineering at NJIT; Guy Genin, a professor of bioengineering and Ram Dixit, an associate professor of biology, both of WUSTL; and Christopher Chen, a professor of biomedical engineering at BU.
Mechanical forces play a role in a wide range of biological phenomena in plants and animals, so insights generated by the Center could provide deeper understanding of embryonic development and stem-cell differentiation, cancer metastasis, the dynamic factors that influence gene expression and many other clinically and agriculturally relevant topics.
These insights will also inform innovations like organs-on-chips that provide ideal testing platforms for human disease and “cyborg” leaf devices that can monitor plants’ natural mechanisms for responding to moisture and other environmental factors and report those conditions to farmers.
“We are at a crucial juncture in the biological sciences,” Dr. Goldman said. “We’re now just starting to understand how the force-sensing and mechanical outputs of cells pervade development, maintenance of health and pathology of plants and animals, but we’re still doing this kind of research in isolated groups with limited interactions and separate goals.”
“By bringing together primary experts in plant and animal mechanobiology into an integrated framework of research and training, the Center will catalyze a new vision for biological, biomedical and agricultural science,” Dr. Shenoy said.
The Center will also have faculty members dedicated to translating findings from basic research into applications. This knowledge transfer arm will be led by Dr. Mauck and Dan Huh, the Wilf Family Term Assistant Professor of Bioengineering in Penn Engineering.
To strengthen the pipeline of diverse young scientists entering the field, the Center will actively recruit from the minority-serving institutions in the partnership, providing summer programs, bootcamps and Research Experiences for Undergraduates; more information is available at https://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/ Dr. Hunter will direct the Center’s diversity outreach, and Dr. Wells will direct the Center’s educational program.
Research will be conducted in three groups, each dedicated to a different scale at which mechanobiological forces are at play: individual cells’ molecular components and microenvironment, how cells use mechanical cues to signal to one another, and how these interactions come together to form larger assemblies and structures, which could be the inspiration for new biomaterials. Communication and coordination between the partner institutions will be led by Dr. Ostap.
$3.7 Million Grant for Penn to Improve Access to Mental Health Services in Primary Care Clinics
Penn Medicine received a five-year, $3.7 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support an academic unit to improve access to treatment for mental health disorders. The grant will establish a new Center for Integrated Behavioral Health in Primary Care in the department of family medicine and community health at the Perelman School of Medicine, in partnership with the department of psychiatry and the School of Nursing. The Center will serve as a national hub to develop, test and share best practices and enhance training in integrated behavioral health.
“This funding is timely for addressing unmet mental health needs in the new era of population health,” says project director Chyke A. Doubeni, chair and the Presidential Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health. “We have an epidemic of mental illness in this country and unacceptably large disparities in access to care persist in our communities. Mental health disorder is one of the biggest drivers of low-value care and high healthcare cost in the United States.”
Mental illness is one of the most common chronic conditions and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 8% of US adults have depression and Americans make 8 million ambulatory care visits primarily for depression each year.
The World Health Organization states that an estimated 350 million people worldwide of all ages suffer from depression and that suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15- to 29-year-olds. An estimated 31% of adults in Philadelphia have a mental health diagnosis. Lack of access to trained healthcare professionals is a major barrier to receiving optimal treatment for mental health disorders. Integrating behavioral health into primary care is effective at improving access to care by providing services where people normally receive their primary care and allowing for warm handoffs to a mental health care team during the time of a visit with the primary care provider.
As many as one in four patients in primary care has depression, but less than one-third of these patients are accurately identified by primary care providers, and many are inadequately treated. Among patients seen in the department of family medicine and community health’s ambulatory care practice, about 77% of frequent users of the emergency departments have a mental health and/or substance use diagnosis.
Ensuring that patients have access to mental health care improves outcomes not only in terms of mental illness, but also in terms of other medical outcomes. This cutting-edge project can serve as a model for the nation as we work toward integrated care for our patients and psychiatry is poised to be a robust partner in this endeavor,” said Maria A. Oquendo, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center who will become chair of the department of psychiatry at Penn on January 1.
The HRSA grant is one of six Primary Care Training and Enhancement program grants nationwide targeting access, quality and costs of medical care. The Penn site is the only one dedicated to integrative behavioral health. The program will help link academic programs/institutions, practice organizations and other stakeholders through advisory boards to promote the uptake of best practice behavioral health training and care. This project will be implemented under the auspices of the new Center for Community and Population Health (CCPH) in the department of family medicine and community health, which focuses on research to reduce health disparities through improved access to care.
Additional faculty on the grant include Frances Barg; Margaret Baylson; Renée Betancourt; Hillary Bogner; Kent Bream; Peter Cronholm, Melissa Dichter; Anna Doubeni; Heather Klusaritz; Katherine Margo; Richard Neill; David Oslin; Julie Sochalski; and Anne Teitelman.
Call for Honorary Degree Nominations: November 15
We invite you to nominate candidates to receive honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania at the 2017 Commencement ceremony and beyond. Candidates should exemplify the highest ideals of the University, which seek to educate those who will change the world through innovative scholarship, scientific discovery, artistic creativity and/or societal leadership.
We encourage you to involve your faculty colleagues, within and across departments and schools, in the nomination process. Nominations should explain how nominees meet the criteria for selection and outline the nominees’ achievements and contributions. Please include as much biographical and other supporting information as possible, but do not contact the nominees, who should not know that they are being considered. We particularly encourage nominations from departments and schools whose fields have not been recognized by the awarding of honorary degrees in recent years. Please note that it is University policy not to consider Penn standing faculty, trustees, or school and center overseers for Penn honorary degrees. In addition, nominations for the University Commencement speaker are considered through this honorary degrees selection process.
Nominations are welcome any time, but for consideration by this year’s University Council Honorary Degrees Committee, it would be very helpful to have them in hand by November 15. Review is ongoing and candidates may ultimately be selected several years after their initial nominations. The University Council Committee’s recommendations are forwarded to the Trustee Committee on Honorary Degrees and Awards for final selection. A list of previous University of Pennsylvania honorary degree recipients can be found at: https://secure.www.upenn.edu/secretary/honorary.html
Please send signed letters of nomination on your official stationery to: University Council Committee on Honorary Degrees, c/o Office of the University Secretary, 1 College Hall, Room 211/6303. Additional information on the honorary degrees process and an online nomination form can be found at: https://secure.www.upenn.edu/secretary/HonoraryDegrees.php If you have any questions, please contact Lynne Sniffen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 898-7005.
Penn emeritus faculty are eligible to receive honorary degrees through a special nomination process. University deans propose candidates for consideration by the Council of Deans. The Council’s nominations are then reviewed by the President and Provost, and final selection is made by the Trustee Committee on Honorary Degrees.
Honorary degrees are important statements of Penn’s values and aspirations, and we strongly encourage your participation in this process.
––Amy Gutmann, President
––Daniel Raff, Chair, University Council Committee on Honorary Degrees
University-wide Teaching Awards
Nominations for Penn’s University-wide teaching awards are now being accepted by the Office of the Provost. Any member of the University community, past or present, may nominate a teacher for these awards. There are three awards:
- The Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching honors eight members of the standing faculty—four in the non-health schools (Annenberg, Design, Engineering and Applied Science, GSE, Law, SAS, Social Policy & Practice, Wharton) and four in the health schools (Dental Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, Veterinary Medicine).
- The Provost’s Award for Distinguished PhD Teaching and Mentoring honors two faculty members for their teaching and mentoring of PhD students. Standing and associated faculty in any school offering the PhD are eligible for the award.
- The Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence by Non-Standing Faculty honors two members of the associated faculty or academic support staff who teach at Penn, one in the non-health schools and one in the health schools.
The nomination forms are available at http://provost.upenn.edu/education/teaching-at-penn/teaching-awards The deadline for nominations is Friday, December 2, 2016. Full nominations with complete dossiers prepared by the nominees’ department chairs are due Friday, February 3, 2017.
Note: For the Lindback and Non-Standing Faculty awards, the health schools—Dental Medicine, Nursing, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine—have a separate nomination and selection process. Contact the relevant Dean Office in order to nominate a faculty member from one of those schools.
There will be a reception honoring all the award winners in the spring. For more information, please e-mail email@example.com or call (215) 898-7225.
Criteria and Guidelines
1. The Lindback and Provost’s Awards are given in recognition of distinguished teaching. “Distinguished teaching” is teaching that is intellectually demanding, unusually coherent and permanent in its effect. The distinguished teacher has the capability of changing the way in which students view the subject they are studying. The distinguished teacher provides the basis for students to look with critical and informed perception at the fundamentals of a discipline, and s/he relates that discipline to other disciplines and to the worldview of the student. The distinguished teacher is accessible to students and open to new ideas, but also expresses his/her own views with articulate and informed understanding of an academic field. The distinguished teacher is fair, free from prejudice and single-minded in the pursuit of truth.
2. Skillful direction of dissertation students, effective supervision of student researchers, ability to organize a large course of many sections, skill in leading seminars, special talent with large classes, ability to handle discussions or structure lectures—these are all attributes of distinguished teaching, although it is unlikely that anyone will excel in all of them. At the same time, distinguished teaching means different things in different fields. While the distinguished teacher should be versatile, as much at home in large groups as in small, in beginning classes as in advanced, s/he may have skills of special importance in his/her area of specialization. The primary criteria for the Provost’s Award for Distinguished PhD Teaching and Mentoring are a record of successful doctoral student mentoring and placement, success in collaborating on doctoral committees and graduate groups, and distinguished research.
3. Since distinguished teaching is recognized and recorded in different ways, evaluation must also take several forms. It is not enough to look solely at letters of recommendation from students or to consider “objective” evaluations of particular classes in tabulated form. A faculty member’s influence extends beyond the classroom and individual classes. Nor is it enough to look only at a candidate’s most recent semester or opinions expressed immediately after a course is over; the influence of the best teachers lasts, while that of others may be great at first but lessen over time. It is not enough merely to gauge student adulation, for its basis is superficial; but neither should such feelings be discounted as unworthy of investigation. Rather, all of these factors and more should enter into the identification and assessment of distinguished teaching.
4. The Lindback and Provost’s Awards have a symbolic importance that transcends the recognition of individual merit. They should be used to advance effective teaching by serving as reminders to the University community of the expectations for the quality of its mission.
5. Distinguished teaching occurs in all parts of the University. Therefore, faculty members from all schools are eligible for consideration. An excellent teacher who does not receive an award in a given year may be re-nominated in some future year and receive the award then.
6. The Lindback and Provost’s Awards may recognize faculty members with many years of distinguished service or many years of service remaining. The teaching activities for which the awards are granted must be components of the degree programs of the University of Pennsylvania.