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Bioengineering’s Stephanie Tzouanas is a Goldwater Scholar

Scholarship supports student’s work in tissue engineering

By Shawn Hutchins
Rice BIOE News 

Stephanie_Tzouanas_webBioengineering undergraduate student Stephanie Tzouanas was among the 282 American students named a 2012 Goldwater Scholar by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,123 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. The one- and two-year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Tzouanas is a sophomore majoring in bioengineering and minoring in anthropology and global health technologies. As a Rice Century Scholar, which includes a two-year merit-scholarship and a research stipend, she has studied bone-regeneration materials and techniques working in the lab of Antonios Mikos since the summer after her junior year at Clear Lake High School. The three-year research experience has allowed her to co-author four published papers with Mikos, Rice’s Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Faculty Fellow Kurt Kasper, Postdoctoral Fellow Adam Ekenseair, and M.D./Ph.D. graduate student Paschalia “Lina” Mountziaris.

Tzouanas is investigating the formulation and compatibility of epoxy-based, injectable hydrogel scaffolds that are capable of co-delivering cells and growth factors for optimized tissue regeneration. The injectable scaffolds have been found to be minimally invasive and can easily fill complex tissue defects or voids found in craniofacial bone regeneration after trauma, tumor resection, or birth defects.

The emerging class of biodegradable polymeric scaffolds Tzouanas will study, which are called thermogelling polymers, respond to changes in temperature and harden to enhance the stability and mechanical properties for better wound stabilization and healing.

In addition to working in Mikos’ group, she has gained international research experience working in Professor M. Raghunath’s Tissue Modulation Laboratory at the National University of Singapore under a Global Engineering Research Scholarship to study angiogenesis as it pertains to bone regeneration.

Tzouanas co-chairs the Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium and the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership’s (RCEL) Engineering Houston’s Future Conference. She serves as vice president for the Rice Biomedical Engineering Society and the Rice Society of Women Engineers, and she is the Class of 2014 Representative to the Centennial Commission Advisory Board. She also volunteers at Texas Children’s Hospital and mentors the hospital’s high school advisory board.

Tzouanas plans to pursue a doctorate in bioengineering to develop novel techniques to promote bone regeneration and treat hard-to-heal bone defects.

“I have always been fascinated by the prospect of augmenting the regenerative capacities of the body, and will make the most of my engineering education as I pursue a career in medical research with an emphasis in regenerative medicine,” she said. “I’m incredibly honored to be a Goldwater Scholar.”