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Rice BIOE announces its 2013 Alumni Awards in Bioengineering

By Shawn Hutchins
Rice BIOE News

The Rice University Department of Bioengineering announces the recipients of its alumni awards for excellence in research, teaching, service or significant contributions to academia, society, or the bioengineering industry.

The 2013 winners include: Konstantinos Konstantopoulos for Distinguished Bioengineering Alumnus, Eric Darling for Outstanding Graduate Alumnus and Kimberly Hsu for Outstanding Undergraduate alumna.

Konstantopoulos_webKonstantinos Konstantopoulos (Rice Ph.D. ’95) is professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, appointments he has held since 2008.

A pioneer in cell engineering research, Konstantopoulos precisely analyzes how mechanical forces regulate cell responses as they pertain to cancer metastasis and inflammation. His highly published research, which has been detailed in more than 110 peer-reviewed journal publications, explains the biophysical and molecular nature of cellular processes in physiologically relevant in vitro and in vivo models. This is accomplished through the synthesis of engineering and micro-technology principles with quantitative modeling, and concepts from biophysics, biochemistry and molecular cell biology.

Some of his key bioengineering research contributions have included the discovery of novel adhesion molecules involved in tumor cell adhesion in the vasculature, the biophysical characterization of these adhesive interactions at the single-molecule level, and the elucidation of novel signaling mechanisms during cell migration through physically confined microenvironments. His ultimate goal is to develop molecular therapies to combat cancer and inflammatory disorders using a directed multi-disciplinary approach.

Konstantopoulos is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and of the Biomedical Engineering Society. He is editor and board member for several scientific journals, and has served as chair of the Bioengineering Technology and Surgical Sciences (BTSS) study section of the National Institutes of Health. He has a diploma of chemical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Rice with Professor J. David Hellums serving as his adviser. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins in 1998 as an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Rice’s Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering with Professor Larry V. McIntire. 

Eric Darling-webEric Darling (Rice Ph.D. ‘04) is an assistant professor of medical science, orthopaedics, and engineering in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology at Brown University. He also serves as the director of Brown University’s Biomedical Engineering graduate program.

Research in Darling’s laboratory examines relationships between the mechanical and biological characteristics of cells and tissues. This understanding is then applied toward the development of biomaterials and tissue engineering efforts for bone and cartilage. He is particularly interested in understanding heterogeneity in adult stem cell populations and in developing approaches to identify tissue-specific cells for regenerative medicine and disease diagnostics. Recent work in his group has focused on two, novel cellular characteristics:  single-cell mechanical biomarkers and live-cell gene expressions.

Darling has authored 23 scientific articles and two textbooks on articular cartilage and tissue engineering. As a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University, he received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award. His projects at Brown have been consistently well funded, including support from a Pathway to Independence Award (NIH, K99/R00), an NSF CAREER Award, and a recently awarded Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institutes of Health. Darling has a B.S. in engineering from Harvey Mudd College. His Ph.D. in bioengineering was completed under Professor Kyriacos Athanasiou’s supervision.

Hsu Kimberly-webKimberly Hsu (Rice B.S. ‘05) attended Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) after graduating summa cum laude from Rice. As an undergrad, she conducted research for three years in Professor Rebekah Drezek’s laboratory, where she was a Beckman Scholar.

Hsu earned her medical degree and master’s degree in 2010 and was supported by several merit and research-based scholarships and grants, including a WUSM Distinguished Student Scholarship, a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Training Fellowship. During this time, Hsu conducted research on early cytomegalovirus infection in the laboratory of Wayne Yokoyama, M.D., a professor of medicine, pathology, and immunology; and in retinal diseases in the laboratory of Milam Brantley, M.D., a professor of ophthalmology.

Inspired by the unique bioengineering applications to diagnosing and treating eye diseases, she decided to pursue a career in ophthalmology. She completed a preliminary internal medicine year at St. Mary’s Health Center, and is currently an ophthalmology resident at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. She will finish her residency in 2014 and plans to pursue a cornea fellowship, and ultimately work as a clinician-scientist in helping to treat and prevent corneal diseases.