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Summer 2021 Newsletter

Masked photo of Jennifer Wayne

From the department head: A Spring to Remember

Happy June everyone! The strict mask-wearing should be largely behind us, and gatherings will begin again in earnest before long. This semester, BEAM faculty, staff, and students continued to exhibit fortitude and resilience that brought about continued successes in the department. This resilience is helping us maneuver through the loss of a dear faculty member, H. Clay Gabler III, in January. He was a beloved colleague, mentor, and friend who was tremendously successful in pursuing his passions in research and teaching.

Commencement is always a special event in the lives of students and faculty alike. BEAM graduated 26 ESM majors who are going on to exciting new ventures with their careers, to industry positions with companies such as Lockheed Martin and Collins Aerospace, or graduate school with institutions such as University of Tennessee and Northeastern University. We graduated more than 30 students in our BME graduate program and Engineering Mechanics (EM) program. We selected the third student cohort of our new Biomedical Engineering (BME) undergraduate degree, to graduate in May 2024. Our inaugural BME class will graduate in May 2022. Our BME graduate program, joint with Wake Forest University (BEAM BME Graduate Program) saw a huge jump in US News & World Report metrics, to #33 among all US universities, and is also the #2 BME graduate program in the Commonwealth of Virginia! The inaugural Engineering Mechanics Symposium was held virtually in April 2021 (2021 BEAM EM Symposium). We had 30 oral and poster presentations delivered with the keynote lecture by EM alumnus, Maurizio Porfiri on “Engineering the Firearm Ecosystem.”

Our faculty delivered more than 20,000 student credit hours this academic year and attracted nearly $32M in additional extramural research support. BEAM students were hard at work in the classroom, whether virtually or in person, and in the research labs. Everyone is looking for a return to normal operations in fall 2021.

Other exciting news is always available on the BEAM Website. If you haven’t already, you can receive regular updates on BEAM Facebook, subscribing to BEAM Tweets, or following BEAM on Instagram.

Wishing you a rejuvenating summer!

Go Hokies!

Jennifer S. Wayne

Professor and Department Head, Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics


sunset with the Pylons

Research and Highlights

Blue colors, two researchers standing by new MRI machine

Virginia Tech launches 'next generation' brain imaging lab. Researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC have received a $2.4 million National Institutes of Health grant to deploy a breakthrough new brain imaging technique called optically pumped magnetometry to study the nuances of social interactions. Read more.

Masked photo of Raffaella De Vita

Raffaella De Vita elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Raffaella De Vita, professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics at Virginia Tech, has been elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows. Read more.

picture, four times, of a drone

To fly drones over roads safely, study what would happen if they crash. Drone researchers and injury biomechanics experts, including BEAM faculty Steve Rowson, teamed up with State Farm to collect some of the first data describing the outcome of a potential collision between a drone and a moving car. Read more.

Masked photo of Lisha Yuan

Engineering mechanics graduate student receives Liviu Librescu Memorial Fellowship. Lisha Yuan, engineering mechanics doctoral student in biomedical engineering and mechanics at Virginia Tech, received the Liviu Librescu Memorial Fellowship. The department selects a student each year for their impressive achievements and service in leadership, scholarly excellence, teaching, community service, and research. Read more.

Anne Staples recognized with the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching

Each year the Virginia Tech College of Engineering recognizes faculty for their incredible work in teaching, research, service, and outreach. Anne Staples, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, was recognized with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Read more.

Scientists from Virginia Tech, City of Hope aim to improve therapy for deadly brain cancer

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke awarded the team, including Jennifer Munson, associate professor at the Fralin Biomedical Institute at VTC, $3.75 million to study how fluid flow affects the success of CAR-T cell therapy on glioblastoma tumors. Read more.


Masked photo of Phillip Truppelli

Class of 2021: Phillip Truppelli designs engineering solutions that uniquely fit natures' laws. Early on, Phillip Truppelli recognized that he wanted to use his scientific knowledge and keen insights to better not only the scientific community but ultimately the entire world. Pursuing such goals, Truppelli found no better place than Virginia Tech, a university dedicated to empowering its students, to make his impact on the world. Read more.

Photo of Zerin working in a lab, pipetting

Zerin Mahzabin named a 2021-2022 PEO scholar. The P.E.O. Scholar Awards are one-time, competitive, merit-based awards intended to recognize and encourage academic excellence and achievement by women in doctoral-level programs. These awards provide partial support for study and research. Read more.

BEAM students wildly successful at the 2021 College of Engineering Torgersen Awards. Read more.


people sitting under canopy in VT colors at tailgate

Save the date for our Alumni Tailgate!

Saturday, Sept. 11

Virginia Tech v. Middle Tennessee

More details to come

Thank you to BEAM advisory board members and fellow alumni for providing presentations and talking with our students this past semester!

BEAM Advisory Board members who presented included (pictured below in clockwise order).

Mauro Atalla - What do we Learn When Things Don't Go as Anticipated

Katrin Elbert - Medical Device Engineering in the Real World

Mike Fisher - The Pedicle Screw Controversy

Jaclyn Press - SBES Women in STEM Panel

picture of 4 people on BEAM's committee

Join BEAM's Industry Partner Program (IPP)

Are you ready to help us prepare the next generation of biomedical engineers? Virginia Tech's new undergraduate program is seeking professional and industry mentors and sponsors for the following areas:

  • Academic advisory group members
  • Industry Speakers Bureau appointments
  • Senior design project sponsors
  • Co-op and internship position providers
  • Collaborative research projects with faculty and students

Please contact Claudia Rodriguez at and visit BEAM's IPP page for more information.

Gifts help our students

  • $50 can provide glassware for an experiment.
  • $100 can provide lab coats for five students.
  • $250 covers the student registration fee for a national conference.
  • $1000 funds one hands-on lab experience.


Keep in touch

We love to hear from our alumni! Contact Claudia Rodriguez, assistant director of alumni and external relations, for more ways to get involved with the department.

To better stay connected, review and update your information.

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