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January 2020 Newsletter

Portrait of Jennifer Wayne


It is a privilege to return to Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus — this time as Department Head of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics! This role continues the intersection of my two greatest professional passions - an undergraduate degree in engineering science and mechanics and graduate degrees in biomedical engineering.

Our department has undergone many changes and advances since its formation in 2014. We welcomed the first class of biomedical engineering second-years in Fall 2019, which complements our tremendously successful biomedical graduate program. In 2023, the final engineering science and mechanics undergraduate class will graduate.. The steadfast focus that the degree delivered in engineering fundamentals will continue in the form of a minor, both within and outside of our department. And our graduate program in engineering mechanics is planning an expansion – more news to come!

I am most grateful for the leadership of our two former interim department heads, Stefan Duma and Pam VandeVord, the innovation and commitment of our faculty and staff, and the creativity and passion of our students. We will be embarking on a new strategic plan process with exciting goals as we direct our thoughts forward to the future of the fields.

I welcome your input and engagement as we work together to advance Virginia Tech’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics!

Go Hokies!

Jennifer Wayne

Department Head and Professor, Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics


Image of video for Jess Gannon

Jess Gannon: Diving Further into Pancreatic Research

As a recipient of the Clare Boothe Luce Fellowship, Jess Gannon is taking a closer look at pancreatic cancer research through device development and histotripsy. She found a sense of community at Virginia Tech, where she combines her passions for math and science with a love for working with people.

Cora Ezpara in the Munson Lab

Cora Esparza Receives NSF Fellowship

Reception of this National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship will allow Esparza to choose and pursue her own research interests. She is a first-year biomedical engineering doctoral student and studying the complex network of blood vessels found in glioblastoma, the deadliest form of brain cancer.


FDA deems molecular test for concussions ‘breakthrough device’

Researcher Stephen LaConte is leading efforts to study a newly developed molecular concussion test the FDA deems a "breakthrough device." A portable, blood-based, test could aid in the prognosis and diagnosis of more than 5 million mild traumatic brain injury consultations per year.

Raffaella De Vita speaks with graduate students in the STRETCH Lab

Raffaella De Vita elected Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)

Fellowship is the highest elected grade of the society’s membership, being conferred only to members with outstanding engineering achievements. De Vita was honored for her significant contributions as an internationally recognized expert in biomechanics.

BEAM's Industry Partners Program (IPP)

Be a mentor today

Industry Partner Representative with Jennifer Wayne, BEAM department head

An alumna of Virginia Tech and Director of Quality and Operations at Gilero, Kristin Benokraitis spoke to students during the Fall semester as part of During the talk and Q&A, Kristin gave a seminar as part of our Industry Partner's Program.

Join BEAM's Industry Partners Program

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

  • Academic advisory group members
  • Industry Speakers Bureau appointments
  • Senior design project sponsors
  • Co-op and internship position providers


Didier Lefeberve, alumnus of BEAM

Didier Lefeberve '88, PhD

Senior Principal Research Scientist at Abbvie


"What do you wish you would have known as an engineering student that you know now?"

“Follow your passion”: Maintaining high motivation by following your passion will help you get up every morning. You will be happier. While happy, the level of dopamine in your brain will be higher, which will make you think faster and more clearly.

“Manage your time”: Extra time spent planning and strategizing will pay off by decreasing the risk of wasting time doing the wrong thing. Play chess, not darts. This applies to both career decision making and problem-solving. Say NO to the myriad of distractions that would cause you to lose focus.

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.

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