Leading into the Future: Biomedical Engineering Professor Selected as IAspire Fellow

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By Simon Morrow

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Georgia Papavasiliou, professor of biomedical engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology, was among 27 faculty to be selected as a fellow of the 2021 IAspire Leadership Academy cohort. The competitive, National Science Foundation-backed leadership program helps STEM faculty from underrepresented backgrounds ascend to leadership roles at colleges and universities. 

“My interest in the academy was sparked by its mission, which aims to support STEM faculty from underrepresented backgrounds to ascend to university leadership roles, a goal of my professional career and development,” says Papavasiliou. “Academic environments are complex and dynamic, requiring effective leadership in order to lead their constituencies in the right direction and help them adapt to changes that arise within or outside the university. This includes new teaching ideas, research opportunities, and partnerships to enhance higher education.”

Over the course of two years, the leadership academy provides training, peer coaching, and community-building to help underrepresented academic leaders succeed in more senior academic leadership roles. 

Papavasiliou is also associate chair of undergraduate affairs in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Polymeric Biomaterials and Cell and Tissue Engineering Research Laboratory. Her laboratory’s research focuses on the repair and regeneration of damaged and diseased tissue through the development of novel implantable hydrogel scaffold biomaterials for targeted tissue regeneration and topical and injectable nanoparticle formulations for the controlled release of medications. 

“Georgia is a leader in her field,” says Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and R. A. Pritzker Professor of Biomedical Engineering John Georgiadis. “Her research is critical for developing novel therapeutic interventions in most tissues of the human body and has been applied for the digestive tract and cardiovascular system.”

Papavasiliou has previously been awarded an Innovative Research Grant from the American Heart Association for her project, established to support highly innovative, high-risk, high-reward research at the national level that could ultimately lead to critical discoveries or major advancements that will accelerate the field of cardiovascular research. 

Her research laboratory has also been funded by the National Institutes of Health. This includes various projects focused on the development of novel implantable biomaterials that promote regeneration of damaged cartilage as a minimally invasive treatment for osteoarthritis. 

She has also worked to develop nanoparticles that are designed to deliver phosphates to the gut to suppress the virulence of pathogens that prevent intestinal healing.

“I am so pleased that Georgia has been selected to participate in this innovative leadership development program,” says Kenneth Christensen, Carol and Ed Kaplan Dean of Armour College of Engineering. “Armour College is committed to inclusive excellence in all aspects of its mission. Supporting the development and diversification of our current and future leadership is a critical element of this commitment.”

“We’re excited that so many institutions were able to support the participation of emerging STEM leaders from underrepresented groups in the third cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy,” says Howard Gobstein, director of the Aspire Alliance and executive vice president at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. “More than ever, we see the need for institutions to cultivate and support diversity in faculty and university leadership, and this year’s class of fellows will be well-positioned to advance these goals.”

Photo: Illinois Tech Professor of Biomedical Engineering Georgia Papavasiliou