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Ohio State ADVANCE Spring 2021 Faculty Spotlight: Judit E. Puskas, PhD, PEng

Posted: April 14, 2021


Judit E. Puskas, PhD, PEng
Distinguished Professor of CFAES in Polymer Science
Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Congratulations on your induction into the National Academy of Inventors!  Not long ago, you also received the prestigious Charles Goodyear Medal, becoming the first and only woman to receive this honor since the inception of this award in 1941.

You are a coinventor on patents for the polymer used on the Taxus coronary stent.  How did this invention come about? Was it a sponsored research project, in which you set out to create a polymer with specific characteristics, or did you create a polymer and later discover this particular application?

It was in the framework of a collaborative project between NSF and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. We created the polymer for commodity applications (rubber that can be remolded/recycled). When I gave a lecture about it at a conference, a guest developing medical devices realized its value and he pursued the FDA approval with Boston Scientific Co.

Have you always thought of yourself as an inventor? What does the inventor identity mean to you and how does it influence your research?

My mentor Professor Kennedy taught me about the importance to get patent protection for inventions – and I have been doing that ever since, with 35 US and foreign issued patents, with more disclosures.

Your research is an outstanding example of interdisciplinary application.  Tell us about your innovative work on the integration of breast cancer reconstruction and cancer research. How did you get involved in breast cancer and what are your next steps?

I started this research in 2000 when I heard the problems related to silicone breast prosthesis. The research later evolved into integrating breast cancer diagnosis and treatment with breast reconstruction. My current breast cancer research aims to (1) improve the efficiency and less invasive treatment of breast cancer, and (2) reduce or eliminate the side effects associated with chemotherapy. These two objectives will be accomplished by the delivery of imaging agents and cancer-killing drugs using polymer-based materials with “magic claws.” These “magic claws” will directly target and attach to cancer cells preferentially over healthy cells and destroy them! They can be released from a polymer matrix attached to silicone implants, thereby combining reconstruction with chemotherapy. Similar materials were in clinical trials in Europe but were terminated because the agents did not perform as expected. In addition, consistent production attempts were unsuccessful until my group took up the challenge and solved these problems! The Puskas “magic claws” research is ready to complete its final stages and begin hospital clinical studies. Hopefully, this treatment will reach the patient’s bedside as soon as possible!

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career engineering?

My chemistry teacher in elementary school started me on the pathway because she recognized my aptitude. She was actually a university professor, demoted to teach in elementary school because her involvement in the 1956 Hungarian revolution against the Soviet Union.

Is this the path you envisioned for your career?

I have always been very ambitious and competitive. I did not have a crystal ball to see the future, but I have always been very open and grabbed every opportunity I had. But it has been a torturous path – I have many stories about my fights for equal rights.

What advice would you give to your younger self or to other women faculty about career advancement?

Find a mentor early on and get good family support. Unfortunately, the whole system is flawed, making it hard for a woman to pursue an academic career and have a family. I hope that the new generation of men will also ask for change since they are getting more involved in raising a family. We must change the system.

Category : General

Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska named Ohio State’s Interim Vice President for Knowledge Enterprise

Posted: April 12, 2021

Original communication was sent to the OSU College of Engineering from Dean Howard. 

Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska, PhD has been named Ohio State’s Interim Vice President for Knowledge Enterprise.  While her talents now expand to benefit the entire university, Dorota will continue working with Engineering faculty, staff and research programs to optimize Ohio State’s unique convergence of innovation assets. She also will remain a faculty member as the Lowber B. Strange Designated Professor in Civil Engineering.

While serving as the College of Engineering Associate Dean for Research, Grejner-Brzezinska:

  • co-founded the Center for Cancer Engineering, which included the Cross-disciplinary Postdoctoral Scholars Program
  • oversaw an increase in the college’s number of large external awards, the overall number of NSF awards and overall industry-sponsored research expenditures
  • collaborated with research centers and core facilities to grow research expenditures from $35M in FY18 to $50M in FY20
  • was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering
  • received an Ohio State Distinguished Scholar Award and was named a Distinguished University Professor
  • was chosen to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, among many other accomplishments

Recently, she led a multi-institution NSF proposal to catalyze the U.S. engineering research community’s pursuit of innovative, high-impact research. Exciting news related to this proposal will be announced soon.

Category : General

Dr. Ayanna Howard Explains How Robots Can Learn Sexism And Racism

Posted: March 26, 2021

The Ohio State University College of Engineering’s Dean Ayanna Howard was on The View this week to discuss how robots can learn sexism and racism. See the segment here.

Category : General

Mary Juhas: Creating a culture of entrepreneurship for women inventors at Ohio State

Posted: March 19, 2021

Mary Juhas, Associate Vice President of Ohio State ADVANCE, discusses the culture of entrepreneurship for women inventors at Ohio State. Read her full interview with the Corporate Engagement Office here.

Category : General

Celebrating Women’s History Month at OSU

Posted: March 5, 2021

Exciting opportunities to celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March courtesy of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and Fisher College of Business.

Wonder Woman Wednesday Series

Women’s History Month Events

Category : General

2020 REACH Alumna Karen Dannemiller Receives HUD Grant Funds

Posted: February 2, 2021

Originally posted by the College of Engineering on January 10, 2021. Karen Dannemiller is a member of the REACH for Commercialization™ 2020 cohort.

HUD grant funds development of indoor allergen detection technology

On average, we spend 90% of our time indoors — potentially more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chemical contaminants, irritants and allergens in the indoor environment can pose health risks, especially for those who suffer from asthma.

An Ohio State University research team led by Karen Dannemiller, assistant professor of civil, environmental and geodetic engineering, has received a federal grant of nearly $1 million to develop a smartphone-based test for dust to detect allergens that cause asthma symptoms. The grant is part of $9.4 million awarded to 13 universities and public health agencies through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to research housing-related health hazards.

Dannemiller’s team will work to combat this problem with BREATHE-Smart, a smartphone-based test of house dust for semiquantitative detection of inhalant allergens that commonly cause asthma symptoms. The researchers will also demonstrate usability of the app for improved real-time hazard assessment in homes of asthmatic children. They will work with their community partner, the Asthma Express program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Homecare.

“HUD understands the critical intersection between health and housing. We are deeply committed to protecting the health of families and children in Ohio so they can reach their full potential,” said HUD Midwest Regional Administrator Joseph P. Galvan.

The smartphone technology can distinguish specific allergens and air contaminants quickly and easily. The app will direct users to community health resources and education to help them remediate indoor air quality problems, and, when finalized, will provide nurses an additional tool to help identify exposure and prioritize remediation resources.

When children have repeated patterns of hospitalization or other dramatic onsets of breathing problems, nurses may visit the home to create asthma action plans, discuss medication use and examine the indoor environment. These examinations have significant limitations and mostly rely on visual inspections or asking questions to unearth the root of the problem. For a more technical analysis, the nurses use a machine similar to a vacuum cleaner to acquire samples that are sent to labs. Results can take weeks — precious time that some children can’t afford. The BREATHE-Smart app changes this.

“With our new system, we should be able to go in the home and, in a short period of time, get information on the spot so nurses can help advise these patients,” Dannemiller says.

The nurses receive the data within minutes, allowing them to create targeted interventions tailored to the unique needs of each family. The process remains the same, just facilitated by the new technology to further optimize the use of limited resources.

Dannemiller has done extensive work on indoor microbiomes. She has always been interested in the topic, wanting to know more and how to measure related information.

“Sometimes students come to me and ask what direction to go in their studies and careers. I tell them to consider what they think about when their mind wanders, like when they brush their teeth in the morning. What bothers them? For me, that has always been indoor environmental exposure,” Dannemiller said.

After coming to Ohio State in January 2016, she researched a variety of topics ranging from the effect of mold on childhood asthma to how the presence of carpet or moisture changes a house’s microbiology and chemistry. Her background involves many academic disciplines, including engineering, environmental public health and microbiology.

“I like to work at the interface of a lot of different fields and bring the best parts of them together,” Dannemiller explained.  “Especially if it means that we can help kids with asthma.”

BREATHE-Smart itself brings interdisciplinary collaboration to address this important societal challenge. Key Ohio State collaborators include Perena Gouma, professor of materials science and engineering, and Rongjun Qin, assistant professor in civil, environmental and geodetic engineering and computer and electrical engineering. Nick Shapiro, an assistant professor from the Institute for Society and Genetics at University of California Los Angeles, and Matt Perzanowski, associate professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, also have contributed to the project. In addition, student researchers play a crucial role in advancing the research.

The BREATHE-Smart team plans to eventually launch the product commercially so it can be available for widespread use. The team is already working with an industry partner, Indoor Biotechnologies.

Work on this project has the potential to develop additional research questions.

“A lot of the projects that we’re doing answer one question and create 10 more,” Dannemiller said. “There’s no scarcity of really important and relevant research questions.”

The answers to the questions will provide valuable information to create a safer world for children with asthma.

based on article by Sustainability Institute student writer Aurora Ellis and press release from HUD.gov

Category : General

Free screening and panel discussion on the film Picture a Scientist

Posted: January 14, 2021

Please join the Office of Research and The Women’s Place for a free screening and panel discussion on the film Picture a Scientist.

The film chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter scientific luminaries – including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists – who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all.

Following the film screening, we will host a university-wide panel to explore the themes in the film and discuss ways we can collaboratively address these important issues at Ohio State. Viewers of all genders are encouraged to attend.

Registration is required to receive links to view the film and the panel presentation. Please note these important dates below:

  • January 19: Please register using the Qualtrics registration form to view both the film and panel presentation by 1/19. This will allow us time to send the appropriate links to you.
  • January 22 – 27: The film will be available for viewing during this time period. You will receive the link to view the film after Jan. 19.
  • January 27: Please join us on 1/27 from noon to 1 p.m. for a virtual university-wide conversation on the issues raised in the film. You will receive the link to the event after Jan. 19.

Film Screening Panel of Speakers

Rebecca Jackson, Director, The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Professor, Internal Medicine/Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, College of Medicine (Moderator)

Jonathan Baker, Associate Director, Drake Institute for Teaching & Learning, Office of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor, Department of Statistics, College of Arts & Sciences

Helen Malone, Vice Provost for Academic Policy and Faculty Resources, Office of Academic Affairs

Maria Miriti, Associate Professor, Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology, College of Arts and Sciences

La’Tonia Stiner-Jones, Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs and Assistant Professor of Practice, Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering

Discussion guide

Those who have watched the film are encouraged to use the discussion guide, to advance more conversations about equity in science in institutions, corporations, societies, and other groups worldwide.

Additional university panel discussions

  • Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the SACNAS Chapter OSU are hosting a virtual panel discussion via Zoom on Monday, February 1st at 4 p.m. EST
Category : General