Credit: UTSA Communications
(July 30, 2020) — BioMedSA, the non-profit corporation founded in 2005 to promote and grow San Antonio’s leading industry, healthcare and bioscience, will present its 2020 BioMedSA Award for Innovation in Healthcare and Bioscience to Dr. Rena Bizios, the Lutcher Brown Endowed Chair in the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering. Bizios is a globally recognized educator and researcher who has made pioneering contributions to biomedical engineering curricula as well as groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of cell-material interactions at the tissue/implant interface with applications in implant biomaterials, tissue engineering and tissue regeneration.
A chemical and biomedical engineer by training, Bizios joined the faculty at UTSA in 2006 and has focused her research on cellular and tissue engineering, tissue regeneration, biomaterials (including nanostructured biomaterials) and biocompatibility. Her discoveries have contributed to the development of biomaterials for implants and have established principles that are applied today in multiple medical devices used to promote tissue regeneration. Her research into cell and protein interactions with nanostructured materials has led to the development of various applications for nanomaterials, ranging from drug delivery to promoting specific biological responses.
“Through decades of teaching and research, Dr. Bizios has helped shape the field of biomedical engineering,” said Dr. Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA vice president for Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise, who nominated Bizios for the award. “At the same time, her work in the laboratory has demystified cell-material interactions, improving the way clinicians treat patients today in medical and dental settings.”
Bizios has authored and co-authored numerous peer-reviewed papers, has given many presentations at national and international scientific and engineering conferences and has co-edited one book regarding the tissue-biomaterial interface. Notably, she co-authored “An Introduction to Tissue-Biomaterial Interactions,” the first textbook addressing biocompatibility aspects of implant materials and medical devices. This textbook has become a standard and is used around the world for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses by several biomedical engineering programs in the United States and abroad. Bizios is also a co-inventor on four issued patents.
“Rena Bizios is a pioneer in biomedical engineering,” said JoAnn Browning, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering. “Her commitment in the classroom and in the laboratory has prepared generations of students to pursue successful careers and leadership roles in biomedical engineering.”
UTSA alumna Marissa Wechsler ’15 became enticed in biomedical engineering after a chance interview with Bizios.
While an undergraduate at UTSA, Wechsler worked in Bizios’ Cell and Tissue Engineering Laboratory for more than four years through the university’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers – Undergraduate Student Training for Academic Research (MARC-U*STAR) Program. She also completed Bizios’ Biocompatibility of Materials course as a part of the UTSA undergraduate curriculum in biomedical engineering and was the first UTSA engineering student to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.
Since graduating from UTSA, Wechsler has received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2019 and today is a successful postdoctoral research associate at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In Spring 2021, she will join the UTSA faculty.
“I wish I could share in words how much Dr. Bizios has helped me grow personally and professionally,” said Wechsler. “She introduced me to a field, education and career I never knew existed. Her guidance and support has led me to many opportunities. I am truly grateful for the time she took to mentor me as an undergraduate student which led to me to identify a career path which I felt was personalized directly for me.”
Bizios has also been recognized by her peers for her contributions to education and her research accomplishments. Her numerous awards include the Rensselaer Alumni Association Teaching Award, Clemson Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Literature (Society for Biomaterials), Distinguished Scientist Award (Houston Society for Engineering in Medicine and Biology), Women’s Initiatives Mentorship Excellence Award (American Institute of Chemical Engineers), Founders Award (Society for Biomaterials), Theo C. Pilkington Outstanding Educator Award (American Society for Engineering Education, Biomedical Engineering Division), Amber Award (UTSA Ambassadors), election as a charter member of the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Researchers, AIMBE Excellence in STEM Education Award (American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering) and Excellence in Biomaterials Science Award (Surfaces in Biomaterials Foundation).
Bizios is a Fellow of five professional societies: the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also member of the National Academy of Medicine, the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas, the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering, the Academy of Athens, Greece, and the National Academy of Inventors.
She received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1979), her M.S. in chemical engineering from the California Institute of Technology (1971) and her B.S. (Cum Laude) in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (1968).
“It is clear that Rena Bizios has made an enormous impact on the field of biomedical engineering,” noted BioMedSA President Heather Hanson. “Her research has opened the door for numerous medical applications that improve patient care. Furthermore, as a female researcher and educator who started her career when women simply were not widely seen in the field of biomedical engineering, she has been an influential leader and inspirational mentor for her students.”
Bizios added, “I am honored to receive this recognition, especially coming from BioMedSA and San Antonio, the city that I call home. I am humbled to be included as an honoree in this group of prestigious recipients.”
The BioMedSA Award for Innovation in Healthcare and Bioscience celebrates local and national innovators in the healthcare and bioscience field, including patient care, education, research and development, leadership, public policy and medical technology. Bizios will accept the award at a virtual celebration event on Sept. 17, 2020.