BIOE Hosts Sixth Annual EPIC Retreat, Announces Fischell Fellows

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On Friday, August 25, more than 80 Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BIOE) graduate students, faculty, and staff gathered at the University of Maryland Golf Course for the sixth annual EPIC Retreat. The 2023 Fischell Fellows were announced at the event.

The EPIC—or Enhancing and Promoting Interactions and Conversations—Retreat provides the department with an opportunity to welcome new Ph.D. students, discuss new research, create new collaborations, and foster a sense of community. The retreat was established in 2018 by Helim Aranda-Espinoza, BIOE Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies.

BIOE welcomed several presenters, including alum John Shardt (Ph.D. 2018), Senior Scientist at AstraZeneca; David Zhang, Vice President of Bioengineering at Oddity Labs; and BIOE’s newest faculty members, Assistant Professors Sara Molinari and Erika Moore.

“Hearing from both of our new faculty members and officially welcoming them along with our new first-year Ph.D. cohort were highlights of the retreat for me,” says Emily Powsner, BIOE Ph.D. student and Vice President of Finance of the Bioengineering Graduate Student Society (BGSS).

BGSS partners with BIOE each year to organize this event and coordinates the many student-led research presentations and “flash talks,” giving current graduate students the opportunity to present their own work to peers, mentors, and guests. They also lead several team building activities, designed to boost engagement between the many members of the Department.

“This fellowship has given me the opportunity to focus on the translational capacity of my research so that the promise of the technologies I've developed in the lab can become a clinical reality.”

Shannon McLoughlin

“Seeing students, faculty, and staff alike participating in conversations and activities away from a formal lab setting is always a refreshing change of pace,” Powsner says.

To conclude the event, the Department announced the two recipients of the 2023 Fischell Fellowship in Biomedical Engineering: David Boegner and Shannon McLoughlin. The Fischell Fellowship is a unique opportunity for talented and innovative graduate students interested in applied research and product design in the biomedical industry.

“I'm incredibly honored to be selected for this award and am extremely grateful to the Department for supporting me throughout my final year,” says McLoughlin, a 5th year PhD student. Her research focuses on enhancing extrusion bioprinting resolution to generate thin membranous tissue structures, such as the periosteum. “This fellowship has given me the opportunity to focus on the translational capacity of my research so that the promise of the technologies I've developed in the lab can become a clinical reality.”

Boegner is a 4th year PhD student developing technology to enable an affordable point-of-care sample-to-answer blood diagnostic device for Hepatitis C and other viruses. In fact, Dr. Robert E. Fischell—for whom UMD’s bioengineering department and this fellowship are named—is the one who inspired Boegner in his research.

“I chose BIOE at the University of Maryland specifically because of its dedication to transformative technology and translational research—research that results in tangible products rather than dead ends in journal publications,” he explains. “I've seen Dr. Fischell speak about the duty of a bioengineer as an inventor of life-saving technology. Receiving this award feels very fulfilling and validating considering that Dr. Fischell's own mindset about bioengineering is what brought me to where I am today. The Fellowship will provide the funding needed to finish optimizing my technology and validate it with clinical samples.”

Published September 7, 2023