UW Bioengineering senior Celina Gunnarsson has received the 2017 UW President’s Medal and the Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence from the College of the Engineering.

The President’s Medal is presented annually by the University of Washington president to two graduating seniors who have achieved the most distinguished academic records in their class. Those graduating summa cum laude are considered for the awards. One medal is given to a student who has completed at least three-fourths of his or her degree requirements at the University. Beginning in 2004, a second medal has been awarded to a student who entered the University with at least 60 transfer credits from a Washington community college. Celina is the first President’s Medalist from the College of Engineering since 1992, and the first to receive this honor in UW BioE’s history.

The Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence is awarded annually to two exceptional students in the College of Engineering. Students must meet specific eligibility requirements, and are selected from among those nominated by department chairs and reviewed by a selection committee. Selection criteria include grades, rigor and distribution of coursework, research experience, extracurricular activities and leadership.

In Assistant Professor Ying Zheng’s lab, Celina is developing a 3-D blood brain barrier (BBB) model for studying cerebral malaria. In this project, Celina is engineering human brain microvessel networks to create a self-contained system that mimics the structure and function of the BBB within the human body. The system will allow researchers to better understand the factors that contribute to disease progression and BBB dysfunction in cerebral malaria. Celina will co-author a publication documenting this work, and actively mentors and teaches lab techniques to others in the lab, including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Outside of research, Celina was a teaching assistant for BIOEN 325, Biotransport I, in the fall quarter of 2016. Celina works with fellow BioE senior Camille Birch on a BioE honors service project to create a curriculum that focuses on the interplay of ethics and diversity in undergraduate engineering education. The curriculum covers topics such as the use of gender stereotypes in scientific narratives, disparity in research funding for underrepresented populations, universal design to accommodate people with disabilities, and implicit bias in experimental design and research. Celina recently introduced some of the material to students in BIOEN 215, Introduction to Bioengineering Problem Solving, by giving a guest lecture and facilitating a weekly literature review session. Celina will continue to develop the curriculum with Camille next year.

Celina contributed to the ASUW Women’s Action Commission’s production of The __ Monologues, which is a student-run, student-written take on the original Vagina Monologues. In 2015, Celina was a performer, and a facilitator in 2016 and 2017. The __ Monologues differs from the original production by giving performers the opportunity to write their own pieces and “fill in the blank” with their own experiences, including discrimination, emotional trauma and physical abuse. In the summer of 2016, Celina completed an art history and humanities honors study abroad program in Rome while also pursuing an independent research project on St. Catherine of Siena and female piety.

After graduation, Celina plans to work full-time in Dr. Zheng’s lab as a research scientist, and in the fall will apply to Ph.D. programs with the intent to focus on tissue engineering and biophysics.

The departmental honors program is led by Lecturer Dianne Hendricks, who also taught BIOEN 215 (Introduction to Bioengineering Problem Solving) in Winter 2017.