UW Bioengineering senior fellows Heather Gustafson and Meredith Redd have received 2017 Whitaker International Scholar Awards. The Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars Program sends predoctoral and postdoctoral biomedical engineers abroad to undertake self-guided projects in an academic, non-profit, policy or industry setting. The program promotes the professional development of superb leaders in biomedical engineering who will advance the profession through an international outlook.

Heather Gustafson, who completed a Ph.D. in bioengineering with Dr. Hamid Ghandehari at the University of Utah, has spent the last year developing a novel peptide formulation in Robert F. Rushmer Professor Suzie Pun’s lab in collaboration Dr. Seth Masters and Dr. James Vince at the Walter and Eliza Hall Medical Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia. The researchers are working to “reprogram” immune-suppressing macrophages that promote tumor growth to instead boost immunity and slow tumorigenesis.

Dr. Gustafson will travel to Dr. Masters’s lab to finish characterizing how this peptide initiates an immune promoting environment. She will also continue to work with Dr. Pun’s lab to improve material development.

At UW, Meredith Redd worked with Assistant Professor Ying Zheng and Professor Charles Murry to improve vascularization strategies for cardiac tissue engineering and for host integration. A key finding of her work was that functional blood vessels can be engineered from human pluripotent stem cells, and then implanted on injured hearts to enhance blood flow.

Dr. Redd will work with Dr. Nathan Palpant’s  lab at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, where she will work with lab to develop improved in vitro systems for studying ischemic heart disease and evaluate the therapeutic efficacy of a pool of candidate drugs.