NAE Awards the 2023 Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Grants for Advancement of Interdisciplinary Research


Wed, March 15, 2023

Washington, DC, March 15, 2023 —

Two Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Grants of $30,000 have been awarded to attendees of The Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering 2022 Symposium, a program of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The grants provide seed funding for U.S. FOE participants who are at U.S.-based institutions to enable further pursuit of important new interdisciplinary research and projects stimulated by the U.S. FOE symposia.

“This year’s Grainger Grant recipients are making profound advancements in the areas of cancer therapeutics and stroke treatments,” said NAE President John L.  Anderson. “Their focus on engineering to improve health and medicine is both timely and important as engineers tackle some of the biggest health and healthcare issues facing our global environment.”

Hee-Jeung Oh (Pennsylvania State University) and Manan Arya (Stanford University) have received a Grainger Grant for their project titled “3D-printed origami biosponge polymers for capturing toxic chemotherapy drugs before they spread through the body.” Cancer is the leading cause of death in many nations. Despite efforts to develop increasingly targeted and personalized cancer therapeutics, dosing of drugs in cancer chemotherapy is limited by systemic toxic side effects. Oh and Arya aim to design 3D-printed origami biosponge polymers that capture excess chemotherapeutic drug before it spreads through the body. These biosponges can be compacted using origami-inspired methods for improved access to difficult-to-reach areas of the body, and then extended to intercept as much of the drug flow as possible. The proposal is inspired by (1) adsorption columns that are routinely used in industry to remove pollutants from chemical streams (by Oh), and (2) deployable spacecraft structures that can be folded into compact volumes for launch and then unfolded in space (by Arya). Successful design of the origami biosponge polymers can open a new route to help patients fight cancer and also serve as a platform for delivery, sensing, and capture of small molecules in blood for various health applications.

The second Grainger Grant has been awarded to Varun Kashyap (Medtronic) and Karthik Narasimhan (Princeton University) for their project titled “Digital clot twin for enhanced clot retrieval during the treatment of acute ischemic stroke (AIS).” AIS is a type of stroke where a blood clot occludes a vessel, decreasing blood flow to the brain and causing damage to brain cells. In the past few years, mechanical thrombectomy has become the standard of care to treat patients with AIS. In this procedure, a stent made of superelastic nickel-titanium alloy expands upon deployment to engage and retrieve the clot through vasculature. Because it is not possible to visualize the clot, multiple retrieval cycles are likely needed to remove it in its entirety. Improvement in first-pass efficacy is critical since stroke is a time-sensitive disease state and brain cells die every second blood flow is not restored. Using techniques for object localization and image segmentation from computer vision and deep learning, this project will explore use of the relative position of radio opaque platinum markers on the stent to visualize the boundaries of the clot to facilitate and expedite its removal.

The Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering is an NAE program that brings together highly accomplished early-career engineers from industry, academia, and government to discuss pioneering technical work and leading-edge research in various engineering fields and industry sectors. The goal is to facilitate interactions and exchange of techniques and approaches across fields and facilitate networking among the next generation of engineering leaders.

The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation based in Lake Forest, Illinois, was established in 1949 by William W. Grainger, founder of W.W. Grainger, Inc.

Founded in 1964, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. Its mission is to advance the welfare and prosperity of the nation by providing independent advice on matters involving engineering and technology, and by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and public appreciation of engineering.

Sabrina  Steinberg
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National Academy of Engineering
Janet  Hunziker
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Senior Program Officer
National Academy of Engineering