Sriharsha Sundarram, PhD, Wins Robert E. Wall Award

Sriharsha Sundarram, PhD, Wins Robert E. Wall Award

sriharsha sundarram, phd

Sriharsha Sundarram, PhD, of the Mechanical Engineering Department is recipient of the 2020-21 Robert E. Wall Award.

The prestigious Fairfield University award recognizes the essential scholarly or artistic work of tenured faculty members, and grants the annual recipient a semester-long sabbatical to focus on research.

This research clearly will lead to advances in organ transplantation and contribute to breakthroughs in health care.

— Fairfield University Provost Christine Siegel, PhD

School of Engineering Associate Professor Sriharsha Sundarram, PhD, the Brinkman Family Professor of Micro and Nano Manufacturing, has been named the recipient of Fairfield University’s Robert E. Wall Award for the 2020-21 academic year.

Named after Fairfield’s vice president of Academic Affairs from 1992 until 1999, the Robert E. Wall Award is bestowed annually by the provost, in concurrence with a selection committee, to recognize scholarly research or artistic creativity. Dr. Sundarram is the 26th faculty member to be honored with the University award, and the first from the School of Engineering.

In her announcement, Provost Christine Siegel, PhD, described Dr. Sundarram’s research proposal, “Microwave Foamed Tissue Scaffolds for Bio-Artificial Organs,” as “exceedingly well-crafted” and noted, “This research clearly will lead to advances in organ transplantation and contribute to breakthroughs in health care… a field critical to society.” Following his semester-long sabbatical, the outcome of Dr. Sundarram’s efforts will be celebrated in a public lecture on his research, in fall 2021.

“Dr. Sundarram is widely known for his applied research in the area of micro- and nano-manufacturing and, in particular, for his seminal efforts in developing novel surfaces and structures – tissue scaffolds – that support the growth of artificial organs,” said School of Engineering Dean Richard Heist, PhD. “His research in this area is another example of the service-to-humanity character of both engineering and Fairfield University, and we are proud of his many contributions.”

When asked to describe his research “in layman’s terms,” Dr. Sundarram compared the building block of bio-artificial organs — a three-dimensional porous tissue scaffold — to a regular sponge with hollow channels that provide pathways for water flow and absorption. The porous scaffold, he said, “serves as a template on which the cells are initially attached and allowed to grow to form the tissue.”

In his study, Dr. Sundarram strives to use a combination of 3D printing and microwave gas foaming to fabricate a scalable, inexpensive system for development of these scaffolds, with dual pore networks with separate passageways for the flow of nutrients and waste, respectively. “These scaffolds with desired properties will be incorporated into bioreactor chambers integrated with sensors and fluidic networks, resulting in extracorporeal bio-artificial organs,” he explained.

For the past two years, the professor of mechanical engineering has led a team of researchers focused on large-scale engineered tissue scaffolds. He noted that graduate student Mohammed Syed Mustafa, a member of his research group, “has contributed significantly to obtain preliminary data for this project.” Syed Mustafa’s collaborative efforts — and his resulting master’s thesis — have been recognized by the University community with two awards: a 2020 Library Research Prize and the Graduate Loyola Medal.

“The successful completion of this project would provide me an opportunity to make a mark in the new and exciting area of biomedical applications,” Dr. Sundarram said. “My long-term goal is to become a leader in the field of manufacturing of advanced materials, and to extend my research portfolio to encompass new interdisciplinary areas.” He credits the emphasis on interdisciplinary research and faculty interaction at Fairfield University for expanding the scope of his field of study.

“I am personally very excited to be the first engineer to receive the Robert E. Wall Award,” he added. “This demonstrates the strong support offered by the School of Engineering for applied research, and recognizes the service to humanity aspect of the engineering profession.”


Tags:  School of Engineering and Computing,  Top Stories


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