BBS Professor, Biomedical Engineering Doctoral Student Earn Awards

Accolades is an occasional News Center feature that highlights recent accomplishments of The University of Texas at Dallas faculty and students. To submit items for consideration, contact your school’s communication manager. 

NIH Pain Group Honors Neuroscientist

Dr. Michael Burton

Dr. Michael Burton, an assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, has received the 2019 Mitchell Max Award for Research Excellence from the National Institutes of Health Pain Consortium.

Burton was selected for his presentation on delayed-onset neuropathic pain in older men. His research suggests that immune system hyperactivity at an advanced age can trigger hyperexcitability in neurons that can produce chronic pain long after an injury.

He described receiving the Max Award as signifying “that my ideas in understanding immune mechanisms in aging and pain are translatable to the human population.”

“This project serves to help bridge gaps in our understanding about what happens during advanced aging and pain development,” Burton said. “Our experiments demonstrate a connection between age, inflammation, endoplasmic reticulum stress and pain plasticity. The results hint at potential avenues for therapy, while also reinforcing our growing knowledge regarding the separation of inflammation and pain.”

The Max Award is given to the best poster presentation at the annual NIH Pain Consortium Symposium. It honors the late Dr. Mitchell Max, longtime medical director of the Pain Research Clinic of the NIH National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, for his contribution to pain research.

Jonsson School Student Wins Materials Research Award

Jennifer Boothby

Biomedical engineering doctoral student Jennifer Boothby was awarded a highly competitive silver award from the Materials Research Society at the organization’s spring meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

Considered the premier professional organization for materials scientists, the society presents gold and silver awards to graduate students at its annual spring meeting. Boothby was one of 13 students to earn the silver honor. Award criteria included thoroughness of research, depth of understanding and ingenuity in undertaking the research project. This year’s winners included students from Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology.

Under the leadership of Dr. Taylor Ware, assistant professor of bioengineering and principal investigator of the Ware Research Group, Boothby has researched biomedical applications of shape-memory polymers, specifically liquid crystalline hydrogels. These unique materials are pliable yet also maintain their shape, similar to human tissue. Boothby has focused on creating shape-memory polymers that can respond to biological stimuli. Because the polymers can be controlled on a molecular scale, they open many new possibilities for biomedical applications,  including biosensors, soft robots and tissue scaffolds.

“Being able to manipulate movement on a small scale is a big deal,” Boothby said. “By utilizing the bottom-up assembly of materials, we create ordered structures that can perform functions on size scales inaccessible to traditional machines and actuators.”

Boothby began working toward her PhD in 2015 after completing a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2014. She also has previously worked at MedShape, Inc. on the development of shape-memory orthopedic devices. She hopes to work in research and development for a company specializing in new applications of biomaterials.

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