Mark Saltzman, the founding chair of the School of Engineering & Applied Science’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and the head of Jonathan Edwards College, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
The leader of a biomedical engineering lab at Yale that develops biotechnologies to combat human diseases, Saltzman was honored for his “contributions in drug delivery, biomaterials and tissue engineering that have led to improved patient treatments,” according to a Feb. 7 press release from the National Academy of Engineering. In recent semesters, Saltzman, who also serves as a professor of chemical engineering and of cellular and molecular physiology, has taught undergraduate courses in physiological systems, drug delivery, and biological transport and kinetics.
“It’s a great feeling to be recognized by the academy, because you get elected by your distinguished peers,” Saltzman said.
The National Academy of Engineering advises the federal government and operates programs to promote engineering research and education, such as the Grand Challenges Scholar Program and Frontiers of Engineering. Election to the organization honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering research, practice or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature” and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.”
Saltzman, who is also a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, has authored three textbooks. His research lab — which comprises about 30 members — studies polymers as a biomaterial, creating devices and technologies to treat diseases in novel ways. For example, the lab has successfully created polymer implants that can slowly release chemotherapy drugs at the site of a tumor.
Saltzman said one of the reasons for his lab’s success has been its collaborations with other researchers at the University.
One recent focus of his research is creating nanoparticles — small synthetic particles the size of a virus — that are loaded with chemotherapy drugs to target tumors in different ways. He is working with School of Medicine professors Joseph Piepmeier, Ranjit Bindra and Michael Girardi to bring this technology to cancer patients.
Another current project, which is a collaboration with Peter Glazer, the therapeutic radiology chair at the Medical School, involves using gene editing to treat cystic fibrosis and beta thalassemia.
A third major project in the lab takes advantage of tissue engineering to create new microvascular networks from human endothelial cells and utilizes these networks to repair tissues. This work is a collaboration between Saltzman and Jordan Pober, a professor at the medical school and director of the Human and Translational Immunology Program.
And while Saltzman’s lab works extensively with other researchers at Yale, the level of collaboration within the lab also makes the lab environment special, said several researchers in the lab.
“There’s a culture of helping people in this lab, and I think Dr. Saltzman himself really perpetuates that behavior, helping every single person’s project and being available to meet with people,” said Michelle Croda ’19, an undergraduate researcher in Saltzman’s lab.
Hanna Mandl ’17, a postgraduate researcher in the lab, said she agreed with that assessment, noting that the collaborative environment is one of the best parts of working in the lab.
Saltzman said that having undergraduates in his lab has been crucial throughout his three decades as a principal investigator.
“I’ve always tried to make sure that the lab is set up in a way where we have opportunities to introduce young people to research,” he said. “Helping people learn about whether research is the right career for them is tremendously rewarding.”
On Sept. 30, Saltzman will attend the formal induction ceremony at the National Academy of Engineering’s annual meeting in Washington. Eighty-three new members and 16 foreign members were announced this year, bringing the U.S. membership to 2,293 and foreign membership to 262.
Seven other Yale professors or professors emeriti are members of the National Academy of Engineering.
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