Thursday, October 08, 2015


Commencement Close-Up: Amita Shah literally operates with a new perspective

Amita Shah

Amita Shah

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(Dec. 17, 2010)--Talk about busy...

Early on Tuesday, June 1, Amita Shah, already a medical doctor, dropped off her doctoral thesis at the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering. Later that evening, she gave birth to her first child, a son. A week later, she defended her dissertation.

"I can't believe I did that," she recalled incredulously.

But she did, and at 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 18, she will cross the commencement stage to receive her doctoral degree in biomedical engineering. The occasion marks the end of a 10-year journey.

As an undergraduate at Trinity University, Shah was torn between medical school and graduate school. She wanted to become a surgeon, but biomedical engineering intrigued her, and she enjoyed her undergraduate research experience. Ultimately, she decided to attend medical school. In 2005, she graduated and began a surgical residency.

But, the prospect of graduate school still nagged her.

"As a surgical resident, I could see how much we really needed the techniques and products you can develop using tissue engineering methods," she said.

As Shah considered a doctoral program, Health Science Center Professor Mauli Agrawal joined the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering and eventually became dean of the UTSA College of Engineering. When UTSA established its joint doctoral degree program with the Health Science Center, she knew the time was ripe.

While a second-year surgical resident, Shah studied for the GRE, took the exam and submitted applications to graduate schools.

"I knew I wanted to attend UTSA, because I wanted to work with Dean Agrawal and Dr. [Anson] Ong," Shah recalled. Ong is the chair of the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering and director of the UTSA/UTHSCSA Joint Graduate Degree Program in Biomedical Engineering.

"I'd met them at the Health Science Center. I also knew the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering had a great relationship with the Health Science Center and the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research," Shah added.

UTSA accepted Shah, and she matriculated in fall 2007. Immediately, she began to conduct tissue engineering research for the Department of Defense in Dean Agrawal's laboratory. She studied the role of endothelial cells and osteoblasts in improving the growth of blood vessels and bone tissue in a synthetic bone scaffold. Her findings will contribute to better treatments for soldiers who sustain large, segmental bone injuries as a result of rocket-propelled grenades or IEDs. Current treatments often result in amputation, she says.

On July 1, 2010, Shah returned to the operating room, resuming the sleepless life of a surgical resident. However, she now brings a new perspective.

"Now, when I'm doing surgery, it's more 'how can we make it better?' than just 'how can we do it?'" she said. "The doctoral program taught me to look at things critically including journal articles. I'm able to read them better and pull out more information than before. And, my practice of medicine is more evidence-based than it was before."

Ideally, Shah envisions a career where she can combine her surgical skills with her passion for biomedical engineering. She is eager to create new devices that she can use to improve the lives of her patients.

Her mentor, Mauli Agrawal, has no doubt she will accomplish her goals.

"Dr. Shah is a perfect example of the brilliant young minds who will lead us into the future," he said. "She is a young, critical thinker who is well-educated and driven. I can't wait to see what the future holds for her."



Oct. 10, 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.

UTSA CITE Technology Entrepreneurship Boot Camp

Kickstart your career as an entrepreneur at the UTSA Center for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship Boot Camp.
Business Building, Richard S. Liu Auditorium (BB 2.01.02), Main Campus

Oct. 14, 5:30 p.m.

Architecture as Rendered Society

The UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, in partnership with AIA San Antonio’s Latinos in Architecture, presents architect Andrés Jaque, founder of the Office for Political Innovation, an architectural practice dually based in New York and Madrid.
Buena Vista Building, Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus

Oct. 15, 6 p.m.

Take Back the Night 2015

The UTSA Women’s Studies Institute invites you to Take Back the Night, an international initiative to raise awareness and empower survivors while educating allies through a march, poetry, and testimonios. This is a gender-inclusive movement to shatter the silence surrounding sexual and domestic violence.
Sombrilla Plaza, Main Campus

Oct. 20-21, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

SECC Book Sale

Looking for a good read? Shop for yourself or for gifts and help change a life at the same time. Browse and buy children’s stories, novels and more at the 2015 SECC Book Sale.
Sombrilla Plaza, Main Campus

Oct. 22, 6 p.m.

Phi Kappa Phi Last Lecture

What would Dr. John Bartkowski say if it were his last lecture? The UTSA professor of sociology will speak about “The Power of Listening” in this annual event sponsored by the UTSA chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. A reception will follow.
Denman Room (UC 2.201.28), Main Campus

Oct. 27, 11:30 a.m.

Lecture by Composer Larry Groupe

The UTSA Music Department presents Emmy-award winning Composer Larry Groupe. Groupe has composed music for films such as "The Contender," "Straw Dogs" and "Miami Vice," and TV shows such as "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Ren and Stimpy" and "American Gladiators." Lecture is free and open to the public.
Arts Building (ART 2.03.15-18), Main Campus

Oct. 29, 5:30 p.m.

White Bound: Nationalists, Anti-Racists and the Shared Meanings of Race

The Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series continues with Dr. Matthew Hughey, a scholar of race, racism and racial inequality.
Buena Vista Building (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus

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Did You Know?

UTSA writes the book on all-digital libraries

As touch screens and e-books demand more and more attention from both casual readers and scholars, many people say the handwriting is on the wall for the printed page.

At UTSA, the handwriting is on the wall for a library that doesn't have any printed books.

Since March 2010, the bookless library in the Applied Engineering and Technology Building has given UTSA students an innovative way to read, research and work with each other to solve problems.

With ultra-modern furniture and a décor featuring desktop computers, scanners and LCD screens, the AET Library is designed to engage students in an online format. But it also offers group study niches and study rooms with whiteboards and glass walls on which students can write. The space encourages teamwork, communications and problem solving for the next generation of scientists and professional engineers.

Did you know? The UTSA AET Library is the nation's first completely bookless library on a college or university campus. It served as a model for Bexar County's first-in-the-nation public bookless library system and one of its branches, the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech.

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