MARCH 8, 2022 — The University of Texas at San Antonio today announced that Rena Bizios, its Lutcher Brown Endowed Chair in Biomedical Engineering and a professor of biomedical engineering in its Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design, has been elected as a 2022 member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for her contributions to the theory and applications of cellular tissue engineering, cell/biomaterial interactions and surface modification biomaterials.
Combined with Bizios’ election to the National Academy of Medicine in 2015 and her election to the National Academy of Inventors in 2019, this most recent honor makes Bizios the only full-time faculty member in UTSA history to be elected to three U.S. national academies.
Bizios is a globally recognized educator and researcher who has made pioneering contributions to biomedical engineering curricula as well as groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of cell-material interactions at the tissue/implant interface with applications in implant biomaterials, tissue engineering and tissue regeneration.
“Congratulations to Dr. Bizios on her outstanding contributions to the engineering field and for achieving the remarkable milestone as UTSA’s first faculty member elected to three national academies,” said UTSA Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy. “Dr. Bizios exemplifies faculty excellence, demonstrating the commitment and dedication of UTSA’s exceptional faculty whose accomplishments are charting new paths in their fields and serving as innovative role models for UTSA students.”
A chemical and biomedical engineer by training, Bizios joined the UTSA faculty in 2006. Her research focuses on cellular and tissue engineering, tissue regeneration, biomaterials (including nanostructured biomaterials) and biocompatibility. Her discoveries have contributed to the development of biomaterials for implants and have established principles that are applied today in multiple medical devices that are used to promote tissue regeneration. Likewise, her research into cell and protein interactions with nanostructured materials has led to the development of various applications for nanomaterials, ranging from drug delivery to the promotion of specific biological responses. In all, she holds four issued patents.
“Dr. Bizios is a research pioneer and well-respected around the world for her accomplishments in tissue engineering, tissue regeneration and biomaterials. She is the only innovator at our campus with this many accolades. I hope her achievement encourages more UTSA faculty to be nominated for election to the national academies. It’s important not only for one’s career development but also enables the institution to further become recognized for research excellence,” said UTSA Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise Bernard Arulanandam.
Bizios has taught fundamental undergraduate and graduate engineering courses, and she has developed biomedical engineering courses. Her published work includes peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. She is co-author of the landmark textbook, “An Introduction to Tissue-Biomaterial Interactions,” which is a standard in the biomaterials field and has been adopted for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses by several biomedical engineering programs in the United States and abroad. She is also co-editor of “Biological Interactions on Materials Surfaces: Understanding and Controlling Protein, Cell, and Tissue Responses” and has a third book in the works.
Dr. Nicholas Peppas, Cockrell Family Regents Chair in Engineering #6 in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at UT-Austin, met Bizios in 1973 when he was a doctoral student researching biomaterials in the chemical engineering department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and she was starting her graduate studies there in biomedical engineering.
“Back then, there was no biomedical engineering department, so Rena enrolled in the biomedical engineering program at MIT,” Peppas said.
Bizios was the first female chemical engineer to receive a Ph.D. in the biomedical engineering program from MIT. Since that time, she has become a driving force in the biomedical engineering field.
Peppas recalls that in the early decades of the Biomedical Engineering Society, Bizios was the only female member in a leadership position and one of very few female members overall. “Rena Bizios is recognized everywhere,” he said.
Dr. Antonios Mikos, Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University, met Bizios at the start of his career in biomedical engineering. He recalls her welcoming and collaborative demeanor.
“She opened her lab to me and my students. She taught us techniques we still use to this day,” Mikos said. “I owe her a lot. She’s a great educator and a great researcher.”
He notes that in addition to Bizios’ contributions in education and research, mentoring has been a driving force throughout her career.
“She’s truly a pioneer who has paved the way for other women to succeed, not only in academia but across the entire community,” he noted. “She has been a mentor, an advocate for young people, for junior faculty, for women, for underrepresented minorities. She is passionate and uncompromising in her research and her beliefs.”
“There are more female students in engineering because of Rena Bizios,” he said. “Young women got started in the biomedical engineering field because of her and her mentorship. She has greeted Latinx groups, promoted them. Google her name. Look for her photos. You’ll see lots of photos with women around her. She’s advocated for and mentored women throughout her career.”
Bizios’ contributions to education and research have been well-recognized. In addition to her election to the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Inventors, she is a member of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas, the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering and the Academy of Athens, Greece.
Additionally, Bizios is a fellow of five professional societies: the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, International Union of the Societies for Biomaterials Sciences and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
While at UTSA, Bizios has received numerous awards including the Houston Society for Engineering in Medicine and Biology’s Distinguished Scientist Award (2009), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ Women’s Initiatives Mentorship Excellence Award (2010), the Society for Biomaterials’ Founders Award (2014), the Biomedical Engineering Division of the American Society for Engineering Education’s Theo C. Pilkington Outstanding Educator Award (2014), The University of Texas at San Antonio Ambassadors’ Amber Award (2014), the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering’s Excellence in STEM Education Award (2018), the Surfaces in Biomaterials Foundation’s Excellence in Biomaterials Science Award (2019) and the BioMedSA Award for Innovation in Healthcare and Bioscience (2020).
Bizios was also elected as a charter member of the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Researchers in 2015. The academy honors accomplished UTSA faculty members who are committed to research excellence, to fostering the highest quality of research and scholarly activity and to promoting the university’s vision as a premier public research institution.
Dr. Cato Laurencin, the University Professor and Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Connecticut, calls Bizios one of his great heroes.
“Professor Bizios is an inspirational scientist who has been a leader in so many ways for the last two generations of engineers,” Laurencin said. “Her leadership extends from being one of the first to understand the micro-materials environment and how it impacts extracellular growth and tissue regeneration. She brought forward a suite of illuminating in vitro papers that really set the stage for much of the work being done around the world.”
“She has served as a powerful role model in engineering,” he added. “She been a role model for kindness and decency. Her sincerity is something that has helped mold organizations that she’s a part of. She’s a tremendous role model for women in biomedical engineering. She has blazed a trail for so many people behind her — in front of the scenes and behind the scenes.”
Election to the NAE is one of the foremost professional accomplishments in the engineering field and is reserved for individuals who demonstrate significant contributions to the literature, pioneer new and developing fields of technology, make major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or develop and implement innovative approaches to engineering education.
“On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students of Klesse College, I congratulate Rena on this tremendous achievement,” said JoAnn Browning, dean of Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design at UTSA. “Election to the NAE is a special recognition that is extended to exceptional academics and leaders in our field. We are appreciative of her hard work as a researcher and educator at Klesse College.”
In total, 111 new members and 22 international members are included in this year’s class of the National Academy of Engineering. The academy now comprises of 2,388 members and 310 international members.
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