National Academy of Engineering event recognizes bright young engineers

The University of Delaware’s Emily Day, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Catherine (Cathy) Fromen, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, are among 82 of the nation’s brightest young engineers who have been selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) 25th annual U.S. Frontiers of Engineering (USFOE) symposium.

Early-career engineers who are performing exceptional engineering research and technical work in a variety of disciplines will come together for the event, to be held from Sept. 25-27, 2019 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The participants — from industry, academia, and government — were nominated by fellow engineers or organizations.

“Emily and Cathy exemplify what great engineers do — they identify seemingly unsolvable problems, pursue them tenaciously, and develop ingenious solutions,” said Levi Thompson, dean of UD’s College of Engineering and a 1995 participant in the Frontiers of Engineering symposium. “Emily’s research on nanomaterials could someday revolutionize cancer detection and treatment. Cathy’s investigations of the lungs could someday revolutionize the treatment of respiratory diseases. These young scholars are using their intellectual power, plus a lot of grit and patience, to develop the science and technology that will benefit millions of people around the world.”

UD Engineering Prof. Emily Day (center) watches students Maggie Billingsley and Rachel Riley work in Day’s lab.

Day studies nanomedicine, gene regulation, photothermal therapy and translational cancer research. She recently received a National Institutes of Health R01 award of $1,747,391 to study multifunctional siRNA/antibody nanocarriers to treat metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. Over the last five years, Day has garnered significant acclaim for her work. In 2018, she received the Biomedical Engineering Society’s Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award, was named a 2018 Young Innovator in Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, received the Young Innovator Award in Nanobiotechnology and received an NSF CAREER Award. Day joined UD in 2013 after a postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University. She holds a doctoral degree in bioengineering from Rice University and a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Oklahoma.

“I am excited to attend the Frontiers of Engineering Symposium because it offers a unique opportunity to connect with other early career engineers and engage in discussions regarding the current state and future directions of various engineering disciplines in the United States,” said Day. “Participating in this information exchange will allow me to learn what key questions other young investigators are working to address, as well as what tools and techniques they are utilizing to solve these challenges. Learning about others’ scientific directions and approaches and gathering feedback regarding my own research directions may complement or expand my own group’s research while also allowing me to identify where my group may be of assistance to others. I am hopeful that the new relationships I build with other world-class scholars at this symposium will result in collaborations and provocative idea exchanges that last my entire career.”

She added: “This year, one of the themes of the symposium is ‘Engineering the Genome,’ and I am particularly excited to participate in this discussion as much of my group’s research focuses on gene regulation. Hearing from experts in the field regarding their vision for the future will inspire new research for my group. Additionally, sharing our perspective and techniques could greatly benefit others working in this realm, and may lead to new collaborations and research directions that will be mutually beneficial.”

From left to right: doctoral student Bader Jarai, assistant professor Cathy Fromen, doctoral student Zach Stillman and doctoral student Emily Kolewe work to develop improved tools for pulmonary drug delivery testing, probe lung biology and immune function, and engineer novel therapeutics for controlled immune stimulation in the lung.

Fromen seeks to advance understanding of the unique environment of the airways, from fluid dynamics to mucosal immunology. This will lay the foundation for the development of new therapeutics and analytical tools to treat a range of diseases specific to the lungs. In 2018, Fromen was named to the ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering’s Inaugural Early Career Editorial Board. Fromen joined UD in 2017 after a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan. She holds a doctoral degree in chemical engineering from North Carolina State University and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Rochester.

“Problems of today’s world will only be solved when people from a wide range of perspectives put their heads together,” said Fromen. “As a new professor, I am eager to engage beyond my immediate community and make connections that will lead to multidisciplinary collaborations and ultimately solutions to big problems. Participation in the FOE symposium represents an incredible opportunity to meet other researchers and establish a valuable network of open-minded engineers who enjoy pushing boundaries. I am excited to brainstorm with young innovators outside of my area of expertise and apply my creativity to other fields, especially the FOE sessions in additive manufacturing and genome engineering. Participation in the symposium will not only enhance my own research approaches and portfolio by drawing insight from external engineering fields, but hopefully leave me inspired by fellow participants. I believe my participation in the FOE symposium will foster development of a lasting network of peers to aid in my personal career growth and also support an active and diverse broader engineering community.”

The 2019 USFOE will be hosted by Boeing South Carolina in North Charleston and will cover cutting-edge developments in four areas: Advanced Manufacturing in the Age of Digital Transformation; Engineering the Genome; Self-Driving Cars: Technology and Ethics; and Blockchain Technology. Sponsors for the 2019 US Frontiers of Engineering are Boeing, The Grainger Foundation, National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, DOD ASDR&E Laboratories Office, Microsoft Research, Cummins, and Amazon.

The mission of the NAE is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology. The NAE is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an independent, nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to provide objective analysis and advice to the nation on matters of science, technology, and health.