Bioengineering Graduates Win Whitaker International Fellowships

Issue Date: 
July 6, 2015

Two recent graduates of the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering have been granted 2015 Whitaker International Fellowships. The Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars Program Awards provide fellowships, scholarships, and summer grants for overseas research opportunities for emerging professionals in the bioengineering fields.

Pitt bioengineering alumni Daniel Freer and Drake Pedersen will use the one-year fellowships to conduct biomedical research in London and Italy, respectively. A total of 75 Whitaker awards are given across the nation each year; Freer and Pedersen bring Pitt’s total number of Whitaker fellows to 10. 

Daniel FreerDaniel Freer (ENGR ’15), a native of Asheville, N.C., will pursue a Master of Research degree in medical robotics at Imperial College London. His research will focus on the development of a wearable device to aid in the physical rehabilitation of knee surgery patients. 

While at Pitt, Freer worked in the laboratories of Pitt bioengineering faculty Kevin Bell and George Stetten. Under Bell’s guidance, he helped develop a monitoring system for measuring anatomical knee angles for use in at-home physical therapy. In Stetten’s lab, Freer worked to improve a camera system to enhance eye surgery techniques by using optical coherence tomography scanners. 

As a Pitt student, Freer was a member of Engineers for Sustainable Medical Development and Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honors society. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in bioengineering from the Swanson School in April 2015. 

Drake PedersenDrake Pedersen (ENGR ’15), a native of Charleston, S.C., will work with a team of cardiovascular researchers at the University of Palermo in Italy. Pederson will assist in a large-scale project seeking to create more durable tissue-engineered heart valves, which are used in nearly 40 percent of the world’s heart transplant procedures. 

Pedersen plans to pursue a career in cardiovascular bioengineering. As an undergraduate researcher at Pitt, he worked in the lab of William R. Wagner, director of Pitt’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. 

A 2011 Eagle Scout, Pedersen is a member of Pitt’s Biomedical Engineering Society as well as Tau Beta Pi. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in bioengineering from the Swanson School in April 2015. 

The Whitaker International Fellowships are administered through the U.S. Student Programs Division at the Institute of International Education. The Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars awards program was founded by the Institute of International Education, which inherited the assets of the now closed Whitaker Foundation in 2006. Established in 1975, The Whitaker Foundation contributed nearly $700 million to support biomedical engineering programs in U.S. universities.