For Third Consecutive Year, Pitt Seniors Receive Whitaker Scholarships For International Research and Study

Issue Date: 
April 4, 2012

University of Pittsburgh seniors Wayne Dailey, Laura Dempsey, and Danielle Rager have been named recipients of the 2012 Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars Program award, designed to bring international experience and insight to the field of biomedical engineering. This is the seventh year of the Whitaker award competition and the third year Pitt students have applied.

Daily, Dempsey, and Rager are among 45 predoctoral Whitaker Fellowship winners nationwide. In addition, Warren, Pa., native Nicole Ostrowski, a PhD student in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering who earned her Bachelor of Science degree in materials science and engineering from Pitt, won a Whitaker Summer Grant award.

Beginning in 1975, The Whitaker Foundation supported the development and enhancement of biomedical engineering in the United States, contributing nearly $700 million to universities. When the foundation closed in 2006, it committed its remaining funds to the Institute of International Education to create the Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars Program. Its goal is to enhance international collaborative ties between emerging leaders in the U.S. biomedical engineering field and their counterparts abroad.

With his Whitaker, Dailey, of Butler, Pa., will complete one year of research and study at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. Dailey will work with Etienne Burdet, an associate professor in human robotics and director of the Human Robotics Group at the Imperial College. The goal of Dailey’s project is the development and clinical evaluation of a robotic hand module to help recovering stroke victims. The module is intended to assist patients as they grasp for objects. Because existing robotic hand systems are not wearable and therefore less natural and intuitive for patient use, Dailey will work to develop a smaller, less intrusive, and more natural system to aid in patient recovery.

Dempsey, of Bellvue, Colo., will work toward a Master of Philosophy degree in medical sciences at the University of Cambridge and will conduct research in that university’s Clinical Neuroscience Department with Topun Austin, a consultant neonatologist in Cambridge’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Department of Paediatrics. The focus of Dempsey’s research project is to develop a more comprehensive imaging system for diagnosing seizures in infants.

Rager, of Olney, Md., will travel with her Whitaker to Sydney, Australia, where she will work with Richard Vickery, senior lecturer in the Department of Physiology in the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales. Vickery’s research group is developing a neutrally controlled prosthetic limb with tactile sensation. Rager has conducted research in sensory restoration in Pitt’s Human Rehabilitation and Neural Engineering Laboratory; she has also worked with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Revolutionizing Prosthetics Initiative at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

During Pitt’s commencement ceremony today, Dailey will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the Swanson School.

Dailey’s experience includes research and work at the Medical Devices Laboratory in the Pitt-UPMC McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and at Keystone Ridge Designs, Inc., in Butler. This past term, Dailey served as a teaching assistant for the Analysis and Design of Analog Integrated Circuits course in the Swanson School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

A University Honors Scholar, Dailey is a member of Sigma Xi—The Scientific Research Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. His awards include a Swanson School of Engineering Research Fellowship, a Swanson School of Engineering Scholarship, a 2011 University Scholar award, and Best Scientific Poster of an Interdisciplinary Nature for Pitt’s Science2011—NextGen Undergraduate Poster Session from the Sigma Xi Research Society Pittsburgh Chapter. Dailey, who enjoys such nontechnical reading as classical literature, Shakespeare, and science fiction, has made Pitt’s Dean’s List every term of his undergraduate career.

Dempsey also graduates today with a Bachelor of Science degree in bioengineering from the Swanson School and a Bachelor of Arts degree in studio arts with a minor in chemistry from Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

Rager will receive today a Bachelor of Science degree in bioengineering from the Swanson School. Her concentration is in biosignals and imaging and neural engineering with minors in neuroscience and music.

Rager has had a wide range of research experiences. She participated in Plus3 Germany, where she researched and visited prominent German engineering companies, including Audi and Siemens. She coauthored a research paper with University of Augsburg and Pitt business students. In 2010, Rager demonstrated the government computer security Information Sharing and Collaboration Environment on behalf of the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team to more than 100 government officials at the Sixth Annual Government Forum of Incident Response and Security Team National Conference.

Among Rager’s honors are receiving the Undergraduate Program in Neural Computation Fellowship from the Pitt-Carnegie Mellon University Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, a Swanson School of Engineering Scholarship, a Pitt University Honors College Scholarship, the Gerlowski Scholarship for Excellence in Violin Performance, and the George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science Medal. She is a member of the Pitt Student Chapter of the BioMedical Engineering Society and the Center for Neural Basis of Cognition Computational Neuroscience Journal Club.