After 40 incredible years at Syracuse University, biomedical and chemical engineering Professor Lawrence Tavlarides will retire at the end of the Fall 2021 semester. Tavlarides received his BS, MS and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1960s. After working several years at Gulf Research and Development Center as a research engineer in Pennsylvania and completing his academic studies at the University of Pittsburgh he went through the academic professional ranks at Illinois Institute of Technology for the 12 years from 1969 – 1981. Tavlarides then joined Syracuse University in September 1981 as the chairman of the then chemical engineering and material science department for four years and has continued as a professor. He has received numerous honors and recognitions for contributions to the chemical engineering profession, academia and society. Tavlarides has taught numerous courses in chemical engineering, nuclear engineering and biochemical engineering. He has supervised 45 masters of science students ( 31 at SU ), 34 doctoral students (23 at SU), and 13 post-doctoral associates at SU over his career. His contributions with students and colleagues to research includes 1 book, 18 patents, 163 research publications , 2 educational publications and over 300 presentations at technical meetings and Universities. He was principle investigator of 70 research grants ( 53 at SU) over his career. Tavlarides was also a member of numerous committees on treatment of nuclear wastes for the US Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the first decade of 2000. He is proud to complete his career at Syracuse University.
Collecting accurate data showing whether or not any pharmaceutical drug could be harmful to unborn children is very difficult. Without clear embryotoxicity data, doctors often have to balance risks to the health of an expectant mother against the health of her baby and hope a drug does not have any negative side effects.
“There are tons of drugs on the market that have not been evaluated yet,” said biomedical and chemical engineering Professor Zhen Ma. “We want to think about how we can re-evaluate everything”
Ma and his Syracuse University research team developed an in vitro 3D tissue model of a human heart based on human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC). A model existing outside the body makes it possible to test drugs often prescribed during pregnancy and learn how they influence hiPSC growth, cardiac differentiation, and early heart formation in a fetus.
“The goal of this project is to use stem cell technology as a tool for screening embryotoxicity for pharmaceutical compounds,” said Ma. “We will be using this to create a model so we can classify the potential risk of future drugs.”
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) sees pediatric pharmacology as an area of need. Ma, in collaboration with a Syracuse University Falk College of Public Health professor and a professor from SUNY Upstate received funding for five years through an NIH Research Grant Award (RO1) to use the cardiac organoid model to improve traditional pharmaceutical screening.
“This funding will take us to another level on these embryotoxicity studies.” Said Ma. “What we really propose for this finding is we can develop a risk classification system for the drugs.”
To begin achieving their goal, the team is running optimizations and exposing the cardiac organoid model to drugs with known embryotoxicity levels to calibrate drug response. By introducing data analytics technologies into their research, the team has begun establishing a new biostatistical model to classify risk and with the predictive model in place, Ma and his collaborators are evaluating the embryotoxic potentials of psychotropic drugs. The research could enable expectant mothers struggling with mental health issues to continue receiving treatment through pregnancy without added concern for what the impact is on the unborn child.
“With this model we built, we can tell which drugs will maybe control the syndrome and choose the one that is safer for fetal development,” said Ma.
Additional breakthroughs could come in the area of drug discovery. Ma foresees the potential to evaluate new drugs during pre-clinical trials and to build in safeguards against embryotoxicity.
“Using this data from the drugs we already know have an embryotoxicity issue or don’t have embryotoxicity issue, we can create a database and use that database to create a statistical model,” said Ma. “The idea is in the future if a pharmaceutical company develops a new drug, let’s say a new drug for COVID-19, we can put this drug in our model and feed it the data so we can classify how risky this drug could be in terms of embryotoxicity.”
An embryotoxicity risk classification system would be a pioneering breakthrough because it could allow for a more precise assessment drug effects on early embryonic development, leading to safer pregnancies. The model also has the potential to become a critical part of the standard for pharmaceutical development. It would provide developers with a human based system for testing to compliment research done with rodents.
“Our model can be run in parallel,” said Ma.
Dr. Young Moon has been reappointed as the chair of the mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) department in the College of Engineering and Computer Science through June 2025. Dr. Moon has served as MAE department chair since 2016.
“I’m grateful to have his leadership, guidance and experience as we move forward during these challenging times,” said Dean J. Cole Smith. “Dr. Moon is an internationally respected scholar and mentor who values all our students and their success. In the short time I’ve been here, I have seen first-hand how he selflessly dedicates his time and energy to Syracuse students.”
Moon is the William J. Smith Professor in Manufacturing Enterprises and teaches courses and conducts research in the areas of cyber-manufacturing systems, sustainable manufacturing, product realization processes and systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, systems modeling and simulation, computer integrated manufacturing (CIM), product lifecycle management (PLM) and engineering education. He has been instrumental in launching the new Engineering Management online master’s program and helped launch the incredibly successful Invent@SU program.
“I am very grateful for all the support and help that I have received from MAE faculty, staff, advisory board, and students over the years,” said Moon. “I would like to thank Dean Smith for his support and giving me the opportunity to continue advancing the mission of the department. I look forward to continuing working with all college and department colleagues and students during this uniquely challenging period and beyond.”
He has had extensive interactions with industry and has published over 100 refereed journal and conference publications. He is serving as an Engineering Accreditation Commissioner of ABET. He is active in a variety of capacities with numerous professional organizations, including INCOSE, SME, ASEE, IFIP, and IEEE.
Moon holds a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering from Seoul National University, a master of science degree in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University. He is a licensed Professional Engineer, Certified Fellow in Production and Inventory Management, and Certified Manufacturing Engineer. A Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Moon has held visiting positions in many different universities, including MIT, KAIST, University of Pennsylvania, Boğaziçi University, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Univerzitet u Sarajevu, and Universidade de São Paulo.
Students Awarded Prestigious NSF Fellowships