Goldwater scholar creates tools to solve health problems

Tiana Wong

Tiana Wong, junior in bioengineering, is helping to create a device to treat women with postpartum hemorrhage, a major cause of death in developing countries. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services


Tiana Wong was attracted to bioengineering because of the tools it brings to solving health-related problems.

Wong, who plans a research career, was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for outstanding undergraduates in mathematics, science and engineering. She is among 260 students nationwide to receive the $7,500 scholarship, named for the late Republican senator from Arizona.

Wong became interested in bioengineering when a scientist from Indiana University came to her high school to talk about science careers. She was intrigued by the idea of investigating a problem, then taking the information to make a device that could lead to a solution.

“I just thought I’d try it out and see if I liked it,” said Wong, an Honors College student in bioengineering, a department in the colleges of Medicine and Engineering.

She is working on a research project with Hananeh Esmailbeigi, clinical assistant professor of bioengineering, to fight postpartum hemorrhage, the leading cause of death worldwide for women after childbirth, particularly in developing nations.

The researchers are creating a medical auto-transfusion device that would filter and re-transfuse a woman’s own blood. The device would help stabilize the woman’s condition so she could be taken to a facility with more medical resources.

Wong is also working with Andreas Linninger, professor of bioengineering, on a one-dimensional, computational model of cerebral spinal fluid. The researchers believe that a better understanding of the flow of cerebral spinal fluid will help health professionals improve the effectiveness of spinal injections for chronic pain.

Wong, who would like to do research on computational modeling of the nervous system, enjoys the puzzle-solving that bioengineering presents.

“The most rewarding part is seeing a completed project develop from all that I’ve learned,” she said.

A native of Chicago, she graduated from Walter Payton College Prep High School. She is a member of Phi Eta Sigma, a national honor society, and Alpha Eta Mu Beta, a national biomedical engineering honor society.

Three UIC students received Goldwater Award honorable mentions: Elise DeBruyn, bioengineering, Navika Shukla, chemistry, and Thomas Insley, mathematics and chemistry.

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