University of Pittsburgh
March 1, 2004

USA Today Fêtes Pitt Bioengineering Student

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh bioengineering student Dan Debrah of Tulsa, Okla., received Honorable Mention in USA Today's 2004 All-USA College Academic Team program. Recipients were announced in the Feb. 12 issue of USA Today and were selected based on scholarship and leadership roles on and off campus.

Debrah will soon publish an original research paper in the professional journal Endocrinology on his research examining the effect of the ovarian hormone relaxin on systemic cardiovascular properties. He received an $8,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2003 to conduct this research in collaboration with Magee-Women's Research Institute.

"Relaxin is commonly associated with pregnancy, but we have found that administration of relaxin to nonpregnant rats induces a reduction in arterial stiffness and an increase in cardiac output," said Debrah. "These findings suggest possible therapeutic uses for relaxin to treat forms of cardiovascular diseases resulting from an increase in arterial stiffness."

For three years, Debrah has been working as a biomedical engineer for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Clinical Artificial Heart Program, where he provides care for patients on such artificial heart-assist devices as intra-aortic balloon pumps and ventricular-assist devices.

Debrah will earn the Bachelor of Science degree in bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh in April, but already has begun graduate work in the laboratories of Sanjeev Shroff in the Department of Bioengineering and Kirk Conrad, professor in the Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science and of Cell Biology and Physiology in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"Dan possesses a good combination of native intellect, genuine desire to learn, capacity for hard work, and an ability to get things done," said Shroff, professor and

Gerald E. McGinnis Chair in Pitt's Department of Bioengineering and professor in the School of Medicine. "What distinguishes Dan is his cheerful personality and incredibly positive outlook on life. His optimal mix of personal and academic attributes is what makes Dan such an excellent student, an asset to my laboratory, and a role model for the young students in our department and school."

In 2003, Debrah was chosen for a Beckman Scholarship, a 15-month program that provides an opportunity for students interested in pursuing careers in scientific research to perform a substantial, in-depth research project. Debrah was recognized in 2001 as the National Society of Black Engineers Achiever's Plus Program Student of the Year, as well as a Jean Hamilton Walls Scholar.

Twenty students are chosen for each of the First, Second, and Third All-USA College Academic Teams, as well as 22 honorable mentions, from a pool of 600 full-time undergraduates seeking their first baccalaureate degrees at four-year institutions.