Student Named Chair of a VT Advisory Board

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering graduate student Stefanie Brady, advised by Associate Professor Nam Sun Wang, has been named Chair of Virginia Tech's Department of Biological Systems Engineering's (BSE) Advisory Board. Brady, a VT BSE alumna (B.S. '00) who has served on the board for the past 3 years, is one of 8 representatives from industry who meet twice annually to hear updates on the department's progress and suggest ideas to help improve funding and enrollment. This year, as Chair, she will participate in the department's ABET accreditation process.

Brady works full-time as a bioprocess engineer at Human Genome Sciences in Rockville, Md., while pursuing her M.S. in chemical engineering. She is currently writing her thesis and plans to graduate this spring. "It's been challenging and has required a lot of time management!" she says of the experience, "But it was enjoyable to come to campus to take classes."

Brady has observed some growing pains as biology's role in engineering, particularly chemical engineering, expands. "It's hard to find that happy medium between bioengineering programs and chemical engineering programs at colleges," she says. "Both knowledge sets are needed to understand and excel in the field. I think it's good that traditional chemical engineering departments are growing to accommodate that."

In her observation, cost is one of the biggest challenges faced by schools providing bio-oriented engineering programs. "Bioprocess equipment is quite expensive," she explains. "To run a 100L bioreactor probably costs around $2500 and that's not including purchasing the bioreactor itself. It's hard for schools to obtain all the funding needed for equipment and disposables required to give every student hands-on experience."

Prior to joining the BSE Advisory Board, Brady donated her time to help advise students in the department. In 2006 she won BSE's Recent Alumni Award.

Published September 29, 2008