He (Helen) Huang and Stefano Menegatti, two outstanding College of Engineering faculty members, received the 2021 Alcoa Foundation Engineering Research Awards at the spring faculty meeting.
Huang, the Jackson Family Distinguished Professor in the UNC / NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, is the recipient of the Alcoa Foundation Distinguished Engineering Research Award, which is given to a senior faculty member for research achievements made over a period of at least five years at NC State. Menegatti, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, received the Alcoa Foundation Engineering Research Achievement Award, which recognizes young faculty members for significant research contributions during the preceding three years.
Recognized internationally for her work in rehabilitation engineering, Huang is the director of the Closed-Loop Engineering for Advanced Rehabilitation (CLEAR) core, which studies human-machine interactions and develops advanced wearable rehabilitation technologies. She has led the way in research of neural control of robotic upper- and lower-limb prostheses, and she is published widely in the top journals in the fields of biomedical engineering, rehabilitation engineering, neural engineering, biomechanics and robotics.
Her current research directions are focused on making it easier for people who rely on medical assistive devices to be properly fitted for these devices. Huang’s unique idea is to automate the procedure using machine learning to make the process more efficient, precise and cost-effective. Her work has had a direct impact on the industry and improved the quality of life for many people who are experiencing limb loss or have other movement disabilities.
As an early-career researcher, Menegatti has built an internationally renowned research group that is one of the largest in the College of Engineering. His group has made seminal contributions to biological drug manufacturing through its work on the biopurification of therapeutic proteins, with the goal of increasing access to and improving the affordability of biological drugs. Menegatti’s group has developed peptide-based adsorbents that can “capture and release” needed therapeutic products such as engineered antibodies, CRISPR-Cas9 and Stem and Car-T cells, and has introduced “flow-through affinity chromatography,” which allows the desired product to flow through while peptide-based adsorbents capture the impurities.
Menegatti is also a successful entrepreneur, having co-founded LigaTrap Technologies LLC, which commercialized the peptide ligands he developed for affinity purification and has generated more than $2.5 million in profits from 2018-20. He received a 2019 Chancellor’s Innovation Fund award for this technology.