Shayn Peirce-Cottler, PhD, an international leader in biomedical engineering and a University of Virginia faculty member since 2004, has been named chair of UVA’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. She succeeds Frederick H. Epstein, PhD, who has served as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering – a joint program of UVA’s School of Medicine and School of Engineering and Applied Science – since 2011. Epstein was named the School of Engineering’s associate dean for research earlier this year.
“With her long tenure at UVA, Dr. Peirce-Cottler has a deep understanding and appreciation for our talented, accomplished team in the Department of Biomedical Engineering,” said Melina R. Kibbe, MD, the dean of the School of Medicine and chief health affairs officer for UVA Health. “She is a nationally recognized outstanding scientist and educator and has been a shining leader within the department. I look forward to seeing how she builds on the department’s 55 years of innovation.”
“Dr. Peirce-Cottler is a dynamic leader who believes in the innovation that happens when engineers and medical professionals work together,” UVA Engineering Dean Jennifer L. West said. “Her own excellent and impactful research exemplifies this ideal and inspires her colleagues and students. She also truly cares about mentoring and developing students to their maximum potential.”
Her research focuses on tiny blood vessels that are one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. Peirce-Cottler’s lab studies ways to grow and regenerate damaged and diseased tissues by adjusting the structure of these vessels, to improve wound healing and develop new and better treatments for conditions that range from heart disease and cancer to diabetes. She has co-authored more than 120 scientific papers and holds two patents. Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense, among others.
Peirce-Cottler has held leadership positions both locally and nationally and her efforts have been widely recognized. At UVA, she serves as the director of the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program and co-director of UVA’s Center for Advanced Biomanufacturing. She has taught courses on engineering and design, entrepreneurship, computational systems modeling, and cell and molecular biology to undergraduate students, graduate students, and medical school students. Her efforts with teaching and education were recognized when she became a Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor at the School of Medicine in 2021. Nationally, she has served as president of The Microcirculatory Society, and she is a past recipient of MIT Technology Review’s “TR100 Young Innovator Award” and the National Biomedical Engineering Society’s “Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award.”
Peirce-Cottler serves as a professor of biomedical engineering, with secondary appointments in UVA’s Department of Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgery and Department of Ophthalmology. Peirce-Cottler earned her bachelor’s degrees in biomedical engineering and engineering mechanics from Johns Hopkins, then earned her doctorate in biomedical engineering from UVA. She served as a postdoctoral researcher at UVA, where she investigated the use of adult stem cells in tissue regeneration.
As both a graduate of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and a faculty member for the past 18 years, Peirce-Cottler has built a strong connection to the department that she is honored to build on as the next chair.
“I care deeply for this department, and I want to serve the people in it the best I can,” she said. “My incredible colleagues and our students have elevated the Department of Biomedical Engineering to its highest point in its 55-year history, and I look forward to working with and supporting this great team in my new role to take our department to even greater heights.”
Peirce-Cottler will begin her tenure as chair on September 15, 2022.