Prof. Vunjak-Novakovic Named AAAS Fellow and one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014

—Image courtesy of Foreign Policy

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, The Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and a professor of medical sciences (in Medicine) at Columbia University, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) “for distinguishing contributions to the field of tissue engineering, particularly by developing functional human tissues for regenerative medicine, stem cell research, and modeling of disease.” She joins three P&S faculty members who are among 401 new fellows honored for their contributions to innovation, education, and scientific leadership. She and her co-fellows will be honored in February at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2015 AAAS annual meeting in San Jose, CA.

Coincidentally, Vunjak-Novakovic has also just been named one of Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014, its sixth annual list of people making a difference in the world. And just this past October, she was elected to the elite Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Not to mention that she’s launched two start-ups, EpiBone and TARA Biosystems, in the past year and a half.

“This has certainly been quite a year for me,” says Vunjak-Novakovic. “It is really exciting to see that the work we do is becoming so visible and impactful in so many aspects of our lives. 2014 feels like it’s the year of biomedical engineering—and it’s certainly been a very special year for all of us at Columbia, as we celebrate 150 years of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.”

As one of Foreign Policy’s “leading global thinkers…who have translated their ideas into actions, impacting millions worldwide,” Vunjak-Novakovic joins a select group that this year includes such luminaries as Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin, Michael Lewis, Kara Walker, and Jack Ma. FP cited her for “cracking the cartilage conundrum,” noting her comments from a recent talk at the School: “We live longer and we would like to live better. And if this is going to happen, then we really need spare parts to maintain our body.”

A groundbreaking researcher in the field of tissue engineering, Vunjak-Novakovic was elected into the National Academy of Engineering in 2012, becoming the first woman at Columbia to ever earn that prestigious distinction. Vunjak-Novakovic was a Fulbright Fellow at MIT when she became interested in the use of tissue engineering and emerging technologies to improve and save human lives. Her laboratory works on engineering human tissues for application in regenerative medicine, stem cell research, and disease modeling. Her work is extensively published and highly cited; she has more than 70 licensed, issued, and pending patents, and is a frequent adviser to government and industry. Among her many recognitions, she is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and of the Biomedical Engineering Society; a founding fellow of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society; a member of the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame, Academia Europaea, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the National Academy of Engineering, and now also the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. She earned her PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Belgrade, Serbia.

—by Holly Evarts

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