Rena Bizios of UT San Antonio Chosen to Receive AIChE’s Margaret H. Rousseau Pioneer Award

The Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement by a Woman Chemical Engineer is given to a member of AIChE who has made significant contributions to chemical engineering, and who has paved the way for women to have a greater impact on the profession.

The award is sponsored by Pfizer and is named for Rousseau, the first woman member of AIChE and a pioneer at Pfizer, where she designed the first deep-tank penicillin fermentation commercial plant during World War II. 

The 2022 Rousseau Pioneer honoree is Dr. Rena Bizios, the Lutcher Brown Endowed Chair Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Bizios is being recognized for her pioneering contributions to chemical engineering bioengineering; for leadership in cellular engineering, regenerative engineering, and medicine; and for leadership in women’s causes in chemical engineering. 

Dr. Bizios and the other Institute and Board of Directors’ Award honorees will receive their prizes at the 2022 AIChE Annual Meeting, November 13–18 in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Training on chemical engineering fundamentals provides an indisputable foundation on which chemical engineers can build successful careers”

A trailblazer in applying chemical engineering principles to solve biomedical engineering problems, Dr. Bizios has spent her career transferring lessons from physiology and biology to bioengineering.

Using cultured, differentiated, mammalian cells and adult stem cells, her research has investigated cell adhesion and functions on material substrates, as well as the effects of biophysical stimuli (such as pressure and electrical stimulation) on new-tissue formation during wound healing. This work established Bizios as a leader in the cellular engineering and tissue regeneration fields, with applications in implant biomaterials, biocompatibility, and tissue engineering. 

Across her career, she has trained and advised generations of engineering students, teaching courses in fundamental engineering and biomedical engineering, while developing new courses for the biomedical engineering curricula. Among her contributions to education, her textbook, An Introduction to Tissue Biomaterial Interactions, is used by dozens of biomedical engineering departments. 

Bizios’s legacy is enhanced by her mentorship of junior faculty and her advocacy for historically underrepresented groups — including women — in engineering. Bizios’s nominators note that, as one of the earliest woman academicians in biomedical engineering, Bizios overcame gender-related institutional obstacles and biases, especially during the early stages of her career. Since then, her accomplishments in research and teaching, as well as her mentorship, have raised the visibility of women engineers, and inspired many women to pursue careers in biomedical engineering research.

In acknowledging the Rousseau Pioneer honor, Bizios reflected on the value and broad applicability of a chemical engineering education. “Training on chemical engineering fundamentals provides an indisputable and most valuable foundation on which chemical engineers can build successful careers — either along traditional paths or by venturing into engineering frontiers, such as bio-related ones,” said Bizios.

She goes on to say that the participation of chemical engineers in the biomedical field has proved to be “an excellent and timely ‘match’ because of the inclination of chemical engineers and the essence of chemical engineering. This convergence became most evident as the biomedical disciplines pursued basic medical knowledge at the cellular-, molecular-, and gene-levels.” She adds that those developments have provided opportunities for interdisciplinary scientific and engineering contributions, which have the potential to impact the welfare and health of humans and animals.

Dr. Bizios contributes to the activities of numerous professional societies — including AIChE and the Society for Women Engineers. She is also a member of the editorial boards of five scientific and engineering journals. 

Among her honors, she is a Fellow of AIChE, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and others. She is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering, the Academy of Athens (Greece), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

This fall, ChEnected is presenting a series of profiles of all the 2022 Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients. Visit ChEnected regularly to meet this year’s honorees.

See all 2022 award winners