A specialist in neural tissue engineering, Bryan Pfister, of Newton, PA, an assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering in NJIT’s Newark College of Engineering, has been selected to be promoted to associate professor with tenure at NJIT’s University Convocation, an annual celebration to be held Sept. 14, 2011.Convocation at NJIT traditionally honors select faculty and staff members who have demonstrated the highest level of excellence over a sustained period.
Broadcaster, author and motivational speaker Steve Adubato will speak at the event. A university lecturer, Emmy Award-winning television anchor, and Star-Ledger columnist, Adubato also served in the mid-1980s as New Jersey's youngest state legislator at age 26. Previously, Adubato anchored three PBS broadcasts including Caucus: New Jersey, an Emmy Award-winning public affairs television series.
In 2007, Pfister received a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation to support and expand his research into rapid axon stretch growth, a scantly studied form of nervous system growth that occurs during an organism’s development. Pfister’s research studies axon stretch growth to reveal new strategies for regenerating damaged nerves. (ATTENTION EDITORS: Hi-res photos of the researcher will be taken at the event. To receive a copy and/or set up an interview, call Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436.)
Pfister also studies the biomechanics behind traumatic injury to the nervous system. His laboratory has received a $1.6M multi investigator grant from the NJ Commission on Brain Injury Research “Investigation of physiological dysfunction from repetitive mild head injury.” This grant explores mild, yet debilitating, changes in brain function that medical imaging or neuropsychological diagnosis cannot reveal.
Pfister’s research has recapitulated an unrecognized and extremely rapid form of nervous system growth that occurs during an organism’s development. As animals grow, nerves that initially span a very short distance continue to undergo enormous growth and can reach meters in length in large animals. For example, the blue whale can grow an estimated 4 cm per day and the giraffe’s neck increases by about 2 cm per day at peak growth. Naturally, the nerves are forced to rapidly expand as well. The mechanical stretching forces resulting from the growth of an animal may be the key mechanism that initiates and maintains growth of the nervous system.
In collaboration with a team of physicians at the University of Pennsylvania, Pfister has recreated in the laboratory a natural form of axon growth that occurs through stretching as an individual grows from embryo through early adulthood. By studying the tissue grown through the stretching technique, he hopes to find clues to repairing traumatic injuries to the spinal cord and other nerve tissue. Pfister also hopes to develop a nerve-tissue interface that would allow for a thought-controlled prosthesis that would behave like a natural limb.
Pfister received his PhD in materials science engineering and his MS degree in mechanical engineering, both from Johns Hopkins University, and his BS degree in interdisciplinary engineering and management from Clarkson University. For more about Pfister, see http://www.njit.edu/news/experts/pfister.php.