Christine Schmidt elected to National Academy of Engineering

UF News, Karen Dooley

The National Academy of Engineering has elected UF Distinguished Professor Christine Schmidt, Ph.D., to the academy for 2024 in recognition of her more than 25 years of work to help advance the fields of neural tissue engineering and wound healing and for her leadership in diversifying bioengineering.

Election to the academy is among the highest professional distinctions bestowed upon an engineer, honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research and private industry. Schmidt, the Pruitt Family Chair in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, is focused on creating novel materials and therapeutic systems aimed at wound healing and rebuilding peripheral and spinal nerves damaged by injuries.

“Dr. Schmidt’s research and her tireless efforts to translate ideas to clinical interventions has changed the landscape of the nerve repair market and helped tens of thousands of patients,” UF President Ben Sasse said. “I’m grateful for her amazing work and for the way she represents Gator Nation in spectacular fashion.”

Her research on nerve regeneration is the foundation for two products used today, representing more than 87,000 grafts implanted in patients. The Avance Nerve Repair graft is produced by Axogen, and her related startup company, Alafair Biosciences, produces VersaWrap graft. Alafair Biosciences was listed on the 2023 Inc. 5000 list of Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America.

“Dr. Schmidt has forged a path toward nerve regeneration and wound healing that is already having a remarkable impact on injured soldiers, car accident victims and cancer patients,” said Forrest Masters, Ph.D., interim dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. “I’m proud to be her colleague and congratulate her on this tremendous accomplishment.”

Schmidt came to UF from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013 to lead the Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering. She served as department chair for over 10 years before stepping down in 2023. Under her leadership, the department expanded interdisciplinary research and education, developed opportunities for translating engineering discoveries to biomedical applications, and launched initiatives that increased its impact and visibility across the country. Additionally, UF BME’s graduate program has risen an impressive 21 places among public institutions and 29 places overall in the past decade, currently ranking as the No. 12 public graduate program in the nation. The undergraduate BME program was only recently ABET-accredited in 2019 under Schmidt’s leadership and is now ranked No. 10 among public BME programs in the nation.

“Dr. Schmidt’s election to the National Academy of Engineering is a monumental achievement that reflects her unparalleled dedication to advancing biomedical engineering,” said Cherie Stabler, Ph.D., professor and department chair in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering. “Her pioneering research in nerve regeneration and wound healing has set new standards and paved the way for transformative medical interventions. Her leadership in promoting inclusivity, engagement, and mentorship has resulted in more voices contributing to the field. I am honored to congratulate her on this well-deserved recognition.”

During her tenure as chair of biomedical engineering, the department increased female faculty to 55% and faculty who are underrepresented in engineering to 24%. As president of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, or AIMBE, from 2018-2020, she introduced a new nomination process to focus on impact, which has increased diversity among fellows.

Throughout her career, Schmidt has received several awards and recognitions. She is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the National Academy of Inventors, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the American Society for the Advancement of Science, the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering, and the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering. She is a 2020 inductee into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame and an elected member of the Florida Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida, the state’s equivalent to the National Academies.

Individuals in the newly elected class will be formally inducted during the NAE’s annual meeting on Sept. 29.