Setton named chair of WashU biomedical engineering

Lori Setton is a renowned researcher into the role of the degeneration and repair of musculoskeletal tissues

Beth Miller 
Lori Setton
Lori Setton

Lori Setton, a renowned researcher into the role of the degeneration and repair of musculoskeletal tissues, has been named chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis effective Aug. 1.

Setton's research blends tools from mechanical engineering, materials synthesis and cell and molecular biology to advance use of biomaterials designed to deliver bioactive cells or drugs to treat musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis and herniated disks.

"We are quite fortunate to have someone as talented and qualified as Dr. Lori Setton already at Washington University," said Aaron Bobick, dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the James M. McKelvey Professor. "Lori is not only a tremendous scholar and researcher, she is also a leader within the biomedical engineering community serving as the Biomedical Engineering Society president. I very much look forward to working with Lori as we work closely to achieve her great aspirations for the department."

Setton's work, which has been supported by more than $25 million in funding, includes creating new biomaterials that promote regeneration of degenerating intervertebral discs; creating new drug depots to slowly release inflammatory inhibitors in arthritis and disc diseases; and revealing novel relationships between disease development and the onset of pain and dysfunction. At the start of Setton's research career in the 1990s, she was one of a few to tackle how mechanical loading and biological factors contribute to disc disorders and back pain, a field we now know as mechanobiology. WashU has been recognized for its research strengths in mechanobiology with a community of more than 20 recognized investigators and the National Science Foundation's Center for Engineering MechanoBiology. Setton cites this community as part of what attracted her to WashU's Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) in 2015.

"Biomedical engineering is a discipline, and department, central to the engineering community at WashU," said Setton, who was installed as the Lucy and Stanley Lopata Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering in October 2016.

"With the ongoing construction of two new engineering buildings, WashU BME has an extraordinary opportunity to partner with the Schools of Medicine and Arts & Sciences and all departments in Engineering, to expand groundbreaking research and opportunities for our exceptional students."

Setton, who joined the Engineering faculty in 2015 from Duke University, earned master's and doctoral degrees, both in mechanical engineering, from Columbia University. She earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University. She is a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society and of the American Institute of Biological and Medical Engineering and earned a Presidential Early Career Award from Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 1997.

Setton has been recognized for her commitment to increasing diversity in the engineering student body as the first recipient of a doctoral research mentor award at Duke and for leading a partnership between the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) as BMES president. Throughout her career, she has mentored more than 40 doctoral and post-doctoral trainees in her lab and has published more than 170 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Setton succeeds Daniel Moran, who has been interim chair since April, when Steven George, MD, PhD, the Elvera & William Stuckenberg Professor of Technology & Human Affairs, stepped down as chair.

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