Genin receives highest academic honor from Chinese government

Guy M. Genin, professor of mechanical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has been named a Yangtze River Scholar by the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China.

Chancellor Wrighton (second from left) and Guy Genin (center) visited Xi'an Jiaotong University to accept the award.

The prestigious award is the highest award issued to an individual in higher education by the country's Ministry of Education. In addition to China's top scholars, the ministry also selects several international recipients each year. Only a handful of people who were not born in China have ever been honored with the award.

The award is for Genin's "fundamental contributions to and international scholarly leadership in the study of interfaces in physiology." Genin will receive the award in China June 29.

"I am very proud that Guy Genin has been selected to be a Yangtze River Scholar," said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, who was present at the ceremony celebrating Genin's award and delivered an address at Xi'an Jiaotong's commencement. "Guy's collaboration with faculty and students at Xi'an Jiaotong University expands Washington University's engagement with premier universities and faculty in China, and it is an honor to be invited to the ceremony in Xi'an to be with Guy on this important occasion."

With the award, Genin receives the title of Yangtze River Chaired Professor at Xi'an Jiaotong University in Xi'an, China, and a nearly US$1 million prize. The award brings funds to enhance collaboration and international exchange between Xi'an Jiaotong University and Washington University. It will also allow Genin to expand his ongoing collaboration with Xi'an Jiaotong University's Bioinspired Engineering and Biomechanics Center, an international center focusing on engineering solutions for biomedical challenges, co-directed by Feng Xu, PhD, an expert in biological synthesis, and Tianjian Lu, PhD, an expert in biomechanics and heat transfer.

Xi'an Jiaotong University is a C-9 League university with special strengths in energy, materials and public health. Founded in Shanghai in 1896 as the Nanyang Public College, Xi'an Jiaotong University is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in China. It is a comprehensive research-oriented university focusing on science and engineering. Its faculty includes 16 members of the Chinese Academy of Science and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, as well as members of the American Academy of Engineering, the British Royal Academy and the Third-World Academy of Science.

Genin joined the Washington University faculty in 1999. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Case Western Reserve University; master's (S.M.) and doctoral degrees in applied mechanics and solid mechanics from Harvard University; and did postdoctoral training at Cambridge and Brown universities.

Genin, who also holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the School of Medicine, has received numerous awards for engineering design, teaching and research, including a Research Career Award from the National Institutes of Health; the Skalak Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the Northcutt-Coil Professor of the Year award from the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and university-wide teaching awards from the Washington University Student Union.

Genin studies interfaces and adhesion in nature, physiology and engineering. His current research focuses on issues central to public health and aging, including interfaces between tissues at the attachment of tendon to bone and between cells in cardiac fibrosis. He also studies interfaces between subcellular components in plant defenses.

He is working with Stavros Thomopoulos, PhD, to discover a better way to improve the outcome of surgical repairs by studying the natural attachment of tendon to bone with a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This understanding could lead to the engineering of new tissues that could enhance rotator cuff repair. He also is a joint principal investigator on another NIH grant to study how different cell types interface in cardiac fibrosis with Elliot Elson, PhD, the Alumni Endowed Professor Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine, and with alumnus Tetsuro Wakatsuki, PhD, who heads InvivoSciences LLC.

In May 2014, Genin was named a 2014 Global Scholars Fellow at Tsinghua University in Beijing, where he conducted research with Changqing Chen, PhD, professor of engineering and director of Tsinghua's Institute for Solid Mechanics. The team studied how engineers can help older adults make decisions about orthopedic surgeries involving rotator cuff repair.

The School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis focuses intellectual efforts through a new convergence paradigm and builds on strengths, particularly as applied to medicine and health, energy and environment, entrepreneurship and security. With 91 tenured/tenure-track and 40 additional full-time faculty, 1,300 undergraduate students, more than 900 graduate students and more than 23,000 alumni, we are working to leverage our partnerships with academic and industry partners — across disciplines and across the world — to contribute to solving the greatest global challenges of the 21st century.