Katherine Ferrara, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, received the IEEE-UFFCS  Achievement Award on October 8 at the  IEEE-UFFCS  (Ultrasonic Ferroelectric and Frequency Control Society) annual meeting in Dresden, Germany. The Achievement Award is the highest Society-wide award presented to a member in special recognition of outstanding contributions. Selection criteria include significant technical publications in the field of ultrasonics, ferroelectrics, or frequency control, as well as contributions to these technical fields, and service to the Society.

Dr. Ferrara received her B.S. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from California State University, Sacramento and her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Davis. After stints as a professor at Sacramento State University, Cornell and the University of Virginia, she returned in 1998 as the founding chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.  Under her leadership, 10 faculty members were recruited, and she obtained $12M of private funding for the Genome and Biomedical Engineering facility in addition to $23M of Garamendi funds. She led the formation, funding, staffing and programmatic planning for the department, and served as the Biomedical Engineering division’s chair and then department’s chair from 1998-2004.

The IEEE-UFFCS Achievement Award recognizes Dr. Ferrara’s career contributions to the development of  image-guided drug delivery, combining nanovehicles, imaging techniques and methods to enhance delivery. The drugs used in chemotherapy are too toxic to use in the high concentrations that might make them more effective.  Dr. Ferrara’s lab reduces the toxicity of those drugs by encapsulating them in nanoparticles and adding targeting ligands to the outside designed to increase the concentration at the target. By heating these drug-loaded particles at the injection site with an ultrasound wand similar to the ones used with pregnant women, the drug is released directly into the tumor. This technique can more effectively deliver a high concentration to a tumor and avoids toxicity to other organs.

The Ferrara laboratory is also one of several groups collaborating on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) Programs for Nanotechnology Research. This research is aimed at creating nanotechnology treatments for cardiovascular disease. Her lab is involved in efforts to develop nanoparticle-based tools to image and deliver therapeutics to atherosclerotic plaque and to enhance stem cell repair of damaged heart tissue.

Dr. Ferrara received the 2012 UC Davis Dean’s Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, the 2011 UC Davis Consortium for Women and Research Outstanding Mentor Award, and is a Fellow of five societies including the American Association for the Advancement of Science.