Eli Vlaisavljevich, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, has received a 2023 Outstanding Faculty Award from Virginia’s state agency for higher education.

The award, administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), is the highest honor for faculty serving public and private colleges and universities in the commonwealth. It spotlights exemplary work in teaching, mentoring, research, scholarship, and public service.

SCHEV also designated Vlaisavljevich as one of two Rising Star honorees this year. The category highlights the early career achievement of faculty with two to six years of full-time experience.

Vlaisavljevich, who joined Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering in 2017, has championed interdisciplinary research projects centered on focused ultrasound, noninvasive tissue ablation, cavitation physics, nanoparticle-mediated histotripsy, biomaterials, tissue regeneration, cancer, clinical translation, and more.

“Dr. Vlaisavljevich has swiftly established himself as a trailblazer on the Virginia Tech campus and in the field of biomedical engineering,” said Dean Julia M. Ross, Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “Not only due to his innovative work with focused ultrasound, but also his collaborative spirit, his committed mentorship to his students, and his enthusiasm for problem-solving.”

In his Therapeutic Ultrasound and Noninvasive Therapies Laboratory, Vlaisavljevich and his research team are developing histotripsy for the treatment of liver, kidney, pancreatic, and brain cancer. Histotripsy is a type of nonthermal focused ultrasound that can be used to precisely and noninvasively ablate tissues while allowing for real-time monitoring, making the technology appealing for future clinical use.

Eli Vlaisavljevich. Photo by Peter Means for Virginia Tech.
Associate Professor Eli Vlaisavljevich leads research in the Therapeutic Ultrasound and Noninvasive Therapies Laboratory. Photo by Peter Means for Virginia Tech.

“Eli is truly a rising star — in our department, college, university, and the profession,” said Jennifer Wayne, department head of biomedical engineering and mechanics at Virginia Tech. “He works tirelessly to change the prognosis of a cancer diagnosis.”

In addition to this work, Vlaisavljevich has embraced histotripsy’s versatility for a variety of other applications, including treating and preventing catheter-associated urinary tract infections, ablating cancerous tumors in cats and dogs, and improving treatment methods for brain disorders. His team’s research has even created opportunities for applying biomedical technologies to conservation work. The researchers are exploring how ultrasonic methods can enhance DNA extraction, improve infectious disease screening, and prevent the illegal trafficking of protected plants and animals.

For his exemplary advising role with the interdisciplinary student design team Bioactivity, Vlaisavljevich earned the Engineering Organization Advisor Award from the Student Engineers’ Council in 2019. That same year, he also received a Junior Faculty Award from the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science as well as the Liviu Librescu Faculty Prize for Outstanding Accomplishments.

"I am honored to receive the SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Rising Star Award. I absolutely love working in this ‘job’ each day with all of the amazing students in my lab and the many great collaborators here at Virginia Tech, throughout the commonwealth, and beyond,” said Vlaisavljevich. “This award is a testament to all the great achievements by this large group of amazing scientists, engineers, and physicians that I am fortunate to work with every day." 

Vlaisavljevich earned his Bachelor of Science in education in biomedical engineering at Michigan Technological University. He received both his master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan.

Since 1987, the Outstanding Faculty Award program has recognized 338 Virginia faculty members. Nominees are selected by the institutions, reviewed by a panel of peers, and chosen by a committee representing both the public and private sectors. This year’s 12 recipients will each receive a $7,500 gift from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation at a March 7 celebration at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond.

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