Yang among those honored for exceptional contributions

September 27, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Every year, the Penn State College of Engineering recognizes faculty, staff and alumni for their outstanding teaching, research, advising and service. This year, among those honored is Jian Yang, professor of bioengineering, who received the Outstanding Research Award.

Yang’s research focuses on the tissue engineering, biomaterial and drug delivery areas, which are a major part of biomedical engineering’s research activities and a part of recent University-wide initiatives in advancing the interface of materials science and life sciences at Penn State.

One of Yang’s well-known discoveries is the biodegradable photoluminescent polymer (BPLP) that he first published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009. This innovative discovery made the combination of fluorescence bioimaging and tissue engineering or drug delivery more realistic for human use. The development of BPLP earned Yang a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R21 award, and a NIH R01 award.

The BPLP discovery is just one example of Yang’s research successes. He recently reported the development of intrinsically photoluminescent polylactone materials in Advanced Materials. Based on this work, Yang and his team recently received another NIH R01 grant totaling $1.6 million over five years to develop biodegradable citrate-based nanoparticles to image and treat metastatic prostate cancer.

Yang and his team also has received a four-year, $1.4 million NIH R01 NIH grant to develop nanoparticles for the repair of damaged endothelium in blood vessels. The preliminary data has been recently published in ACS Nano.

Recently, Yang has teamed with Cheng Dong, distinguished professor of biomedical engineering and head of the bioengineering department, and James Connor, distinguished professor of neuroscience and anatomy and vice chair for research, department of neurosurgery, to receive a $300,000 Hershey Planning Grant. The grant is focused on brain cancer treatment.

Another of Yang’s achievements is developing a new, inexpensive method for detecting salt concentrations in sweat or other bodily fluids. The fluorescent sensor, derived from citric acid molecules, is highly sensitive and highly selective for chloride, the key diagnostic marker in cystic fibrosis. The early data has been published in Chemical Science.

More recently, Dr. Yang received a five-year, 1.7 million R01 grant (2018-2023) from National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease (NIH/NIAMS) to study a new citrate metabongenic regulation for bone regeneration and orthopedic biomaterial design. Some of Dr. Yang’s citrate orthopedic biomaterials technologies have been licensed to Acuitive Technologies, Inc for product development in the orthopedic field.

In addition to the above awards, Yang has also won several NSF awards as a PI and a co-PI. All of the above research awards and high-quality publications (approximately 120 in total) are a testimony to Yang’s level of research. His work as given him the prestigious honor of being an elected Fellow of American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), which represents top 2% of medical and biological engineering professionals in the nation.

Yang’s technologies have been licensed to a leading orthopedic company, which expects to get the first FDA approved product within next two years based on his technologies. Yang himself has co-founded a company recently to commercialize Penn State technologies with more than $2.5 million initial external investments.

In addition, Yang has established himself as a leader in his research community. He is serving as an associate editor for two peer-reviewed journals, and a charter member for NIH Biomaterials and Biointerface (BMBI) study section. He is also a founding Secretary and President-Elect of Oversea Chinese Association for Biomaterials (CAB).

The annual awards are sponsored by the Penn State Engineering Alumni Society.


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Jamie Oberdick


Head and shoulder image of Jian Yang

Jian Yang



The Department of Biomedical Engineering administers the undergraduate major in biomedical engineering, and is a part of the university-wide Intercollege Graduate Degree Program, offering both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Bioengineering. Our work combines traditional engineering principles with medicine and technology for the betterment of human health and society. 

Department of Biomedical Engineering

122 Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-863-6614

Email: bme@engr.psu.edu