Miguel Guzman ’24, a native of Lima, Peru, is a senior biotechnology major in the College of Arts and Sciences with an entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises minor in the Whitman School of Management. His research centers on developing bio-enabled protein…
James Henderson Named Director, Heidi Hehnly Named Associate Director of BioInspired Institute
James H. (Jay) Henderson, professor of biomedical and chemical engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, has been appointed as director of the Syracuse University BioInspired Institute, Duncan Brown, vice president for research, has announced.
Henderson has served as associate director of BioInspired for the past three years, working in conjunction with founding director M. Lisa Manning, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences. Henderson assumed the director role July 1.
Brown also announced that Heidi Hehnly, Renée Crown Professor in the Sciences and Mathematics and associate professor of biology at the College of Arts and Sciences, has been appointed to succeed Henderson as associate director of the Institute.
BioInspired is an interdisciplinary research institute whose members examine complex biological systems, developing and designing programmable smart materials to address global challenges in health, medicine and materials innovation. The Institute supports researchers from life sciences, engineering, physics and chemistry disciplines who work on complex biological systems focused on smart materials, form and function and development and disease.
BioInspired projects have included collaborations with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Upstate Medical University and other educational institutions and industry partners. Syracuse University is completing a substantial renovation of laboratory space in the Center for Science and Technology that will provide physical space for new and existing collaborations.
“Syracuse University is enthusiastic to support the BioInspired Institute’s faculty, its world-class research projects and the new initiatives and opportunities that will flourish under Jay Henderson’s leadership. We are also very pleased to have a researcher of Heidi Hehnly’s acclaim join with him to help lead the Institute,” Brown says. “We are also extremely grateful to founding director Lisa Manning for her innovative and tenacious leadership in launching BioInspired efforts and maintaining robust research activity for faculty and students despite the challenges of the COVID-19 years.”
Henderson joined Syracuse University in 2008 as a member of the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute. He has been a member of the BioInspired Institute’s executive committee since 2019. He holds a courtesy appointment as an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology and as an affiliate at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. He has been part of the University’s Aging Studies Institute since 2014. For several years he directed the graduate program in bioengineering and has been a member of SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Cancer Research Institute since 2010. His research group uses imaging, cell biomechanics, mechanobiology and computational tools to develop and apply functional pe-memory materials to mechanical and bio-mechanical cell and tissue function and repair.
Hehnly came to Syracuse University from SUNY Upstate Medical University in 2018 as an assistant professor of biology. She was promoted to associate professor in 2021 and was named one of two inaugural Renée Crown honors professors in fall 2022. Her research specializes in the mechanics of cellular division and how and when cells in the body choose to divide.
Brown says Manning has guided BioInspired “from its earliest stages to its current incredible level of nationally and internationally acclaimed scholarship and achievements. The Institute has become one of the University’s most successful and prolific research institutes and is a prime example of the value and promise of interdisciplinary, co-located labs and researchers.”
“I am very grateful for Lisa Manning’s support in aiding my transition to this position,” Henderson says. “Her expertise as an individual scientist and as a leader at BioInspired has helped establish one of the most successful research institutes on campus. I look forward to ensuring that investment in material and living systems through BioInspired continues to distinguish Syracuse University as a leading research institution.”
Hehnly says she “is honored to be offered the opportunity to help lead the BioInspired Institute. The Institute has been a great asset to the scientific community at Syracuse University in promoting research and education. As associate director, I aim to expand upon the good work that has already been done with the hope of creating more opportunities for scientific research to flourish here.”
“I was honored to serve as the founding director of the BioInspired Institute and help to launch innovative interdisciplinary programs over the past five years,” Manning says. “I am really looking forward to seeing the Institute continue to grow and excel under the outstanding leadership of Professors Henderson and Hehnly.”
New Initiatives, New Spaces
Henderson says future initiatives include creating new lab spaces uniquely designed to enhance collaborative research by co-locating faculty from different departments and colleges. He also plans to work with the Office of Research to establish a new model for core research facilities on campus and with nearby institutions. Henderson also wants to pilot a new undergraduate program supporting underserved groups in STEM activities, research and education.
“The collaborative programs and labs from which this institute has been built have always provided a fantastic environment for training. These new endeavors will strengthen the University’s ability to offer undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral trainees a world-class, uniquely collaborative environment to pursue science interests in a way that isn’t possible at many places,” he says.
Key Institute achievements of the last several years include bringing in more than $40 million in sponsored research, researchers receiving more than 45 patents and faculty having 650-plus peer-reviewed articles published in top journals.
Researchers have been named to journal editorial boards and as guest editors and have been awarded numerous prestigious grants and fellowships, including 10 National Science Foundation Early Career awards and Sloan Fellowships. Faculty have also been recognized for teaching excellence at departmental, university, and external levels and have been named to advisory boards of established and startup companies such as Ichor Therapeutics, Xeragenx, Balchem Corp. and the Central New York Research Corporation.