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UC Appoints Ohio Eminent Scholar to Study Sensors

Electrochemist Ryan White will work with researchers in three colleges to develop potential biosensor applications.

Date: 5/10/2017 8:00:00 AM
By: Michael Miller
Phone: (513) 556-6757
Photos By: Ryan White
Ryan White
Ryan White

The University of Cincinnati has named a new Ohio Eminent Scholar, an electrochemist from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Ryan White will work closely with the university’s colleges and hospitals to develop new biosensor applications. Sensors are one of UC’s primary investigative clusters.

White, 35, has published numerous papers on biosensors and was honored in 2016 by the Society for Electroanalytical Chemistry for his work.

“It’s a unique position geared to someone who can create collaborative opportunities,” White said of the UC appointment. “My research has been tied to engineering, chemistry and medicine. The position is a great opportunity to strengthen and grow a research program with ties to these other fields.”

The Ohio General Assembly created the Ohio Eminent Scholar program in 1983 to help universities recruit talented faculty. Since then at least 19 other states launched similar recruitment programs, according to a 2007 study in the Journal of Higher Education.

“One of the major interdisciplinary research thrusts at UC is in ‘sensing,’” said Teik C. Lim, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. “Dr. White’s area of education and research fits really well in this research thrust.”

Lim said White’s broad background will enable him to collaborate with other faculty and staff at UC and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He will work with the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Medicine.

“His research is expected to attract funding from industry, which may lead to opportunities for commercialization and faster translation from research to practice,” Lim said.

Bill Heineman, a distinguished professor of chemistry, said White is a leader in his field.

“When this proposal was written for this Ohio eminent scholar, we wanted someone who could bridge engineering and chemistry,” Heineman said. “Sensors are a very collaborative field of research.”

Heineman, who served on the search committee and co-authored the Ohio Eminent Scholar proposal, said UC’s study focus will help attract top graduate students who will further the university’s work.

Engineering professor Andrew Steckl, also an Ohio Eminent Scholar, said UC is producing a wide array of health-related sensors that both diagnose medical issues and help treat them. But new sensors also can be applied in industry and to the environment to monitor pollution. And increasingly, they have applications for people who want to improve their personal health or physical performance.

“They’re called ‘the worried well,’ people who are in decent health but might want to get better and measure how well they are doing,” Steckl said. “With Fitbit and Garmin, it’s a booming area of applications.”

White was recognized last year with a Young Investigator Award from the Society for Electroanalytical Chemistry. He received fellowships from the National Institutes of Health, the Santa Barbara Foundation and the University of Utah.

UC also hired members of White’s study team, Mirelis Santos Cancel and Robert Lazenby.

White is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. He earned a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Utah. He and his wife, Whitney, have two preschool-aged children, Benjamin and Austin.

White said he would like to use his expertise to study genetic disorders such as fragile X syndrome, the leading inherited cause of intellectual disability.

“When you boil things away, everything we do is rooted in electrochemistry. To think about how our research could impact society, we have to think about the potential applications. It’s hard to do that in a vacuum,” White said. “Getting collaborators on the front lines of these problems really helps guide what we do.”