Brown University School of Engineering

Ileana Pirozzi ’18 Wins Brown University Distinguished Senior Thesis Prize

May 31, 2018

Ileana Pirozzi ’18 is one of five recipients of the Brown University Distinguished Senior Thesis Prize. A biomedical engineering concentrator, Pirozzi worked with Professor Anubhav Tripathi and completed an honors thesis entitled, “Design and Development of Microfluidic Technologies for Single-Cell and Rare Cell Isolation and Analysis.”

The Brown University Distinguished Senior Thesis Prize recognizes exemplary senior thesis projects by undergraduate students across the University. Each department may nominate one thesis. Award recipients exemplify the range and quality of undergraduate research at Brown University. Each finalist makes an important and original contribution to an academic discipline, and all finalists provide lucid explorations of important issues and questions of interest to today’s educated readers. The Office of the Dean of the College administers the award. 

Pirozzi’s thesis describes an original work on the design and development of microfluidic devices by leveraging microscale physics to address critical, unmet medical challenges. She addresses the clinical challenge of isolating circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from the peripheral blood of cancer patients. Detecting CTCs from blood is bound to provide a revolutionary option in cancer diagnostics that will enable non-invasive early diagnosis and longitudinal follow-up of patients throughout the course of treatment. The second clinical challenge follows from the need to understand the individual heterogeneity of the tumor cells, critical to their function and fate, and predictive of their metastatic potential. There is a current unmet need for a simple, effective solution to simultaneously trap single cells, obviating the need for expensive, cumbersome equipment or lengthy, manual high-complexity procedures. She proposes her own new device idea for cancer cell separation, isolation and subsequent on-chip assays by exploiting centrifugal and Coriolis forces to compartmentalize cells.

Pirozzi is from Colleferro, Italy. She earned a Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program award, enabling her to pursue her Ph.D. in bioengineering at the Stanford School of Engineering. She recently graduated magna cum laude, and as member of Brown’s Engaged Scholars Program. Pirozzi earned the School of Engineering’s Outstanding Biomedical Senior Award and the Domenico A. Ionata Fund award, for the senior who demonstrates an unusual degree of creativity and imagination in an independent study project. While at Brown, Pirozzi was a research intern at the NASA Ames Research Center and in the Tripathi Biomedical Engineering Lab. She was elected president of the Rhode Island Alpha Chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society. Additionally, she was a Vincent and Ruby DiMase Research Fellow and received a K.T. Romer Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award.