Dr. Thomas J. Webster.
Dr. Thomas J. Webster.

The recipient of the first Acta Biomaterialia Silver Medal Award is Dr. Thomas J. Webster who is the Art Zafiropoulo Endowed Chair and Professor at Northeastern University, Boston, MA.  He also serves as the current Chair of the Chemical Engineering Department at Northeastern.  Dr. Webster received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1995 and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1997 and 2000, respectively.  Dr. Webster has held previous academic appointments at Purdue and Brown Universities.

Dr. Webster’s work is at the interface of nanotechnology and medicine to improve disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.  A major focus of his work has been to elucidate cellular interactions with nanomaterials with the goal to use such materials (without drugs) to inhibit infection, prevent inflammation, and increase tissue growth. Significant accomplishments of his work include:

  • Identification of the mechanisms by which cells recognize nanomaterials with experimental as well as computational models.
  • Development of nanomaterials and nanocomposites that can improve bone, cartilage, vascular, skin, cardiovascular, bladder, and other tissue growth.
  • Development of nanomaterials that can inhibit bacteria attachment and biofilm formation.
  • Development of nanomaterials that can reduce inflammatory cell responses.
  • Introduction of new nanomaterial chemistries (such as magnesium, iron, selenium, ceria, and others) to the biomaterials field that can simultaneously increase tissue growth and inhibit infection.
  • Development of implantable sensors to personalize and improve medical outcomes.

Dr. Webster directs the Nanomedicine Laboratories (currently at 35 members) at Northeastern. Since he was appointed the Department Chair of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University in 2012, both the number of faculty and the graduate student enrollment in the Department have doubled and undergraduate enrollment has tripled.

The Department recently broke a record for the greatest increase in engineering graduate program ranking (U.S. News and World Report) over a 3-year period. In his 16 years in academics, Prof. Webster has graduated/supervised over 109 visiting faculty, clinical fellows, post-doctoral students, and thesis-completing B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. students. To date, his lab group has generated over 9 textbooks, 48 book chapters, 306 invited presentations, at least 403 peer-reviewed literature articles (222) and/or conference proceedings (181), at least 567 conference presentations, and 32 provisional or full patents.

Such intellectual property has led to the formation of 9 companies, many with FDA approved products to improve human health. He is the founding editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Nanomedicine (Dove Press, the first international journal in nanomedicine which currently has a 5-year impact factor of 5.03 and pioneered the open access journal format).

Prof. Webster has received numerous honors including, but not limited to: in 2012, Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering; in 2013, Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society; International College of Fellows, Biomaterials Science and Engineering; Wenzhou 580 Award; and Zhejiang Province Talent Award. He has organized over a dozen conferences at the intersection of nanotechnology and medicine, including the Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting. He was also recently elected President of the U.S. Society for Biomaterials, now serving as the 1st-Past President for the Society.

He has appeared on BBC, NBC, Fox News, ABC News, the Weather Channel and many other news outlets talking about science and engineering advancements in medicine.  His work has also been on display at both the London and Boston Science Museums. Lastly, he holds joint academic appointments at the Chinese Academy of Science’s Wenzhou Institute of Biomaterials and Engineering (WIBE), China and KAU, Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Webster will receive his Silver Medal at the Annual Meeting of the U.S. Society for Biomaterials to be held in Minneapolis, MN in April 2017.