Carnegie Mellon University
April 13, 2016

Engineering Senior Eric Parigoris To Work on Early Cancer Detection in Switzerland

By Adam Dove/ 412-268-1422 /

Eric Parigoris

At the end of the summer, Eric Parigoris will board a plane to Switzerland to spend a year focusing on early detection of cancer.

The senior mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering major who will earn his degree this May has won a Whitaker Fellowship, awarded by the program to send emerging leaders in U.S. biomedical engineering abroad. The program aims to help exceptional students become top-quality scientists who will advance the profession through a global perspective.

Parigoris will spend his year abroad in the lab of Professor Jess Snedeker, who works on cancer biomechanics at ETH Zurich.

“Professor Snedeker’s work focuses on both orthopedic biomechanics and cancer cell mechanics, the two fields I am most interested in,” Parigoris said. “His research focuses on engineering-based solutions that have direct clinical applications.”

Parigoris will be working with Snedeker on a project designed to characterize complex cell mixtures to identify cancerous cells. Early detection remains the most effective strategy for reducing cancer-related deaths, but until now, only a few methods have been effective enough for clinical use. This novel mechanical characterization method shows great potential for early cancer detection.

Throughout his undergraduate career at Carnegie Mellon, Parigoris has developed a passion for using mechanical engineering principles to help solve critical medical problems with widespread social impact. He has worked alongside Mechanical Engineering Professor Phil LeDuc for the past three years on two projects in the field of cellular biomechanics.

The first project looks to model a malnourished intestine, then build that model into existing “gut-on-chip” device designs to develop a more physiologically relevant microsystem. The second looks to engineer magnetically activated artificial cells that can be used in localized drug delivery.

Parigoris plans to take a few years to gain experience abroad after graduation before pursuing a Doctorate of Medicine and of Philosophy (M.D.–Ph.D.) in biomedical engineering.

“While most mechanical engineers are interested in the mechanics of vehicles or manufacturing, my research interests lie in applying these same principles to biological systems,” he said.

The Whitaker Fellowship is a prime opportunity for Parigoris to build international connections in the rapidly expanding biomedical engineering community.

CMU’s Fellowships and Scholarships Office helped Parigoris with his fellowship application. The Fellowships and Scholarships Office is under the direction of Stephanie Wallach, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education.