Bioengineering graduate student Maha Alafeef receives the 2020 BMES Career Development Award


Huan Song

llinois bioengineering graduate student Maha Alafeef received the 2020 Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Career Development Award, the one out of three recipients from the department this year. This award recognizes high potential graduate students, postdoctoral fellows or early career professionals in the biomedical engineering field. “This award will pave my way to continue my passion for science by providing me with the opportunity to share my research with the scientific community,” she said. 

Alafeef is in her third year of graduate studies at the department of bioengineering under the guidance of professor Dipanjan Pan. “My positive experiences in bioengineering evolved into an unwavering fascination with engineering and medicine, ultimately fueling my educational pursuits,” she said. Her doctoral research now focuses on developing a novel material for the early diagnosis and screening of infectious disease such as SARS-CoV-2. 

“The unlimited potential of bioengineering has always sparked my utmost interest with its innovative translational applications,” said Alafeef. At this year’s BMES, Alafeef will present her research on developing a “Paper-Based Electrochemical Nanosensor for Rapid and Sensitive Detection of SARS-CoV-2”. 

Regarding her research, Pan said, “she is a true scientist‒when the COVID-19 pandemic happened...she jump-started the biosensing project and worked relentlessly to develop the plasmonic platform  which was published in ACS Nano this year.” Alafeef is also a team player who collaborates closely with the senior members of the lab and also effortlessly mentors junior members.
”She has tremendous potential and certainly one of the best from my lab,” said Pan. 

Alafeef received a bachelor’s degree with honor from Jordan University of Science and Technology, the top university in Jordan. In 2017, she carried out an internship at the NASA Ames Research Center funded by the Jordanian Crown Prince Foundation (CPF) where she collaborated with a NASA scientist in the Exploration Medical Capability (ExMC) project which aimed to design a sophisticated healthcare system to ensure that astronauts stay healthy and able to complete the Mars mission. 

She has also received 10 local and international awards including the “Girl in Science” prize funded by the European Union, the 2019 Golden Key Graduate Scholar Award and the best poster award in the Bioengineering Graduate Symposium 2019. Alafeef published 19 papers in major international journals and conferences, and she was a speaker at the World Science Forum 2017 which brings together the world’s leading scientists, academics, decision-makers, and inventors. She represented Jordan as one of the top achieving youth. 

“I also want to express my gratitude to my advisor professor Pan for his continued support, his effort in guiding me which seems endless. I would like to thank my parents and my siblings for their support” she said.