The University of Arizona Logo

UA Biomedical Engineering Student Earns SynCardia Scholarship

Time to read
2 minutes
Read so far

UA Biomedical Engineering Student Earns SynCardia Scholarship

Dec. 18, 2014
Justine Bacchus is the second UA biomedical engineering student to receive the engineering scholarship from SynCardia Systems Inc.

Justine Bacchus, a junior studying biomedical engineering at the University of Arizona College of Engineering, has received the 2014 Anna Salazar Memorial Engineering Scholarship for Women from SynCardia Systems Inc.

The scholarship was created in honor of Anna Salazar, a senior quality engineer who joined SynCardia in 2012 and made a lasting impression on her colleagues at the company before her death later that year at the age of 49.

In presenting the $5,000 award to Bacchus on Nov. 12, SynCardia CEO and President Michael Garippa said, “We hope that this scholarship will allow outstanding women engineering students to reach their academic and professional goals and, like Anna, contribute to society in astounding ways.”

Tucson is the international headquarters of SynCardia, which owns and manufactures the only total artificial heart in the world approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada and CE (European Union).

The company was co-founded by Dr. Marvin J. Slepian, director of interventional cardiology and professor of medicine at the UA Sarver Heart Center, who holds a joint appointment in the biomedical engineering department in the College of Engineering.

Hometown Pride

Bacchus learned of SynCardia while attending a biomedical engineering colloquium as a UA student.

“I thought it was really neat that synthetic hearts were manufactured in Tucson and are used around the world today,” she said. “I’m from Sahuarita, which is just a half-hour away, so I feel a sense of hometown pride in knowing this technology comes from Tucson.”

Bacchus, who has been fascinated with biomedical engineering since high school said, “I considered many options for majors during my first few semesters in college, but my heart is truly with the medical side of engineering. I want to help people directly with their health.”

In particular, she wants to help people through genetic counseling.

“I’ve always found genetics fascinating and want to pursue genetic counseling for my advanced degree,” she said. “I want to help people understand their genetic makeup and how they can have healthy and happy lives, even while having a genetic disorder.”

Over the last year, Bacchus has gained research experience in the lab of UA associate professor of physics Charles Wolgemuth, where she is studying motility of Borrelia, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

“Justine is one of the best undergraduate students I have had work for me,” Wolgemuth said. “She is highly motivated and talented, and we have loved having her in the lab.”

Exploring Science in the Czech Republic

Bacchus will broaden her research and global perspectives this summer while attending Prozkoumat! In the Czech Republic.

Sponsored by the UA Office of Global Initiatives and offered through the UA Undergraduate Biology Research Program, the 10-week program (its name means “explore” in Czech) enables UA undergraduates to conduct research under the guidance of scientists at the Institute of Parasitology at the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Bacchus’s interests and aspirations extend beyond biology and biomedical engineering. She is honing her leadership skills as philanthropy chair of the Honors Student Council and as a participant in the UA Blue Chip Leadership Program. She is also studying ballet in Sahuarita.

“Genetic counseling is my goal, but I see that there are so many different paths my life could take,” she said. “As long as I am working with and helping people, I will consider myself successful.”

Bacchus Is Second UA Student to Receive SynCardia Scholarship

SynCardia awarded its first Anna Salazar Memorial Engineering Scholarship for Women in 2013, to Sandra Gonzalez, then a senior in the UA biomedical engineering department.

The first member of her family to graduate from high school, Gonzalez is now a National Academy of Sciences Ford Foundation Fellow, pursuing her doctorate in biomedical engineering through a joint program between Georgia Tech and Emory University. She is conducting research on biological pacemakers, in which genetic material is transplanted into patients to regulate heartbeat.

Top photo (courtesy of SynCardia Systems Inc.): Michael Garippa, SynCardia Systems Inc. CEO and president, presents the 2014 Anna Salazar Memorial Engineering Scholarship for Women to Justine Bacchus, a UA biomedical engineering student in her junior year.