Feature Stories

Georgia Chouzouri - Chemical Engineering

Georgia Chouzouri in the lab

As a graduate student at NJIT, Georgia Chouzouri spends many hours a day in the lab. She is researching how to regenerate damaged bone tissue. Certain polymer composites, it is believed, can bond with bone tissue. And that bond can cause damaged bone tissue to heal.

One can imagine the benefits of her research. Patients with bone cancer, osteoporosis, fractures and other bone problems would have a new treatment – a new lease on life. Such a treatment is years away, but Georgia’s research has advanced the scientific principles that lay the groundwork for it. The next step in the process would be for researchers to test her bio-composites in animal studies.

In recognition of her research, and her endless days in the lab, the Newark College of Engineering recently named her its Outstanding Graduate Student of the year. Each year, NCE picks a graduate student whose research, academic record and leadership qualities contribute to the university.

Georgia’s record, on all fronts, is impeccable. She’ll graduate in May with a 3.94 grade point average - a shade away from perfect, and a PhD in chemical engineering. She will also graduate knowing she’s furthered the field of chemical engineering.

“Georgia's doctoral thesis, which deals with bone regeneration through degradable bio-composites, is the first of its kind in the Chemical Engineering Department at NJIT, said Professor Marino Xanthos, Georgia’s adviser. “And it’s also among the first of its kind in chemical engineering departments in the nation. Her novel research introduces new chemical engineering approaches to a field populated by materials scientists, biomedical engineers, medical doctors and biologists.”

Georgia also did stem cell research here with Professor Treena Arinzeh, a prominent stem cell researcher. For that research, Georgia used biomaterials — specifically, calcium phosphates — that can spur stem cells to become the building material of bone. She helped Arinzeh with experiments that showed how the biomaterials prompted stem cells to produce bone tissue.

book cover Georgia has documented her research in several publications. She has co-authored a chapter of a book, “Functional Fillers for Plastics” (Wiley, 2005), about the effects of bioactive materials on plastics and she has published three peer-reviewed publications in technical journals. She has presented five refereed papers at a conference sponsored by the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), and two non-refereed papers at the Polymer Processing Society’s conferences in Germany and Greece. In 2002, she won the society’s M.M. Gerson scholarship. And for the past three years, she has been secretary of the SPE’s student chapter.

Georgia was born in Greece and earned her bachelor’s degree from the National Technical University of Athens. She came to America with her then fiancé, an economist who took a job in the New York office of a Greek bank. Georgia decided to do graduate work, and enrolled in the master’s program in chemical engineering. After getting her master’s, she stayed on for her doctoral degree.

At NJIT, she is known for helping younger students. In the lab, she has mentored undergraduates from the Ronald McNair program, which encourages low-income and minority students prepare for doctoral study. She also mentored high school students and NJIT undergraduates by showing them how to conduct scientific research in the lab.

After she graduates from NJIT in May, she plans to work as a researcher for a private company. She’ll continue to work in her field -- the chemistry of bone regeneration -- and hopes to do more stem-cell research. Having left such an important mark on NJIT, she’s bound to have a similar effect on industry.

“I was very happy to win this award,” said Georgia. “I love working in the lab, especially when I’m helping other students. It can be very creative and, when you get good scientific results, very gratifying. I hope in my career I will have the success and joy I had as a graduate student at NJIT.”

(by Robert Florida, University Web Services)