Awards and achievements


March 4, 2016

BME undergraduate Erica Schwarz named recipient of a PURA fellowship

BME junior Erica Schwarz has been selected to receive a Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award for academic year 2015–16. Her research project was chosen by a faculty selection committee from a large group of outstanding proposals. The award will provide a $2,500 fellowship to support Schwarz’s research which will be dispersed under her sponsor, Natalia Trayonova.

Erica’s research project seeks to develop a non-invasive method of finding optimal ablation targets for patients with left atrial flutter (LAFL).

Atrial flutter is a type of rhythm abnormality in the heart that causes the atria to beat faster and become out of sync with the ventricles. This condition is associated with a high risk of thromboembolic events and can also cause pain, dizziness, and fainting. Treatment with drugs and other less invasive therapies are only minimally effective which makes ablation (scarring of atrial tissue implicated in the abnormal rhythm) an ideal treatment. However, finding targets for LAFL ablation with current methodologies (entrainment and activation mapping) is difficult and invasive, resulting in lengthy procedures. This creates a significant need for an alternative method of finding ablation targets.

Schwarz is investigating the possibility of using patient-specific models and graph theory to find ablation targets. Initial proof-of-concept for this method of prediction was completed in the Fall 2015 by Erica and others on the research team. This upcoming spring Erica will expand the study to include more patients in order to create a protocol robust enough for clinical use. When completed, this study could radically improve the treatment methodology of LAFL.

Trayanova commented, “Erica is a fundamental part of our atrial team, and she has made significant contributions every step of the way. She is incredibly bright, talented, and hard working. She is a one of the reasons why we are making fast progress on the project.” Erica is also co-author on two manuscript and numerous published abstracts.

Erica will participate next spring in the PURA poster session and recognition ceremony.

Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering congratulates Erica on receiving a PURA fellowship award and wishes the researchers continued success improving treatment methodology of left atrial flutter.