STEM Innovator

By Roach, Ronald | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

STEM Innovator


Roach, Ronald, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


As an assistant professor in a biomedical engineering department run by Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, Dr. Manu Platt has managed in a short time to reach the upper ranks of researchers working in this emerging field.

More than four years after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Platt a $1.5 million NIH Director's New Innovator Award, the 35-year-old professor not only continues to make scientific progress, but remains committed to excelling as an educator and humanitarian.

With the New Innovator Award, Platt gained valuable support for the research he had pioneered around reducing strokes in children with sickle cell disease. In addition to sickle cell research, Platt has brought computational and other experimental technologies to better investigate HIV-mediated cardiovascular disease and cancer metastasis.

The HIV-mediated cardiovascular research has focused on gaining stronger mechanisms for understanding accelerated progression of cardiovascular disease due to HIV infection. Platt has secured significant funding from the NIH and the International AIDS Society to support the research, and has launched a major research partnership with the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa on HIV-related work.

"He has broad scientific interests," says Dr. J.K. Haynes, the David Packard Professor in Science and dean of the Division of Science and Mathematics at Morehouse College.

"[Platt] works on sickle cell anemia ... He also works on HIV. And I think this is related to his strong community interests," says Haynes, who taught Platt as an undergraduate. "He wants to do research of benefit, in particular for folks who are underrepresented."

Platt joined the Georgia Tech-Emory University biomedical engineering department in 2009. He has been active in efforts to increase the success of biomedical engineering students and postdocs from underrepresented minority groups.

The university recognized Platt and Project ENGAGES (Engaging New Generations at Georgia Tech through Engineering and Science) with a diversity champion award in 2013. Platt is a co-founder and co-chair, along with Georgia Tech professor Robert Nerem, of Project ENGAGES.

"I've seen him from the research context, but also he and I together now run a joint program with high schools in the inner city of Atlanta, bringing junior and senior African-American high school students into our laboratory to do research on a year-round basis," says Dr. …

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