Swindle-Reilly earns Buckeye Engineering Women in Executive Leadership (BEWEL) Leadership in Innovation Award

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In a world where engineers are asked to solve increasingly complex problems, a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical. And yet women remain underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, accounting for just 27% of STEM-related careers (2021 U.S. Census Bureau).

To help close the gender gap, a group of alumnae from the College of Engineering joined forces to form Buckeye Engineering Women in Executive Leadership (BEWEL), an allied community who advocate for women in the college and encourage their growth as leaders who shape the world.

In 2019, they established the BEWEL Leadership in Innovation Award to recognize junior or mid-career female faculty members who demonstrate outstanding leadership in research, innovation and scholarship. The award honors individuals whose actions support BEWEL’s vision of The Ohio State University becoming the destination of choice for women in engineering—students and faculty alike.

Dr. Swindle-Reilly Lab Portrait

In 2023, the award was presented to Katelyn Swindle-Reilly, an associate professor of biomedical and chemical engineering. Since joining Ohio State in 2016, Swindle-Reilly has been designing polymeric biomaterials for soft tissue repair and drug delivery with focused applications in ophthalmology and wound healing. Her ultimate goal is to develop new treatments to help patients struggling with vision loss.

“I’m truly honored to receive this award and for the recognition of my efforts in this area,” she said. “I think it is important to recognize accomplishments of female faculty, especially because we remain underrepresented in engineering.”

Swindle-Reilly said the gender gap is even more evident in leadership positions and entrepreneurial areas, noting that during a recent conference, she was one of only two women presenters in the Innovation Showcase.

Currently she is working to address age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the third leading cause of blindness and presently has no cure.

Damaging the retina and the back of the eye, AMD can cause permanent vision loss and inhibit reading, driving and other daily activities. One available treatment that helps patients with AMD maintain vision requires an expensive intravitreal injection directly into the eye up to 12 times per year for the rest of their lives.

After learning about the burden these injections cause for patients from Dr. Matthew Ohr, an Ohio State ophthalmologist, Swindle-Reilly and her team developed an extended-release capsule that has the potential to reduce the timing of injections to just once or twice a year.

Her technology has been licensed by Vitranu, a startup focused on applying it to AMD treatments. Swindle-Reilly is chief technology officer for the company, which is currently in preclinical studies.

“Dr. Swindle-Reilly epitomizes leadership in innovation, in her technological advancements and significant efforts to build cross-disciplinary bridges within the university and in her mentoring and coaching of students and peers to advance innovation and commercialization at Ohio State,” said McCauley.

Faculty members chosen to receive the BEWEL award are provided funding to extend and expand their impact. They are also invited to leverage the BEWEL network to further their research agendas and careers, creating a cyclical culture of mentorship and collaboration.

“This recognition has helped to validate that I am on the right path and motivates me to continue my entrepreneurial efforts in teaching and research at the university,” said Swindle-Reilly. “I hope to mentor and support others in this space throughout my career.”

Slightly modified version of original story from the College of Engineering’s Forward magazine