Biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate awarded George W. Kunze Prize

Tony Akl accepts Kunze awardTony Akl, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, was awarded the 17th Annual George W. Kunze Prize during a ceremony sponsored by the Office of Graduate Studies April 24.(Pictured: Tony Akl, center, accepts Kunze award from Dr. Karen Butler-Purry, associate provost for graduate studies)

Akl is a third-year Ph.D. student and research assistant in the optical biosensing lab working under the supervision of biomedical engineering department head Dr. Gerard L. Coté. His research is focused on implantable sensors to monitor perfusion and oxygenation in implanted livers in the early post-transplant period. He is also lead on a joint project with Oak Ridge National Lab and the University of Pittsburgh to develop a three-wavelength LED system and optical model for measuring perfusion and oxygenation of liver tissue. During his three years as a graduate student, Akl has published four original refereed journal articles and authored 16 conference proceedings and presentations at national and international meetings.

As design chair in the student chapter of Engineering World Health (EWH), Akl has participated in kit-building sessions to design and build low-cost, high-quality medical devices for developing countries, and has mentored undergraduate student senior design teams working on EWH projects. He is secretary of the Texas A&M student chapter of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and organizes and manages the society’s journal club. He has assisted in organizing educational outreach programs for K-12 schools to increase awareness of optical sciences and biomedical optics. In 2011, he and others from the SPIE chapter organized a traveling Optics Tour. Over a three-day period, they visited several east Texas high schools delivering optics demonstrations to more than 500 students.

“In his three years as a graduate student, Tony Photo of Tony Aklhas managed to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA, balance two research projects and go beyond the classroom with community outreach and service,” Coté said. "He will soon complete his Ph.D. and I have no doubt he will continue to advance the biomedical engineering field through research and development of unique biomedical optical sensing technologies and teaching and mentoring students."

Sponsored by the Office of Graduate Studies, the George W. Kunze Prize provides a one-time $1,000 award to graduate Ph.D. students admitted to candidacy at Texas A&M. Competition is university wide and awarded to only one recipient annually. Nominees are selected based on superior academic achievement, publication in a refereed journal or journals of national or international stature and demonstrated good citizenship through contributions to the university or community.