The Fung Award goes to a bioengineering researcher younger than 36 who demonstrates the potential to make substantial contributions to the discipline. It has been awarded annually by the Bioengineering Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers since 1985.
Meaney's research into injury biomechanics focuses on how brain cells respond to mechanical forces. Scientists don't currently know how much force is needed to harm the brain, nor do they understand how to help the brain repair itself after injury.
Meaney studies how cells of the brain, particularly the delicate long arms of nerve cells known as axons, distort under force. Meaney's work has helped identify how axons respond after they are distorted, when they become damaged after stretching and new ways to reduce damage once it has occurred.
Mechanical forces can also benefit axons. Using a motorized device to pull connected neurons away from each other a few thousandths of a meter every five minutes, Meaney and Douglas H. Smith of Penn's School of Medicine reported in April that they had succeeded in growing axons by stretching them, offering a potential new means of bridging damaged areas of the nervous system. Studying how 'stretch-induced growth' occurs in these axons, as well as the molecular signals needed to initiate and sustain this growth, could provide important new clues to help the brain recover following an injury.
Meaney, 35, an associate professor of bioengineering, joined the Penn faculty in 1993. A member of Penn's Institute for Medicine and Engineering and the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation, he holds a B.S.E. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Penn.