News Release

University of Minnesota faculty receive Abbott Professorships to introduce prospective students to STEM

Rhonda Franklin and Chris Pennell
University of Minnesota faculty (L-R) Rhonda Franklin and Chris Pennell have been named Abbott Professors in the Institute for Engineering in Medicine.

The Institute for Engineering in Medicine (IEM) at the University of Minnesota has named Rhonda Franklin and Chris Pennell as the inaugural recipients of the IEM Abbott Professorships in Innovative Education. 

The Abbott Professorships will be awarded to the faculty co-directors of the IEM Inspire Program to advance IEM’s mission to inspire eighth grade through junior college students towards future STEM careers in biomedicine and healthcare delivery. This will be accomplished by guiding the expansion of the Inspire Program through new on-campus, in-school and virtual events for secondary and post-secondary students. 

“I am honored to receive one of the inaugural Abbott Professorships for Innovative Education, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop and prepare the next generation of engineers who work on solutions to medical problems,” said Franklin, IEM Inspire Program co-director and a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Science and Engineering. “We are now seeing research as a form of education — researchers as educators. The academic community at large are educators contributing with different types of educational approaches. Dr. Pennell and I are sitting at the center of all of this. We will need to architect a framework to serve as a foundation, with the flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of the constituents.”

The new Abbott Professors will be expanding on the Inspire conference and will be building out the program with local public schools and post-secondary institutions. On-campus attendees will meet with representatives from Minnesota’s medical technology industries, participate in virtual and in-person seminars and laboratory and professional skills training, meet with mentors, and visit labs and research centers on the Twin Cities campus.  

“My choice of an academic career is based on my desire to pay it forward. I am excited to develop the Inspire Program to promote more STEM careers that focus on medicine,” said Pennell, IEM Inspire Program co-director, associate director of Education for the Masonic Cancer Center and an associate professor in the Medical School’s department of laboratory medicine and pathology. “In its first two years, I’ve been impressed by student engagement in our Inspire conferences and look forward to working with Dr. Franklin to build on that momentum.”

The Abbott Professorships in Innovative Education were established to inspire and empower tomorrow's engineering leaders to explore new answers in health and medicine. With grants from the global healthcare company Abbott, the Abbott Professorships advance this goal in two ways: by supporting the efforts of outstanding faculty members who are leading the IEM Inspire program and encouraging the next generation; and by recognizing and assisting promising early-career IEM faculty in pursuing their research.

Abbott has supported IEM research since 2001. These efforts are part of Abbott's broader work to inspire the inventors and innovators of tomorrow to pursue careers in science, engineering and other STEM fields.

About the Institute for Engineering in Medicine
The Institute for Engineering in Medicine (IEM) promotes innovative, collaborative research between health scientists, clinicians, physical scientists and engineers, and members of the local medical device industry to forge new discoveries and improve human health. IEM is ideally positioned to identify novel engineering solutions for a wide variety of health problems and to shepherd innovations through basic scientific discovery, translational research, initial patient care research, commercialization and widespread application.

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