Alumni Awards 2017: Kafui Dzirasa ’01, M8, Chemical Engineering

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Kafui Dzirasa ’01, M8, chemical engineering, associate professor at the Duke University School of Medicine and this year’s Outstanding Alumnus in Engineering and Information Technology.


As an associate professor of psychiatry, behavioral science, neurobiology, and neurosurgery at the Duke University School of Medicine, Kafui Dzirasa ’01, M8, chemical engineering, has dedicated his career to creating a kind of “pacemaker for the brain,” a device that can effectively rewire neurological signals in patients with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other illnesses. His research has earned him, among other accolades, the 2013 Sidney R. Baer Prize for Innovative and Promising Schizophrenia Research, as well as a 2016 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest award given to young scientists by the U.S. government. According to Dalton Hughes ’14, M21, chemical engineering, now an M.D./Ph.D. student working in Dzirasa’s lab at Duke, he is not only “a powerhouse in the fields of engineering, neuroscience, and medicine,” but a “phenomenal research mentor, captivating speaker, compassionate physician, and exceptional educator.”

“[Dr. Dzirasa’s] demonstrated commitment to UMBC and its students is truly special,” writes Keith Harmon, director of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, “is truly special, and an inspiring example of a selfless spirit determined to ‘pay forward’ all that was poured into him at UMBC.”

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!

Dr. Dzirasa will also be giving a Grit-X Talk on Saturday, October 14…sign up to reserve your seat today!

Alums in the News: The Brothers Dzirasa

Happy fall, and happy return of the Alums in the News feature! Here’s a brief update on the goings-on in a very accomplished UMBC family…

Kafui Dzirasa ’01, right, on a panel with President Barack Obama and Atul Gawande at the White House Frontiers Conference. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Kafui Dzirasa ’01, M8, chemical engineering, spoke alongside President Barack Obama on the Presidential Panel on Brain Science and Medical Information at the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh last week. Dr. Dzirasa, now a researcher and professor at the Duke University School of Medicine, received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers earlier this year for his work with neural pacemakers. You can watch the stream of the event here.


Delali Dzirasa ’04, third from left, takes a selfie with his Fearless Solutions team on stage at the awards ceremony. Photo by Stephen Babcock.

Delali Dzirasa ’04, computer engineering, and his software company, Fearless Solutions, took home the Design/Dev Firm of the Year award at this year’s Baltimore Innovation Week. Fearless, formerly housed at bwtech@UMBC, was recognized for their work on a federal program that helps small businesses in Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) zones.

Any professional or personal accomplishments you’d like to share with us? Head to Retriever Stories today.


Alums in the News: Kafui Dzirasa ’01, M8, receives presidential award for research

kafuiKafui Dzirasa ’01, M8, chemical engineering, has received this year’s Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). It’s the highest honor the U.S. government can bestow on a young researcher, and Dr. Dzirasa is one of 105 awardees selected by President Barack Obama.

Dr. Dzirasa earned both his M.D. and Ph.D. from Duke University. He is now an assistant professor of psychiatry, behavioral sciences, and biomedical engineering at Duke’s medical school. As head of the university’s Laboratory for Psychiatric Neuroengineering, he is working to develop a kind of pacemaker for the brain that can jump-start neural circuits and, as he puts it, “reconnect [the] soul to the mind” in patients with neuropsychiatric ailments like schizophrenia.

This isn’t the first time Dr. Dzirasa has been recognized for his groundbreaking research. In 2013, he received the Sidney R. Baer Prize for Innovative and Promising Schizophrenia Research from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. He and the rest of this year’s PECASE recipients will be honored at a White House ceremony this spring.

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