New chair of UW Department of Bioengineering named

Princess Imoukhuede joins the UW from Washington University in St. Louis, where she is an associate professor of biomedical engineering.

Media Contact: Leila Gray, 206.475.9809,

Princess Imoukhuede, a leader in systems biology research, engineering education, and academic diversity initiatives, has been named the new chair of the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. The department is located in both the UW College of Engineering and the UW School of Medicine.

Her appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2022. She will hold the Hunter and Dorothy Simpson Endowed Chair and Professorship.

Imoukhuede (pronounced I-muh-KWU-e-de) is currently an associate professor of bioengineering and director of diversity initiatives in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

During the national chair search, Imoukhuede was distinguished by her clear vision for the department, according to a letter announcing her appointment and jointly signed by Nancy Allbritton, the Frank & Julie Jungers Dean of Engineering, and Paul G. Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine and dean of the UW School of Medicine. They noted that her presentations emphasized academic leadership, scholarship and teaching anchored in technical and inclusive excellence, and that her experience in heading diversity initiatives positions her to align the Department of Bioengineering with UW Medicine’s and the College of Engineering’s shared priorities in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Imoukhuede said she is looking forward to the collaborative atmosphere at the UW Department of Bioengineering.

“The department has the advantage of being housed in both the School of Medicine and the College of Engineering – so the value for collaboration is embedded within the structure of the department,” she noted. “The department has strong leadership in both the Molecular Engineering and Sciences Institute and the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. These connections are enabling foundational and translational biomedical collaborations. I plan to continue to grow these connections and to seek new areas for the department to collaborate.”

She added, “This is the perfect time to do so because of the launch of the College of Engineering strategic plan, which among its many goals aims to ‘accelerate solutions to critical health care issues.’” Imoukhuede said she is excited to help lead these efforts and to work with Tueng Shen, professor of ophthalmology and the new associate dean for medical technology innovation at UW Medicine, to expand collaboration across bioengineering and medicine.

Imoukhuede has always had a keen interest in exploring how things work. Growing up in Matteson, Illinois, she became fascinated by science in grade school. Her parents encouraged this pursuit by giving her a chemistry set to play with at home. She also enjoyed participating in track and field events from childhood on, particularly the shot put.

After attending the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Imoukhuede decided to study chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There she did undergraduate research in drug delivery in the lab of Robert S. Langer. Her research at MIT earned her the Class of 1972 Award, given for a project that most improves quality of life for people or that benefits the environment.

While at MIT, she also served as captain of the varsity track and field team and was honored by the Eastern College Athletic Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  

Her strong sense of social responsibility was evidenced by her serving as the co-president of the MIT Committee on Multiculturalism and holding offices in the National Society of Black Engineers.

Imoukhuede did her graduate studies in bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology.  She was the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in bioengineering at Caltech. She went on to become a postdoctoral scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Her postdoctoral research received funding from a United Negro College Fund/Merck Fellowship and other professional development awards.

Her main research interests are the many signals and receptors that regulate the formation of blood vessels.  This field is important in understanding wound healing, but also in several disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Many tumors, for example, produce a network of new blood vessels to nourish their interior cells and sustain their abnormal growth.

Imoukhuede also partners in obstetrical research using both quantitative methods and  computational modeling to improve the efficacy and safety of administering oxytocin during childbirth. Oxytocin is a peptide hormone that stimulates uterine contractions for labor and the let-down reflex for breastfeeding.   

These, and other of her research efforts have led to 120 conference abstract presentations, 70 invited lectures, two patents and two provisional patents.

Her work has also been recognized with numerous honors and awards, including the Biomedical Engineering Society 2021 Mid-Career Award, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and the Young Innovator in Nanobiotechnology Award.

During the chair search and selection, Mike Regnier, professor of bioengineering, served as interim chair of his department.



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