Skip to content

Biomedical Engineering Grad Student Receives Wrenn Award

3-year research fellowship focuses on Alzheimer's Disease

The Duke Institute for Brain Sciences is pleased to announce that Will Huffman, a graduate student in Biomedical Engineering in the Pratt School of Engineering, has received the Wrenn Graduate Fellowship in Alzheimer’s Disease. Huffman is a student in the laboratory of Dr. Warren Grill, Professor of Biomedical Engineering. His research project will involve a collaboration between the Grill lab and the lab of Niccolo Terrando, Department of Anesthesiology, in the School of Medicine. 

The award will allow Huffman to perform research in the area of Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, treatment, and pathophysiology for three years while pursuing his doctoral degree. “Will is a creative and accomplished biomedical engineer who will thrive in an interdisciplinary career advancing research in Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Dr. Grill.

As a Wrenn Fellow, Huffman plans to develop strategies to prevent cognitive decline following surgery, a condition for which Alzheimer’s patients are particularly at risk, and which can accelerate the progression of the disease.  The strategy will involve stimulating the vagus nerve and thereby reducing inflammation in the brain. A strength of this approach is that it is non-invasive and ultrasound-based. 

The Wrenn fellowship, awarded every three years in the amount of $40,000, is made possible through the generosity of the Wrenn Trust, named for Duke alumna Karen L. Wrenn, who died of Alzheimer’s Disease. This is the second three-year Wrenn Fellowship awarded; the inaugural Wrenn Fellowship was awarded to Yixin Ma, PhD, in 2017. Ma is a postdoctoral associate in Duke’s Medical Physics Graduate Program.

Will received his bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Duke in 2016.