Gregory Riggins receives Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award

March 19, 2018

PENN STATE NEWS - UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Gregory Riggins, a Penn State bioengineering alumnus, was recently named one of 12 recipients of the 2018 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award.

Established in 1966, the award is the highest honor bestowed by the Penn State College of Engineering and recognizes graduates who have reached exceptional levels of professional achievement.

“I would like to thank Dr. Cheng Dong and Dr. Justin Schwartz for nominating me for an Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award,” said Riggins. “I very much look forward to returning to State College for this prestigious honor.”

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware, Riggins came to Penn State to receive a master’s degree in bioengineering. “There was an opportunity to work on the artificial heart project at Penn State, which got me closer to using engineering applications in medicine,” he said.

Riggins went on to receive a medical degree and doctorate in human genetics from Emory University, where he graduated from the Medical Scientist Training Program in 1994.

From there, he completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, and went on to become an associate professor of pathology and assistant professor of genetics at Duke University Medical Center.

In 2003, Riggins joined the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine faculty. He is the inaugural recipient of the Irving J. Sherman, M.D. Research Professorship in Neurosurgery Research and is a professor of neurosurgery and oncology, where he directs the Brain Cancer Biology and Therapy Research Laboratory.

His laboratory has identified new therapies for glioblastoma and medulloblastoma that have advanced to new clinical trials. His work on testing the safety of mebendazole as a potential cancer treatment was recently featured in NPR Morning Edition.

“I enjoy the discovery process and the opportunity to make a real impact — and to be able to do that involves a real team effort working with other scientists and students, post-docs and junior faculty,” said Riggins. “What I enjoy the most is working with other people to make a difference.”

In addition, Riggins is on the scientific advisory board for Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, whose mission is the same as his laboratory — to improve treatments and survival for patients with brain cancer. He volunteers his time to help the organization raise money and to advise how to apply the money as best as possible to try to create new opportunities for brain cancer research.

“My main interest is to try to help cancer patients,” said Riggins. “I want to try to make an impact on cancer rates and survival through better understanding and better therapies and preventions for cancer.”

Riggins will be honored on April 23 at the College of Engineering’s annual Outstanding Engineering Alumni Awards ceremony at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus.