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Pioneer Stories: K. Jane Grande-Allen

“All of the support I got from my math professors was exceptional. I absolutely loved the classes I took from [former mathematics professors] Jim Miller and David Choate. In biology, I really enjoyed [late professor] J. Hill Hamon's classes—it was such a lively atmosphere. Even the labs were fun. We studied together, we worked together—I just loved being at Transylvania.”

Catherine Prewit

K. Jane Grande-Allen has spent nearly her entire career studying heart valve disease and searching for causes, cures, and treatments for the little-understood ailment. An associate professor of bioengineering at Rice University, she was recognized for her work with the A.J. Durelli Award from the Society for Experimental Mechanics in June 2011, a prestigious honor awarded to young investigators.

She became interested in medical science as a mathematics and biology major at Transylvania. Her mentor, mathematics professor David Shannon, encouraged her to go into a field that had a math component, and she was attracted to a project modeling heart valves. She’s been working on them ever since.

Her research has sparked interest around the country in heart valve disease, which was previously treated only with valve replacement surgery. Grande-Allen’s goal is to find less invasive solutions.

“We’re trying to improve the range of options for treating people with heart valve disease,” she said. “Some of my work is targeted to helping find new medications so people could just take some pills instead of having to have surgery.”

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