NYU Positions Itself as a Leader in Biomedical Engineering
The Second Annual NYU Biomedical and Biosystems Conference Drew a Roster of High-Profile Researchers to Brooklyn
There may be few other fields that can match the excitement and promise of biomedical engineering. When engineers collaborate with physicians and medical researchers to develop systems and devices to solve clinical problems, the results can be transformative.
In June, the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) co-hosted the Second Annual NYU Biomedical and Biosystems Conference here in Brooklyn. (The conferences are held in New York and in Abu Dhabi in alternating years.)
NYU Tandon Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan has praised the conference organizers — who included NYUAD Vice Provost of Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs Sunil Kumar, NYUAD Assistant Professor Mohammad A. Qasaimeh, Tandon Associate Dean for Bioengineering Mary Cowman, and Tandon Assistant Professor Alesha B. Castillo — and explained the importance of the field to society. “We are well on our way to making a reasonably complete description of the genetic code of human life; we might know the genetic predisposition of a person for a particular disease; we will get a better understanding of the human mind and the relation between network configurations of the brain and functional aspects such as intentions, talents and propensities,” he has asserted. “Biomedical engineering will be deeply engaged in this seemingly limitless transformation. In particular, advancing human health is of paramount importance because larger and larger fraction of people are aging, want to live in cities where the population density is high, and depend on technology for maintaining and enhancing the quality of their lives.”
Kumar, a major driving force in NYU’s bioengineering initiatives, outlined the goals of the event, explaining that they included “bringing together engineers, medical researchers, and practitioners and addressing conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and translational frameworks and innovations beyond discipline-specific approaches.”
The roster of presenters included several Tandon researchers making their marks in such areas as microsystems and biosensors, bio-imaging, assistive and rehabilitative robotics, mechano-biology, and biomaterials.
- University Professor of Physics and Chemistry and the Thomas Potts Professor of Physics Stephen Arnold, who is on the path to creating biosensor devices that could flag the barest presence of a specific virus, antibody, or protein marker for cancer in blood, or sniff out airborne chemical warfare agents while they’re still far below toxic levels.
- Assistant Professor Alesha Castillo, whose studies will help identify potential drug targets that may enhance the adaptation and repair of aged and diseased bone.
- Assistant Professor Weiqiang Chen, who probes cell mechanics using an integrated ultrasound ‘tweezers’ system capable of applying controlled mechanical stress on cells.
- Research Assistant Professor James Fishbaugh, who presented recent work on the statistical modeling of 4D medical images and anatomical shapes that could help clinicians describe the changes that occur in dynamic biological processes
- Associate Professor Nikhil Gupta, who, in collaboration with Dr. Paulo Coelho of NYU School of Dentistry and Dr. Andrea Torroni of NYU School of Medicine, is exploring the promising use of magnesium-rare earth alloys in biomedical implant applications.
- Assistant Professor Ryan Hartman, whose fundamental research focuses on continuous-flow micro-chemical systems with in situ spectroscopy and the design of more efficient, data-driven methods of discovering chemical reactions.
- Associate Professor Joo H. Kim, a robotics expert whose work could be a boon to disabled people, military personnel out in the field, and anyone using assistive robotic devices.
- John T. McDevitt, chair of the Department of Biomaterials and Biomimetics at NYU’s College of Dentistry and Tandon professor, who discussed today’s lack of consumer-facing clinical testing capabilities with intuitive and motivating interfaces accessible to individuals, pharmaceutical scientists, and care-providers – and how that lack could be remedied.
- Professor Jin Kim Montclare, who engineers artificial protein materials with entirely new properties and function, fabricating protein-derived nanomaterials and harnessing them to interface with small molecule therapeutics, genes, and cells in order to target breast cancers, diabetic wound healing, osteoarthritis, and more.
- Professor Maurizio Porfiri, who proposed a novel framework for enhancing patient motivation to perform repetitive rehabilitative exercises by incorporating an element of citizen science — participation of the non-professional public in scientific activities.
The conference drew not only luminaries from the School of Engineering but those from prestigious institutions around the world, and lead speakers included:
- Hang Lu of Georgia Tech and Shuichi Takayama of Georgia Tech and Emory, experts in the field of microsystems and biosensors
- Stephen Aylward of Kitware, who discussed bio-imaging
- Nancy Allbritton of the University of North Carolina, a leader in the area of biomaterials
- Peter Wang of UC San Diego, whose area of expertise is mechano-biology
- Jose Contreras-Vidal from the University of Houston and Sunil Agrawal of Columbia, experts in bio-robotics and rehabilitation
- Virginia Cornish of Columbia and James Collins of MIT and Harvard, whose talks touched upon biomolecular engineering
“The conference highlighted the exciting work going on across NYU schools and elsewhere in what is undeniably one of the most vital and dynamic areas of engineering today,” Cowman summed up. “I have no doubt that the 2019 event, to be held in Abu Dhabi, will attract an equally impressive lineup of participants and will showcase similarly significant research.”
NYU’s Collaborative Ecosystem
Biomedical engineering allows technology to be placed in direct service to society and used to solve real-world problems faced by medical practitioners. As a global research institution, NYU is able to efficiently shepherd discoveries from lab bench to bedside, thanks to the collaborative efforts of those from its various constituent schools and research institutes. In addition to Tandon presenters, several from other schools within the university helped make the conference a success — and, in the process, highlighting the great things that can happen when researchers from different disciplines join forces.
The NYU School of Medicine sent such highly regarded presenters as ophthalmologist Joel S. Schuman and imaging expert Youssef Wadghiri, and the College of Dentistry, Center for Biomedical Imaging, Institute for Systems Genetics, Musculoskeletal Research Center, Perlmutter Cancer Center, Langone Eye Center, the new Tech4Health Institute, and Rusk Rehabilitation were all similarly well-represented; NYUAD’s many esteemed participants hailed from the school’s Division of Engineering, Biology Program, Public Health Research Center, and other areas.
Molecular and systems-level mechanisms underlying living systems, arguably the most complex systems on our planet, are now being discovered at an unprecedented rate,” Fabio Piano, NYUAD’s provost, said, explaining the impetus for the conference.
“Simultaneously, we are at the cusp of a new wave that combines technology and understanding of biological systems to create and build new ways and new devices that can solve among the most important challenges of our time and significantly contribute to building a sustainable future.” He continued, “NYUAD is developing both the human capital and the new knowledge needed to advance these areas. The annual biomedical and biosystems conferences are an important platform for us to discuss the state of the art and further our vision of developing into one of the world’s great research campuses.”