Category: BME News
BME Professor Muhammad Zaman featured in new NPR article, “One Man’s Quest To Combat Counterfeit Drugs — With A Suitcase”.
Research Could Bolster Nanoscale 3D Printing, Catalysis and Sensor Design
By Mark Dwortzan
A study led by Assistant Professor Scott Bunch(ME, MSE) has demonstrated the ability to measure and control the transport of gas through a single molecule-sized pore in graphene, a strong, flexible material made of one-atom-thick sheets of carbon atoms. By using gold nanoparticles to block and unblock such pores in a graphene membrane, Bunch and his research team have provided the first evidence of controlling the transport of gas through a molecule-sized opening in any existing membrane material.
“These nanopore molecular valves provide the unique ability to control a single-file flow of molecules, and may lead to important applications in nanoscale 3D printing, catalysis and sensor design,” said Bunch.
Nanoscale 3D printing could be used to manufacture high-precision devices ranging from micro-needles to nano-robots. New applications in catalysis, the acceleration of chemical reactions, could yield new chemical compounds for scientific and commercial applications. The research may also improve the performance of graphene-based separation membranes, which can be used to purify gas, capture carbon from power plant carbon dioxide emissions, and perform other applications.
Bunch and collaborators at Boston University, MIT, University of Colorado and National University of Singapore used two methods to create the nanopores in the graphene membranes. They either applied a voltage pulse with an atomic force microscope, or exposed the graphene to ultraviolet light. They also used an atomic force microscope to monitor the flow of hydrogen, nitrogen and other gases.
The research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, is described in the online edition ofNature Nanotechnology.
Master’s students can now specialize in these fast-growing fields
By Janet A. Smith (ENG) and Amy Laskowski (BU Today)
In an effort to train its graduate students in rapidly expanding fields, this fall the College of Engineering will begin offering three new master’s degree specializations in the fields of data analytics, cybersecurity, and robotics.
“The corporate sector has voiced frustration with the shortage of trained engineers in key sectors of the innovation economy,” says Kenneth Lutchen, dean of ENG. “By combining a master’s degree in a foundational engineering discipline with a specialization in a fast-growing, interdisciplinary field, students will be well positioned to meet this need and impact society. This unique combination should greatly enhance the power of their degrees in the marketplace.”
The specialization programs are open to all master’s degree candidates in ENG. Students who opt to add a specialization will select at least four of their eight required courses from a list specific to that field. Specializations will be noted with the degree title on students’ final transcripts.
Classes for the fall 2015 semester begin September 2, and master’s degree students who are interested in focusing on one of the three fields should contact the Graduate Programs Office for more information.
Two years ago, the Harvard Business Review noted that jobs in the field of data analytics are expected to continue to increase. Glassdoor.com reports that the average data scientist salary is currently $118,700. ENG’s new data analytics specialization will emphasize decisions, algorithms, and analytics grounded in engineering application areas. Students choosing to specialize in data analytics can expect to find jobs in finance, health care, urban systems, commerce, pharmaceuticals, and other engineering fields.
Recent, brazen cyber attacks on companies such as Target and Sony Pictures as well as the data breach thought to originate in China that compromised the records of 21.5 million Americans who had applied for government security clearances over the past 15 years highlight the growing importance of cybersecurity.
ENG’s cybersecurity specialization will teach students security-oriented theory and train them in practical cybersecurity applications including software engineering, embedded systems, and networking. It will also provide a context for cybersecurity threats and mitigation strategies ranging from protecting corporate and government systems, to home and building automation accessories and medical devices.
Global spending on robotics is predicted to increase to $67 billion by 2025 from just $15 billion in 2010. Today, robotics are used in everything from prosthetics and telemedicine to autonomous vehicles, feedback control systems, and brain-machine interface. The new ENG specialization will prepare master’s students for careers in research and development and deployment and operation of advanced individual or multi-coordinated robotic systems.
Tom Little, an ENG professor of electrical and computer engineering and systems engineering and associate dean of educational initiatives, says these new specializations are meant to be complementary to the numerous existing master’s degree programs. Come fall, someone getting a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, for instance, could specialize in cybersecurity, and learn how to prevent a car’s computer system from being hacked.
“These are all very exciting areas that are emerging,” Little says. “ENG is active in doing research, but also active in developing the next generation of scientists and engineers who can contribute to companies who want to build applications that have an impact.”
BU to Host Symposium: BU MATERIALS DAY 2015 – Nanomaterials in Medicine: Improving Healthcare Through SMALL Innovations
Boston University, the Division of Materials Science & Engineering and the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology will be hosting BU MATERIALS DAY 2015: Nanomaterials in Medicine: Improving Healthcare Through SMALL Innovations on September 25, 2015 in the Photonics Center.
All are welcome to attend! Registration is required.
Registration deadline is September 14, 2015.
There will be a poster session, but space for posters is limited, so please register early.
The impact of nanomaterials on the practice of medicine far exceeds its dimensions. Nanomaterials have unique physicochemical, electromagnetic, and pharmacological properties that enable innovative strategies for diagnosing and treating disease. Targeted imaging probes engineered with nanomaterials allows clinicians and scientists to detect anatomical and pathological abnormalities indicative of disease with biomedical imaging systems. Nanomaterials have also been co-opted for chemical modification or packaging of therapeutic agents, augmenting their bio-distribution, increasing their specificity, and enhancing their efficacy while minimizing off-target adverse effect. In this symposium, leading scientists will present on medical breakthroughs that have been made possible through novel formulations and constructs of nanomaterials.
Program and Abstracts
Vladimir Torchilin, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Director, Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Nanomedicine
Stimuli-sensitive combination nanopreparations of siRNA and chemotherapeutic drugs to treat multidrug resistant cancer
Heather Maynard, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Director of the Chemistry Biology Interface Training Program
Associate Director of Technology and Development for the California NanoSystems Institute
Bio-inspired and degradable nanomaterials for delivery of proteins
Mark Grinstaff, Ph.D.
Professor, Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering, and Materials Science & Engineering
Director, Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
Title of talk: TBA
Patrick Stayton, Ph.D.
University of Washington
Washington Research Foundation Professor, Bioengineering
Director, Institute for Molecular Engineering and Sciences
Director, Center for Intracellular Delivery of Biologics
Intracellular Delivery of Biologic Drugs
Anna Moore, Ph.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School
Director, Molecular Imaging Laboratory at the
MGH/MIT/HMS Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging,
Image-guided RNA-based cancer therapies
Niren Murthy, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
New strategies for imaging infectious diseases and oxidative stress
Andrew Tsourkas, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania
Associate Professor, Bioengineering
Associate Director, Program in Targeted Therapeutics, Institute of Translational Medicine and Therapeutics
Engineering targeted nanoparticles for molecular imaging and therapeutic applications
Allison Dennis, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering
Engineering Thick-shelled Quantum Dot Heterostructures for Biosensing and Bioimaging
Associate Professor ME, MSE
By Mark Dwortzan
Professor Elise Morgan (ME, BME, MSE) was selected as a recipient of INSIGHT Into Diversitymagazine’s 100 Inspiring Women in STEM Award. INSIGHT Into Diversity is the oldest and largest diversity magazine and website in higher education.
This award recognizes 100 women whose work and achievements as researchers, teachers and mentors encourages women currently engaged in science, technology, engineering and math fields, and inspires a new generation of young women to consider STEM careers. Boston University recipients Morgan and Cynthia Brossman, director of the Learning Resource Network, will be profiled in the magazine’s September issue along with 98 other Women in Stem honorees.
“I’m extremely honored to receive this recognition, particularly alongside people like Cynthia who exemplify tireless commitment to lighting a spark in the next generation of women in STEM,” said Morgan. “I always hope that I am making an impact through the research that my group does and by connecting with young people. It’s absolutely critical to help everyone around us understand the importance of STEM for society.”
Since joining the College of Engineering faculty in 2003, Morgan has worked to advance understanding of the role of the mechanical function of tissues and organs in skeletal health, repair and development, with the ultimate goal of pinpointing causes and treatments for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and poor bone healing.
As director of the Orthopaedic and Developmental Biomechanics Laboratory, Morgan studies the interplay among the mechanical behavior, structure and biological function of tissues. Drawing on methods from engineering mechanics, materials science, and cell and molecular biology, and combining experimentation and computational modeling, Morgan’s lab investigates how mechanical factors contribute to the development, adaptation, failure and regeneration of bone and cartilage. Current projects include the use of mechanical stimulation to promote bone regeneration, the biomechanics of spine fractures and bone healing, non-invasive diagnostics of bone healing, and inflammatory bone loss. This work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, private foundations and industry sponsors.
Morgan, who was inducted this year as an American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) Fellow, has received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Senior Fellows from the National Institutes of Health, a Young Investigator Research Award from the International Osteoporosis Foundation and Servier Research Group, the 2013 Kappa Delta Young Investigator Award from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and an Early Career Research Excellence Award and Distinguished Faculty Fellow Award from the College of Engineering. She has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles in major engineering journals and has delivered more than 40 seminars and invited talks. She is also the co-founder of a successful outreach program, Summer Pathways, which engages high school girls in a week-long sequence of activities in science, engineering and math.
Developing Rapid Test for HIV Viral Load
By Barbara Moran, BU Research
Futurity: Research news from top universities has published a Q&A with Professor Catherine Klapperich (BME, ME, MSE) on her innovations in point-of-care diagnostics.
Simple surface tension sensors may allow field, home diagnosis
By Mark Dwortzan
A surfactant is a substance that reduces the surface tension of the liquid in which it is dissolved, thus enabling the liquid to disperse more easily when it comes in contact with a wettable material. For instance, laundry detergents help water penetrate through fabric and break up stains. Milkfat also acts as a surfactant, causing droplets of whole milk to wick into a certain class of materials, unlike low-fat or skim, which would bead up like water on a duck’s back.
What makes this more than an intriguing factoid is that one can use it to design a material to evaluate the fat content in breast milk, a critical factor in neonatal health. If the milk fails to penetrate the material, then it contains an inadequate concentration of fat (and calories). Caloric deficiency affects the nearly 10 percent of newborns who fail to thrive due to malnutrition, and the more than 80 percent of mothers who choose formula largely for this reason.
Over the past two years in Professor Mark Grinstaff’s (BME, MSE, Chemistry) lab, BME PhD student Eric Falde has been engineering a polymer sensor that indicates if breast milk has sufficient calories for nursing newborns. He tuned the polymer to switch from non-wetted (the milk beads up) to wetted (the milk wicks through) when there’s an inadequate level of milkfat (too much surface tension in the milk), and to release a purple dye to show when this switch occurs. Intended for home or field use, the sensor provides a far more rapid, affordable, portable, and simple test than today’s standard of care, which relies on a bulky centrifuge or high-pressure liquid chromatography to separate and analyze milk components.
Grinstaff, Falde and Stephan Yohe (BME, PhD’13) describe their results in the online edition of Advanced Healthcare Materials.
“A facile and rapid measurement of the fat content of breast milk may provide a means for mothers to ensure that their infants are receiving sufficient nutrition and help more than 400,000 infants a year,” said Grinstaff.
Falde created the sensor using a technique called electrospinning which applies a high electric field to a polymer solution and spins the solution into a mesh of fine fibers. The mesh consists of a top layer that responds to small changes in liquid surface tension to resist or absorb a test droplet, and a bottom layer that reveals a color change when wetted.
“When a small droplet of test liquid is deposited on the sensor, it either remains or gets rapidly absorbed and changes color, depending on whether the liquid is above or below the surface tension threshold,“ said Falde, who adjusts the threshold value by tuning how hydrophobic (water-resistant) the polymer will be.
Because it’s designed to switch between wetted and non-wetted states with liquids of a particular surface tension, the sensor could be tuned to detect surface tension changes (corresponding to abnormal levels of fats and proteins) in other biological fluids—blood, urine, saliva and more—that may serve as indicators of a wide range of medical conditions. User-friendly and power-free, such sensors could be deployed at the point of care, including in the home.
“It’s difficult to create a simple test that screens for kidney disease, but a urine sample should show surface tension differences so that we can design a less invasive, faster and more comfortable diagnostic,” said Falde. In the paper, he described two prototype sensor meshes, each tuned to a different surface tension detection range, that he designed, evaluated and tested with human breast milk and urine samples. The latter sensor tested for high bile acid levels, an indicator of kidney disease.
Students Can Amplify Expertise in a High-Value Career Path
By Janet A Smith
Motivated by emerging economic sectors, the College of Engineering has created new Master’s degree specializations in the high-impact, interdisciplinary fields of Data Analytics, Cybersecurity and Robotics. The specializations are designed to meet the demand for highly skilled professionals in these rapidly expanding fields.
“The corporate sector has voiced frustration with the shortage of trained engineers in key sectors of the innovation economy,” said Dean Kenneth Lutchen. “By combining a Master’s degree in a foundational engineering discipline with a Specialization in a fast-growing, interdisciplinary field, students will be well positioned to meet this need and impact society. This unique combination should greatly enhance the power of their degrees in the marketplace.”
Enormous quantities of data are driving rapid growth in the field of data analytics. The College’s approach to data science emphasizes decisions, algorithms, and analytics grounded in engineering application areas. This specialization is intended to yield graduates who will fulfill a variety of innovation needs for applications in finance, healthcare, urban systems, commerce, pharmaceutical and other engineering fields.
“Big Data engineers are critical pioneers and sorely needed in every industry,” said George Anton Papp, vice president for Corporate Development at Teradata, Inc. “The massive amounts of data being collected create enormous opportunities to innovate data architecture and analysis to solve pressing real-world problems.”
The Cybersecurity field is expanding exponentially, with career paths growing twice as fast as other information technology jobs. This Specialization will foster security-oriented software skills and enable an understanding of cybersecurity applications in software engineering, embedded systems, and networking. It will also provide a context for cybersecurity threats and mitigation strategies ranging from protecting corporate and government systems to home and building automation accessories and medical devices.
“Demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to outstrip supply and is a major concern to organizations in every sector,” noted Proteus Digital Health Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer George Savage. “In our industry, it’s critical to protect the highly personal health data of consumers, providers, and insurers as we enter the digital and personalized health era powered by the smart phone in each of our pockets.”
The Robotics industry is predicted to grow to $67 billion by 2025 with applications in everything from prosthetics and telemedicine to autonomous vehicles, feedback control systems, brain-machine interfaces, and the Internet of Things. Robotics is inherently interdisciplinary, combining elements of electrical, computer, biomedical, systems, and mechanical engineering. The Specialization will prepare Master’s students for careers in research and development, deployment and operation of advanced individual or multi-coordinated robotic systems.
“There is enormous need for engineers skilled in robotics and the cross-disciplinary applications of robotics,” said Michael Campbell, executive vice president, CAD Segment at PTC. “While the field today is very much concerned with applications in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, healthcare, and military uses, we anticipate the field expanding into everything from education to home entertainment.”
Available to all Master’s Degree candidates, the Specialization options have been designed so that students can access from every Master’s degree program. Students who opt to add a Specialization – which is noted on their degree title and transcript – choose at least four of their eight courses from a list specific to each Specialization.