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Week of 12 March 1999

Vol. II, No. 26

Feature Article

NMRC's Gottlieb, Roy named fellows of biomedical engineering institute

By Eric McHenry

Admission to the College of Fellows at the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) is an honor reserved for an elite 2 percent of the nation's biomedical engineers. The fact that BU's NeuroMuscular Research Center (NMRC) will soon have three fellows on its faculty says significant things about the quality of work being done there, says Carlo De Luca, director of the center.

NMRC's Gerald Gottlieb, research professor, and Serge Roy, associate research professor, will be inducted into the Institute at a March 12 ceremony in Washington, D.C. They will join their colleague De Luca, who was elected a Founding Fellow of the Institute in 1993.

"I am pleased that the AIMBE has recognized the important and sustained contributions in the field of biomedical engineering by Drs. Gottlieb and Roy," De Luca says. "Their election to the AIMBE is an expression of the status of the NMRC among its peers."

The Institute, according to its literature, strives to represent "the different constituencies of the medical and biological engineering community." That's no small task, says Gottlieb, whose research concerns the human brain and how it controls voluntary movement. Biomedical engineering is an incredibly heterogeneous field, he says, encompassing a remarkable number of subspecialties.

"My own training was in electrical engineering, and I developed an interest in motor physiology while working on my bachelor's thesis at M.I.T. When I went back for a Ph.D., it was in physiology and bioengineering. Dr. Roy's background is in physical therapy and muscle electrophysiology. You get people who have come from a lot of different directions."

"And we're alike in that we're more interested in systems, in biomedical engineering at the gross level," adds Roy, whose forte is surface electromyography. "A lot of other people are doing work down at the molecular level."

Even within a particular subspecialty, biomedical engineering research remains various in its applications. Roy's analysis of muscle signals, for example, is of practical use in areas as distinct as back-injury rehabilitation and space flight. When astronauts experience microgravity for extended periods of time, Roy explains, their muscles begin to atrophy. In recent years, NASA has helped sponsor his work on the development of equipment that can continuously monitor changes in the muscle integrity.

"I work with a group that is contracted to develop instrumentation that's portable, that's lightweight, that won't be adversely affected by a lot of movement, and that can record for long periods of time," he says.

Because the biomedical engineering field's diversity is reflected in the makeup of the Institute, Gottlieb says, membership allows scientists both to interact with researchers from within their subspecialties and to talk in more accessible terms about what they do.

"It's healthy to spend time talking about Science with a capital S," he says. "At so many scientific meetings we end up speaking with people who have read our papers and already agree or disagree with them. It's good to try to make what you do clear to a broader audience, to place it in a broader context once in a while."

For more information about the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, visit http://bme.www.ecn.purdue.edu/BME/societies/AIMBE/.