Preview performance of the Huntington Theatre Company's James Joyce's The Dead, September 7, 8, and 9, at the BU Theatre

Vol. V No. 3   ·   31 August 2001 


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$14M Whitaker Foundation award
A bonanza for biomedical engineering programs

The University soon will expand its biomedical engineering programs with help from a $14 million Leadership Award from the Whitaker Foundation, of Arlington, Va. The grant, which will be made over a five-year period, will be matched with an $18 million commitment from the University, for a total of $32 million in new program funding.


From left: BU President Jon Westling, David Campbell, dean of the College of Engineering, Kenneth Lutchen, an ENG professor and chairman of the ENG biomedical engineering department, Dennis Berkey, provost and dean of Arts and Sciences, Aram Chobanian, dean of the School of Medicine and provost of the Medical Campus, and Christopher Reaske, vice president of development and alumni relations. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky


The award will be used for research and education in three interdisciplinary areas: cellular and subcellular bioengineering, protein and genomics engineering, and physiological systems dynamics. It also will allow the University to recruit and hire a dozen new faculty members, fund graduate fellowships, and renovate and add new teaching and research space at both the Charles River and Medical Campuses.

The grant, which is one of the largest single awards in the University's history, also will fund the development of biomedical engineering and related courses and expand the biomedical engineering programs at the University. Kenneth Lutchen, an ENG professor and biomedical engineering department chairman, will serve as principal investigator and will direct implementation of the award.

"One of the most exciting areas of education and research that will be advanced is the study of micro- and nano-biosystems, which is the interface of biology and engineering at very small scales," says Lutchen. "That includes putting biosystems into silicon chip technologies that might be used to design new ways to deliver drugs, for example. Another area is the role computers play in modeling and designing new neurological systems and biomechanical systems, such as how a lung works from the level of a single cell to the branching airway systems.

"A third area of research and education that will be advanced with this grant is using engineering approaches to understand how gene systems and protein systems work to control cell function, which might include new ways to control how gene systems fabricate essential proteins to maintain health, such as when insulin is released into the body."

According to the Whitaker Foundation, BU was chosen to receive one of this year's two Leadership Awards "to enhance its standing as a national leader" in the field of biomedical engineering. "Boston [University] has a long history of outstanding undergraduate education in biomedical engineering," reads a news release on its Web site. "All faculty members teach a course each semester regardless of research funding; and students regard the best researchers in the department as excellent teachers." The University of California at Davis received the second award, of $12 million.

"Boston University is sincerely grateful to the Whitaker Foundation for the significant support and recognition the Leadership Award provides," says BU President Jon Westling. "It will enable the University to continue to educate and train the next generation of biomedical engineers and researchers to better understand the machinery of life, to advance the knowledge and treatment of human disease, and to develop new technologies to improve the health of mankind."

Christopher Reaske, BU's vice president for development and alumni relations, praises the combined efforts of many of the University's academic and administrative units in developing a strong grant application. "It was wonderful to have such a great team effort across the University be rewarded with one of the largest grants in the school's history," he says.

Adds Lutchen, "This was an extraordinary team effort at BU, from the President's Office, the Provost's Office, and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and other staff, which came through with flying colors in preparing documents and coordinating events that were a part of the Whitaker Foundation's site visit, to the students, who at the site visits showed themselves to be the kind of visionary, high-energy types that the Foundation should fund, and the faculty, which was tremendously helpful in providing feedback on the aspects of the proposal related to their research. As a result, BU is getting what it deserves."

Boston University is only the third school to earn a Leadership Award since the Whitaker Foundation was founded in 1975, funded by a bequest from inventor and engineer Uncas A. Whitaker. The foundation focuses on supporting education and research in biomedical engineering; it will close by the end of 2006, having donated its endowment.


31 August 2001
Boston University
Office of University Relations