By Mark Dwortzan
The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has elected four BME faculty members—Professors Jerome Mertz, Barbara Shinn-Cunningham and Sandor Vajda (SE) and Associate Professor Catherine Klapperich (MSE)—to the AIMBE College of Fellows. They join more than 1,500 outstanding biomedical engineers in academia, industry and government who have distinguished themselves through significant contributions in research, industrial practice and/or education.
According to the AIMBE, election to the College of Fellows is reserved for the top two percent of the medical and biological engineering community. The induction of Mertz, Shinn-Cunningham, Vajda and Klapperich on March 24 at the AIMBE’s 2014 Annual Event at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., will bring the number of primary BME faculty elected to this prestigious body to 22, or nearly 60 percent.
“We are extraordinarily proud of the four new Fellows who have been elected this year from our department,” said Professor Sol Eisenberg, who heads the BME Department. “These are well-deserved and prestigious honors that are important to the College and the BME Department as we continue to project excellence.”
AIMBE Fellows have helped to revolutionize medicine, engineering and related fields that enhance and extend the lives of people all over the world, and Boston University’s four new members are no exception.
Mertz, principal investigator of BU’s Biomicroscopy Lab, is developing low-cost, high-resolution, imaging techniques using light to image inside thick tissue in the brain, colon and other organs. A technique he’s developed called HiLo microscopy “numerically rejects” out-of-focus haze that appears alongside what’s in focus in an image of tissue, resulting in a higher-contrast image. Using a normal image and one made noisy by using structured illumination, one can infer what is out of focus in the normal image, and then numerically subtract it out.
Shinn-Cunningham, the founding director of the BU Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology, uses behavioral, neuroimaging and computational methods to understand auditory attention. Her research introduces more precise measures of auditory processing impairments than are in use in today’s audiologists’ offices—measures that could lead to improved hearing diagnostics and hearing aid technology.
Vajda, director of the BU BioMolecular Engineering Research Center, has developed algorithms to predict the structure of complexes formed by protein-protein interactions involved in metabolic control, signal transduction, gene regulation and other critical processes. Incorporated in software used by more than 3,000 research groups worldwide, these algorithms could uncover new targets for drugs that combat cancer and inflammatory diseases.
Klapperich, the director of the NIH Center for Future Technologies in Cancer Care at BU, develops robust, inexpensive, handheld, microfluidic plastic chips and devices that extract nucleic acids from complex human samples—technologies that could enable rapid, point-of-care diagnostics for infectious diseases and cancer without the need for electricity or refrigeration. These minimally instrumented systems could be a major step forward in facilitating molecular diagnostics in developing countries.
The mission of the AIMBE is to advance public understanding of medical and biological engineering, and honor significant achievements in the field. Representing university programs in medical and biological engineering, corporations and professional societies engaged in advancing medical and biological engineering, the organization advocates for public policies that facilitate progress in medical and biological research, and for the development of products and services that benefit the public.