Biomedical Engineering

Faculty

K. H. Chon, Professor and Department Head; Ph.D., University of Southern California; medical instrumentation for noninvasive and wireless physiological monitoring, identification and modeling of physiological systems, biomedical signal processing with applications to diabetic autonomic neuropathy, atrial fibrillation detection, blood volume loss detection, and detection of decompression sickness.

K. L. Billiar, Associate Professor; Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania; Biomechanics of soft tissues and biomaterials, wound healing, tissue growth and development; functional tissue engineering, regenerative medicine.

G. R. Gaudette, Assistant Professor; Ph.D., SUNY Stony Brook; Cardiac biomechanics, myocardial regeneration, biomaterial scaffolds, tissue engineering, stem cell applications, optical imaging techniques.

D. Granquist-Fraser, Ph.D., Assistant Professor; Ph.D., Boston University; Sensors and Signal Processing for Biomedical Applications and Biometry; Biomorphic Engineering for Autonomous Vehicle Visual Intelligence.

A. Jain, Assistant Professor; Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology; Biomaterials, cellular and tissue engineering, drug delivery, optical imaging, neural stem cells, regeneration and repair of the central nervous system and glioblastomas.

Y. Mendelson, Associate Professor, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University; Biomedical sensors for invasive and noninvasive physiological monitoring, pulse oximeters, microcomputer-based medical instrumentation, signal processing, wearable wireless biomedical sensors, application of optics to biomedicine, telemedicine.

R. L. Page, Assistant Professor; Ph.D., Virginia Tech; molecular characterization and manipulation of primary human cells for applications in regenerative medicine, development of engineered in vitro culture and therapeutic cell/tissue construct delivery systems and analysis using in vivo model systems, primary cell dedifferentiation and transdifferentiation.

G. D. Pins, Associate Professor; Ph.D., Rutgers University; Cell and tissue engineering, biomaterials, bioMEMS, scaffolds for soft tissue repair, cell-material interactions, wound healing, cell culture technologies.

M. W. Rolle, Assistant Professor, Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle; Cardio-vascular tissue engineering, bioreactor design, cell-based tissue repair, cell and molecular engineering, cell-derived extracellular matrix scaffolds, delivery and control of extracellular matrix genes.

Research Interests

Biomaterials/Tissue Engineering

Prof. Pins

Research focuses on understanding the interactions between cells and precisely bioengineered scaffolds that modulate cellular functions such as adhesion, migration, proliferation, differentiation and extracellular matrix remodeling. Understanding cell-matrix interactions that regulate wound healing and tissue remodeling will be used to improve the design of tissue-engineered analogs for the repair of soft and hard tissue injuries. Research areas include: (1) studies investigating the roles of microfabricated scaffolds on keratinocyte function for tissue engineering of skin, (2) development of tissue scaffolds that mimic the microstructural organization and mechanical responsiveness of native tissues, and (3) development of microfabricated cell culture systems to understand how extracellular matrix molecules regulate epithelial cell growth and differentiation.

Biomedical Instrumentation, Imaging & Interface

Prof. Granquist-Fraser

Research examines the complementary nature of instrumentation designed to study biological systems and the use of biological solutions to sensing problems to inform and innovate in instrumentation design. These applied principles of biomorphic design are implemented both in hardware creation and algorithmically. Research areas include: 1) Multi-aperture imaging systems that utilize novel super-resolution algorithms for macroscopic and microscopic imaging tasks, 2) Using atomic magnetometry to non-invasively detect, acquire, analyze and leverage biological signals, 3) Analysis of retinal ganglion cell signal processing for use in biomorphic sensor design.

Biomedical Sensors and Bioinstrumentation

Prof. Mendelson

The development of integrated biomedical sensors and electronic instrumentation for invasive and noninvasive blood monitoring. Research areas include:

  • Design and in vivo evaluation of reflective pulse oximeter sensors.
  • Microcomputer-based medical instrumentation
  • Fiberoptic sensors for medical instrumentation
  • Application of optics to biomedicine
  • Signal processing
  • Telesensing
  • Wearable physiological monitoring

Biomedical Signal Processing, Instrumentation and Physiological System Modeling

Prof. Chon

Research involves medical instrumentation, biosignal processing, modeling, simulation and development of novel signal processing algorithms to understand dynamic processes and extract distinct features of physiological systems. Research areas include:

  • Evaluation of the effects of oxygen toxicity and hyperbaric environments on the autonomic nervous system
  • Real-time detection of atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter and atrial tachycardia from surface ECG
  • Spatio-temporal analysis of renal autoregulation
  • Noninvasive assessment of diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (DCAN) from surface ECG or pulse oximeter
  • Vital sign monitoring from optical recordings with a mobile phone

in vitro Propogation of Adult Tissue Specific Stem Cells

Prof. Page

Research is focused on understanding the factors that affect in vitro propagation of adult tissue specific stem cells particularly as they relate to cell types involved in skeletal muscle regeneration. Projects focus on understating the effect of environmental influences such as ambient oxygen concentration, cell culture substrate and growth factor signaling that direct and maintain human adult stem cell phenotype and function. We are also developing cell delivery vehicles involving natural biopolymers to increase cell survival, engraftment and functional skeletal muscle tissue regeneration for treatment of volumetric muscle loss in vivo.

Neural Tissue Engineering/ Biomaterials

Prof. Jain

Research is focused on therapeutic strategies to repair and regenerate the nervous systems after physical injuries, as well as understand the mechanism of tumor cell migration leading to invasion and metastasis. Research areas include: 1) imaging and assessing extent of traumatic brain injury and then apply therapeutic strategies, 2) transplantation of neural stem cells to promote axonal regeneration after spinal cord injury, and 3) using biomaterial scaffolds to mimic brain tumors to understand the mechanism of tumor cell migration.

Soft Tissue Biomechanics/Tissue Engineering

Prof. Billiar

Research focused on understanding the growth and development of connective tissues and on the influence of mechanical stimulation on cells in native and engineered three-dimensional constructs. Research areas include: (1) micromechanical characterization of tissues, (2) constitu tive modeling, (3) creation of bioartificial tissues in vitro, and (4) the effects of mechanical stimulation on the functional properties of cells and tissues.

Cardiac Tissue Engineering & Regeneration

Prof. Gaudette

Research is focused on revascularizing and regenerating functional myocardial tissue to replace dysfunctional heart tissue. Projects focus on understanding the interaction of the local mechanical and electrical environment with the mechanisms of cardiac regeneration include myocyte proliferation and adult stem cell differentiation. Research areas include (1) development of scaffolds to induce myocardial regeneration, (2) differentiation of progenitor cells into cardiac cells, (3) determination of cues in the microenvironment that affect myocardial regeneration.

Tissue Engineering & Matrix Scaffolds

Prof. Rolle

Research focuses on the role of extracellular matrix proteins on tissue mechanical and functional properties in the context of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Research interests include (1) genetic engineering strategies to control cell-mediated matrix synthesis and assembly, (2) cell-based approaches to generating tissue engineered blood vessels, (3) evaluating the contribution of matrix molecules to the mechanical and functional properties of scaffolds, and tissues, (4) developing matrix gene delivery systems to promote tissue regeneration.

Programs of Study

The goal of the biomedical engineering (BME) graduate programs is to apply engineering principles and technology as solutions to significant biomedical problems. Students trained in these programs have found rewarding careers in major medical and biomedical research centers, academia, the medical care industry and entrepreneurial enterprises.

Master’s Degree Programs

There are two master’s degree options in biomedical engineering: the Master of Science (M.S.) in Biomedical Engineering, and the Master of Engineering (M.E.) in Biomedical Engineering. While the expected levels of student academic performance are the same for both options, they are oriented toward different career goals. The master of science option in biomedical engineering is oriented toward the student who wants to focus on a particular facet of biomedical engineering practice or research. The master of science can serve as a terminal degree for students interested in an indepth specialization.

Doctoral Programs

The degree of doctor of philosophy in Biomedical Engineering is conferred on candidates in recognition of high attainments and the ability to carry on original independent research. Graduates of the program will be prepared to affiliate with academic institutions and with the growing medical device and biotechnology industries which have become major economic clusters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Combined B.S./Master’s Degree Program

This program affords an opportunity for outstanding WPI undergraduate students to earn both a B.S. degree and a master’s degree in biomedical engineering concurrently, and in less time than would typically be required to earn each degree separately. The principal advantage of this program is that it allows for certain courses to be counted towards both degree requirements, thereby reducing total class time. With careful planning and motivation, the Combined Program typically allows a student to complete requirements for both degrees with only one additional year of full-time study (five years total). However, because a student must still satisfy all graduate degree requirements, the actual time spent in the program may be longer than five years. There are two degree options for students in the Combined Program: a thesis- based master of science (B.S./M.S.) option and a non-thesis master of engineering (B.S./M.E.) option. The Combined B.S./Master’s Degree Program in BME adheres to WPI’s general requirements for the Master of Science and Master of Engineeering.

Admission Requirements

Biomedical engineering embraces the application of engineering to the study of medicine and biology. While the scope of biomedical engineering is broad, applicants are expected to have an undergraduate degree or a strong background in engineering and to achieve basic and advanced knowledge in engineering, life sciences, and biomedical engineering. Special programs are available for outstanding graduates lacking the necessary prerequisites or with a background in the physical or life sciences. These special programs typically involve an individualized plan of coursework at the advanced undergraduate level, with formal admittance to the program following the successful completion (with grades of B or higher) of this coursework.

Degree Requirements

For the M.S.

A minimum of 30 credit hours is required for the master of science degree, of which at least 6 credit hours must be a thesis. Course requirements include 6 credits of life science, 6 credits of biomedical engineering, 6 credits of advanced engineering math, (including 3 credits of statistics), and 6 credits of electives (any WPI graduate-level engineering, physics, math, biomedical engineering, or equivalent course, subject to approval of the department head or the student’s Academic Advisor). Students are required to pass BME 591 Graduate Seminar twice. 

For the M.E.

A minimum of 33 credit hours is required for the master of engineering degree. Course requirements include 6 credits of life science, 12 credits of biomedical engineering, 6 credits of advanced engineering math, (including 3 credits of statistics), and 9 credits of electives (any WPI graduate-level engineering, physics, math, biomedical engineering, or equivalent course, subject to approval of the department head or the student’s Academic Advisor). Students may substitute 3 to 6 credits of directed research for 3 credits of biomedical engineering and/or 3 credits of electives. Students are required to pass BME 591 Graduate Seminar twice. 

For the Ph.D.

The Ph.D. program has no formal course requirements. However, because research in the field of biomedical engineering requires a solid working knowledge of a broad range of subjects in the life sciences, engineering and mathematics, course credits must be distributed across the following categories with the noted minimums:

  • Biomedical Engineering (12 credits)
  • Life Sciences (9 credits)
  • Advanced Engineering Mathematics (3 credits)
  • Statistics (3 credits)
  • Laboratory Rotations (6 credits)
  • Responsible Conduct of Science (1 credit)
  • Advanced Courses and Electives (12 credits)
  • Dissertation Research (30 credits)

The student’s Academic Advisory Committee may require additional coursework to address specific deficiencies in the student’s background. Students are required to pass BME 591 Graduate Seminar four times.

No later than the start of the third year after formal admittance to the Ph.D. program, students are required to pass a Ph.D. qualifying examination. This examination is a defense of an original research proposal, made before a committee representative of the area of specialization. The examination is used to evaluate the ability of the student to pose meaningful engineering and scientific questions, to propose experimental methods for answering those questions, and to interpret the validity and significance of probable outcomes of these experiments. It is also used to test a student’s comprehension and understanding of their formal coursework in life sciences, biomedical engineering and mathematics. Admission to candidacy is officially conferred upon students who have completed their course credit requirements, exclusive of dissertation research credit, and passed the Ph.D. qualifying examination.

Students in the Ph.D. program are required to participate in at least two different laboratory rotations during their first two years in the program. Laboratory rotations— short periods of research experience under the direction of program faculty members—are intended to familiarize students with concepts and techniques in several different engineering and scientific fields. They allow faculty members to observe and evaluate the research aptitudes of students and permit students to evaluate the types of projects that might be developed into dissertation projects. Upon completion of each rotation, the student presents a seminar and written report on the research accomplished. Each rotation is a 3- or 4-credit course and lasts a minimum of eight weeks if the student participates full time in the laboratory, or up to a full semester if the student takes courses at the same time.

All candidates for the Ph.D. degree must demonstrate teaching skills by preparing, presenting and evaluating a teaching exercise. This experience may involve a research seminar, lecture, demonstration or conference in the context of a medical school basic science course. Formal parts of the presentation may be videotaped as appropriate. The presentation and associated materials are critiqued and evaluated by program faculty members. The student’s Academic Advisory Committee is responsible for evaluating the teaching exercise based on criteria previously defined. The teaching requirement can be fulfilled at any time, and there is no limit to the number of attempts a student may make to fulfill this requirement. It must, however, be completed successfully before the dissertation defense can be held.

The Ph.D. program requires a full-time effort for a minimum of three years and does not require a foreign language examination.

Research Laboratories and Facilities

Research is primarily conducted in a new four-story, 124,600-square-foot Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center (LSBC) located at Gateway Park. This space is largely dedicated to research laboratories that focus on non-invasive biomedical instrumentation design, signal processing, tissue biomechanics, biomaterials synthesis and characterization, myocardial regeneration, cell and molecular engineering, regenerative biosciences and tissue engineering. The LSBC research facility also maintains a modern core equipment facility that includes cell culture, histology, imaging and mechanical testing suites to support cellular, molecular, and tissue engineering research activities.

A brief description of each BME research laboratories is given below.

Biomedical Sensors and Bioinstrumentation  

The development of integrated biomedical sensors for invasive and noninvasive physiological monitoring. Design and in-vivo evaluation of reflective pulse oximeter sensors, microcomputer-based biomedical instrumentation, digital signal processing, wearable wireless biomedical sensors, application of optics to biomedicine, telemedicine.

Soft Tissue Biomechanics/Tissue Engineering    

Research focused on understanding the growth and development of connective tissues and on the influence of mechanical stimulation on cells in native and engineered three-dimensional constructs. Research areas include: (1) micromechanical characterization of tissues, (2) constitutive modeling, (3) creation of bioartificial tissues in vitro, and (4) the effects of mechanical stimulation on the functional properties of cells and tissues.

Biomaterials/Tissue Engineering  

Research focuses on understanding the interactions between cells and precisely bioengineered scaffolds that modulate cellular functions such as adhesion, migration, proliferation, differentiation and extracellular matrix remodeling. Understanding cell-matrix interactions that regulate wound healing and tissue remodeling will be used to improve the design of tissue-engineered analogs for the repair of soft and hard tissue injuries. Research areas include: (1) studies investigating the roles of microfabricated scaffolds on keratinocyte function for tissue engineering of skin; (2) development of tissue scaffolds that mimic the microstructural organization and mechanical responsiveness of native tissues; and (3) development of microfabricated cell culture systems to understand how extracellular matrix molecules regulate epithelial cell growth and differentiation.

Cardiovascular Regeneration

Research projects focus on regenerating functional cardiac muscle tissue. Research areas include: (1) stimulating adult cardiac myocytes, a cell previously considered to be post-mitotic, to enter the cell cycle; (2) differentiating adult stem cells into cardiac myocytes; and (3) scaffold based cardiac regeneration. The efficacy of these technologies are tested with in vitro and in vivo models using molecular and cellular tools and the functionality is assessed using high spatial resolution mechanical and electrical method.

Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering and Extracellular Matrix Biology 

The extracellular matrix (ECM) produced by cells dictates tissue architecture and presents biochemical signals that direct cell proliferation, differentiation and migration. Generating an appropriate ECM is critical for proper physiological and mechanical performance of engineered tissues. Research projects include: (1) design and testing of genetic and biochemical engineering strategies to stimulate cellular ECM synthesis and organization, (2) cell-based approaches to generate tissue engineered blood vessels (TEBV), (3) evaluation of ECM production and its effect on TEBV mechanical properties, and (4) ECM gene delivery approaches for in situ tissue regeneration.

 
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