The diverse research being conducted at WPI’s state-of-the-art facilities reflects the multiple scientific disciplines within the field of biomedical engineering. On any given day the next medical breakthrough may be just around the corner.

Our research operation is strategically sized and offers an open lab environment. The atmosphere is more personal and collaborative; it facilitates close interaction between students and faculty, no matter what their focus of study or research.

Student & Faculty Interaction

One-on-one interaction with faculty is the norm in WPI’s collaborative and innovative lab environments.

Biomedical Engineering Offers Many Paths

WPI specializes in three areas of biomedical research: Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering, Biomechanics and Mechanobiology, and Bioinstrumentation and Signal Processing. Students choose the path that offers the best fit for their career goals and their interests.

Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering

Several BME researchers at WPI focus on creating biomaterials and engineered tissues. Their research includes using biomaterials to enhance tissue regeneration, deliver therapeutic cells to areas of injury or disease, and treat brain cancer, among other groundbreaking discoveries.

Biomaterials and tissue engineering research areas:

 

  • Porous biomaterials scaffolds and hydrogels for tissue regeneration applications (Coburn)
  • In vitro, three dimensional tumor models (Coburn)
  • Bioreactor development for long-term culture models with real-time monitoring (Coburn)
  • Implantable drug delivery vehicles (e.g. scaffolds, hydrogels, particles) for oncology therapeutics (Coburn)
  • Biopolymer microthreads for soft tissue regeneration, including myocardium (Gaudette), skeletal muscle (Page), and tendon (Pins)
  • Cell/tissue self-assembly for blood vessel development and vascular disease modeling (Rolle, Billiar)
  • Microfabricated topography for models of skin structure and function (Pins)
  • Culture systems for autologous cell therapy and skeletal muscle regeneration (Page)
  • Mesenchymal stem cell therapy for cardiac regeneration (Gaudette)
  • Bioreactor development for mechanical stimulation of engineered tissues (Rolle, Billiar, Page)

Biomechanics and Mechanobiology

Biomechanics research at WPI focuses on measuring the effects of mechanical forces on skeletal and soft tissue remodeling (bone, heart valve, and connective tissue). Mechanobiology research aims to understand the mechanical forces through which cells act on and respond to their environment during normal and diseased tissue (heart valve disease, cancer).

Biomechanics and mechanobiology research areas:

  • Effects of exercise and external forces on bone and joint structure, health, and disease (Troy)
  • Soft tissue mechanics (biaxial testing, rheometry, and constitutive modeling of tissues including heart valves, blood vessels, skin, myocardium, and collagen-based biomaterials) (Billiar)
  • Mechanobiology of cancer cell migration (Lee)
  • Patient-specific computational models and medical image analysis of bone (Troy)
  • Functional analysis of cardiac muscle repair (Gaudette)
  • Functional analysis of tissue-engineered vascular grafts (Billiar, Gaudette, Rolle)
  • Mechanobiology of vascular and connective tissue cells (role of stiffness and multiaxial stretch) (Billiar, Pins, Rolle)
  • Noninvasive measurement of bone strength in human subjects (Troy)
  • Mechanics of sternal fixation (Billiar)
  • Quantitative measurement and manipulation of cellular mechanobiology (Lee)

Bioinstrumenation and Signal Processing

Work being done at WPI in the field of bioinstrumentation focuses on pulse oximeter sensors, high throughput microfabricated systems to investigate neural circuits, and quantitative imaging of living cells, among other cutting-edge technologies.

Bioinstrumentation and signal processing research areas:

  • Design and in vivo evaluation of reflective pulse oximeter sensors (Mendelson)
  • Microfabricated technologies for whole organism screens for therapeutic drugs and genetic modulators of neural disease (Albrecht)
  • High-throughput quantitative imaging of molecular and mechanical events in living cells (Lee)
  • Quantitative imaging of disease-related changes to bone structure (Troy)
  • Mobile and telemetry medical devices/sensors (Mendelson)
  • Optical sensors for medical instrumentation (Mendelson)
  • Investigation of neural circuit function and dynamics (Albrecht)
  • Computational modeling and bioinformatics to analyze neural data (Albrecht)
  • Biomedical signal processing (Mendelson)
  • Data mining of large-scale time series of molecular/mechanical events in living cells (Lee)

Research Laboratories and Facilities

Biomedical Engineering research is primarily conducted in the 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 laboratory is given below.

  • Biomedical Sensors and Bioinstrumentation: This lab investigates 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.
  • 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.
  • Cardiovascular Regeneration: Research projects focus on regenerating functional cardiac muscle tissue. The efficacy of these technologies is 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.

Taking on Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America. It was reported by the American Heart Association in 2013 that over 7 million Americans survived a heart attack resulting in 5 million Americans suffering from heart failure. After a heart attack, the heart will repair itself by replacing healthy contractile tissue with stiff scar tissue that inhibits the pumping function of the heart. As there are limited options to treat heart failure, WPI researchers have examined cell based therapies to restore function lost during a heart attack and are having much success. 

Facts and Figures

23

current faculty members have won the NSF Career Award

National Science Foundation (2015)
13:1

student to faculty ratio 

Top 10

Best colleges for women in stem fields

Best Colleges Online (2016)
#19

Top internship opportunities 

The Princeton Review (2016)