On April 3, 2017 the Department of Biomedical Engineering at WPI organized a lecture in honor of one of it’s the founding faculty, Professor Christopher Sotak. Sotak was the second department head, a position he held from 1999 to 2006 and was also part of the visionary group that established Gateway Park as a research and teaching facility in the configuration that it is present today. In this role as department head, he was responsible for hiring many of the current core faculty of the BME department including Professors Rolle, Gaudette, Pins and Billiar, the current department head. In the process, he established the teaching and research culture of the department as it stands today. In the words of Professor Pins, “The department is what it is today because of his leadership. He was a world-class mentor and leader for the department”. In the spring of 2011, in the peace and comfort of his own home Christopher Sotak passed away from a brain tumor.
Sotak’s lifelong passion was research and mentoring young faculty, so the faculty decided that the best way to honor him would be to establish the Sotak Memorial Fund and commemorate his life with an annual Sotak Lecture in Biomedical Engineering, the first of which happened last spring. The guest speaker for the event was Michael B. Smith, Ph.D., previously the Global Head of the Global Imaging Group at Noavartis Institute of BioMedical Research, who has had more than 30 years of experience in magnetic resonance imaging and pioneer in applying numerical calculation to the study of magnetic fields in man. More importantly, however, Michael Smith was a lifelong professional collaborator and a close friend of Sotak, as well the chair of the BME department external advisory board and “the absolute most fitting person to come”, according to Professor Pins.
The Inaugural Sotak Lecture was more than just a discourse in Biomedical Engineering however. It was a celebration of Sotak’s life and a reunion of his family members, his old lab associates, Ph.D. students that worked with him, and students that have continued to maintain strong ties with the Sotak family. The department will hold a Sotak Lecture each spring where distinguished scientists/engineers will speak on a high impact topic in the field of biomedical engineering in honor and memory of Professor Christopher Sotak. Donations in Sotak’s honor will help financially endow the Sotak Memorial Fund in order to support innovative scholarship and promote research efforts in the field of biomedical engineering.