Department of Biomedical Engineering - Distinguished Lecture Series 2017/18


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BME Distinguished Lecture Event Image
Monday, September 18, 2017 to Monday, April 23, 2018
4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Floor/Room #: 
GP 1002

Distinguished Lecture Series in Biomedical Engineering

The Distinguished Lecture Series in Biomedical Engineering is designed to bring innovative leaders in the biomedical engineering field to the WPI campus to meet our outstanding faculty and students, and visit our interdisciplinary research facilities in the heart of Central Massachusetts.




  • Monday, September 18, 2017
    4:00pm to 5:00pm

    Department of Biomedical Engineering - Distinguished Lecture Series: Biomaterials for Drug Delivery and Cell Transplantation to Treat Nerve Injury by Shelly E. Sakiyama-Elbert, PhD, The University of Texas at Austin

    Biomaterials for Drug Delivery and Cell Transplantation to Treat Nerve Injury

    Dr. Shelly E. Sakiyama-Elbert, PhD
    Professor and Department Chair of Biomedical Engineering
    Fletcher Stuckey Pratt Chair in Engineering
    The University of Texas at Austin


    The development of biomaterials to serve as scaffolds for wound healing and tissue repair is crucial for successful tissue engineering. My research focuses on developing biomaterials that promote cell survival and/or differentiation after transplantation for the treatment of nerve injury.  My lab has developed heparin-binding affinity-based drug delivery systems that sequester growth factors within scaffolds and release growth factors in response to cell in-growth during tissue regeneration.  More recently we have combined these scaffolds with embryonic stem cell-derived neural progenitor cells and shown that the combination of fibrin scaffolds and growth factor delivery can enhance cell survival and differentiation of neural progenitor cells transplanted after spinal cord injury.  Furthermore, we demonstrated this approach enhanced functional recovery after spinal cord injury, as assessed by gridwalk.  In conclusion, fibrin scaffold containing our drug delivery system can serve as a platform for cell transplantation for many applications in regenerative medicine by tailoring the choice of growth factors and the cell type used. 



    Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert received her Bachelor's degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Chemical Engineering and Biology.  She received her Master's and PhD degrees from California Institute of Technology in Chemical Engineering.  She joined the faculty at Washington University in Biomedical Engineering in 2000 as an Asst. Professor, where she advanced to the position of the Joseph and Florence Farrow Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Vice Dean for Research in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.  She joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in August 2016 as Professor & Department Chair of Biomedical Engineering and the Fletcher Stuckey Pratt Chair in Engineering. Her research focuses on developing biomaterials for drug delivery and cell transplantation for the treatment of peripheral nerve and spinal cord injury. She has written 5 book chapters and over 80 publications in peer-reviewed journals. She has US 9 patents and additional 1 patent applications submitted.  Her research is funded by the NINDS & NIAMS (NIH), and previously she received early career awards from the Whitaker Foundation and the WH Coulter Foundation. She was Co-Director of the Center of Regenerative Medicine, as well as a member of the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders and Institute of Materials Science and Engineering at Washington University.  Her honors include the Society for Biomaterials Clemson Award for Basic Research (2017), WU Dean’s Award for Excellence in Advising and Mentoring from School of Engineering and Applied Science (2008), WU Distinguished Faculty Award (2013) and Outstanding Faculty Mentor from the WU Graduate Student Senate (2015). She joined the College of Fellows for the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering in 2011, she was elected a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society in 2013, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2015, and the International College of Fellows in Biomaterials Science and Engineering in 2016.  Her other professional service includes serving as an Associate Editor for Biotechnology and Bioengineering and the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, a member of the Editorial Board of Acta Biomaterialia, and serving as a standing member of the Biomaterials/ Biointerfaces (BMBI) study section for the NIH (2010- 2013).  She served as Chair for the 2013 Gordon Research Conference on Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering and the 2017 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting.  She served as the co-President of the WU Association of Women Faculty from 2012-2014 and served as a WU Provost Faculty Fellow from 2012-2013. 

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  • Thursday, October 26, 2017
    4:00pm to 5:00pm

    Department of Biomedical Engineering - Distinguished Lecture Series: Biomaterials for Nerve Repair Therapies by Christine Schmidt, PhD, University of Florida

    Biomaterials for Nerve Repair Therapies

    Dr Schmidt
    Christine E. Schmidt, PhD
    Department Chair, Professor
    J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering
    The University of Florida

    Damage to spinal cord and peripheral nerve tissue can have a devastating impact on the quality of life for individuals suffering from nerve injuries. Our research is focused on analyzing and designing biomaterials that can interface with neurons and specifically stimulate and guide nerves to regenerate. These biomaterials might be required for facial and hand reconstruction or in trauma cases, and potentially could be used to aid the regeneration of damaged spinal cord.

    Our research has focused on both top down and bottom up approaches to studying nerve regeneration and designing therapies ultimately for use in the clinic. In the top down approach, we have worked with modified nerve tissue to make it off-the-shelf accessible for nerve repair. To do this, our group has developed natural tissue scaffolds termed "acellular tissue grafts" created by chemical processing of normal intact nerve tissue. These grafts are created from natural biological tissue -- human cadaver nerves -- and are chemically processed so that they do not cause an immune response and are therefore not rejected in patients. These grafts have been optimized to maintain the natural intricate architecture of the nerve pathways, and thus, they are ideal for promoting the re-growth of damaged axons across lesions. These engineered, biological nerve grafts are currently used in the clinic for peripheral nerve injuries and are being explored in intact and injectable formulations for spinal cord regeneration.

    In a parallel, bottom up approach, we have been developing biomaterials that have structure and chemical features that mimic nerve tissue. In particular, our research has focused on developing advanced hyaluronan-based scaffolds. Hyaluronic acid (HA; also known as hyaluronan) is a high molecular weight glycosaminoglycan found in all mammals and is a major component of the extracellular matrix in the nervous system. HA has been shown to play a significant role during embryonic development, extracellular matrix homeostasis, and, most importantly for our purposes, in wound healing and tissue regeneration. HA is a versatile biomaterial that has been used in a number of applications including tissue engineering scaffolds, clinical therapies, and drug delivery devices. Our group has devised novel techniques to process this material into forms that can be used in therapeutic applications. For example, we are using magnetic microparticles that can be aligned and then dissolved to leave micron-scale channels inside hydrogels. We have found that these materials facilitate neuron interactions and are thus highly promising for regenerating nerves in vivo.



    Christine E. Schmidt is the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Endowed Chair and Department Chair of the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida. Dr. Schmidt received her B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1988 and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1995 (with D. Lauffenburger). She conducted postdoctoral research at MIT (with R. Langer) as an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow, joining the University of Texas at Austin Chemical Engineering faculty in 1996. She was one of the founding faculty members of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UT Austin, and was at UT Austin until December 2012, when she moved to become the Chair of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida.


    Dr. Schmidt is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), and a Fellow of Biomaterials Science and Engineering (FBSE) of the International Union of Societies of Biomaterials Science and Engineering. She is currently the President-Elect for AIMBE. She has also served previously as the Chair for the College of Fellows for AIMBE, as a member of the Board of Directors for BMES, and as the Conference Chair for the BMES annual meeting in 2010. She served as the inaugural Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Materials Chemistry B from 2012 until 2016. She currently serves as the Neural Engineering Section Editor for Current Opinion in Biomedical Engineering and also currently serves on the Advisory/Editorial Boards for Journal of Materials Chemistry B, Materials Horizons, Acta Biomaterialia, Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, Journal of Biomaterials Science, Polymer Edition, and Nanomedicine. She has received numerous research, teaching, and advising awards, including the American Competitiveness and Innovation (ACI) Fellowship from NSF's Division of Materials Research, the Chairmen's Distinguished Life Sciences Award by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Women's Initiatives Committee's (WIC) Mentorship Excellence Award from AIChE, the Cockrell School of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus Award from The University of Texas at Austin, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and a Whitaker Young Investigator Award.

    Dr. Schmidt's research is focused on developing new biomaterials and biomaterial composites (e.g., natural material scaffolds, processed tissues, electronic polymer composites) that can be used to physically guide and stimulate regenerating nerves and the healing of other tissues. Dr. Schmidt is active in commercialization efforts. Her research on development of decellularized nerve tissue has been licensed and utilized in AxoGen Inc.’s Avance® nerve graft, which has impacted many thousands of patients who suffer from peripheral nerve injuries. Her research is also the foundation for the start-up company, Alafair Biosciences, in Austin Texas that focuses on internal wound care management. Dr. Schmidt has additional patents licensed to companies such as Smith and Nephew and Siluria Technologies, Inc., and many additional invention disclosures and pending patents.

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  • Monday, December 11, 2017
    4:00pm to 5:00pm

    Department of Biomedical Engineering - Distinguished Lecture Series: Restoring movement and user control of the paralyzed arm by Robert Kirsch, PhD, Case Western Reserve University

    Lecture by Robert Kirsch, PhD, Case Western Reserve University, on using BCI-commanded FES to restore movement and user control of the paralyzed arm.

    Abstract: We have previously developed an implanted neuroprosthesis that uses functional electrical stimulation (FES) to activate the paralyzed muscles of the shoulder, arm, and hand in a coordinated manner to restore arm and hand function, and successfully deployed this system in three people with severe paralysis. We have more recently developed and deployed a FES system for the arm and hand that is controlled by the used via an intracortical brain-computer interface (BCI) to allow a user to direct the actions of their FES-restored arm and hand movements in an effective and intuitive manner.  This presentation will describe the unique control requirements for a FES-controlled arm, the development of a 192-electrode intracortical BCI to provide this control, the deployment of the combined BCI-controlled FES system in one participant, and the lessons learned to date.

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  • Monday, March 26, 2018
    4:00pm to 5:00pm

    Department of Biomedical Engineering - Distinguished Lecture Series: "Translational tissue engineering for skeletal muscle repair and regeneration" by George J. Christ, PhD, University of Virginia
    George J. Christ, PhD
    University of Virginia
    Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopaedic Surgery
    Mary Muilenberg Stamp Professor of Orthopaedic Research
    Director of Basic and Translational Research in Orthopaedic Surgery
    Co-Director Center for Advanced Biomanufacturing


    Dr. Christ is an internationally recognized expert in muscle physiology. He is the Past Chairman of the Division of Systems and Integrative Pharmacology of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), and Past President of the North Carolina Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (NCTERM) group. He was inducted into AIMBE in 2017. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Division for Integrative Systems, Translational and Clinical Pharmacology of ASPET. He is also on the Editorial Board of five journals and is an ad-hoc reviewer for 2 dozen others. Dr. Christ has authored more than 220 scientific publications and is co-editor of a book on integrative smooth muscle physiology and another on regenerative pharmacology. Dr. Christ has served on both national and international committees related to his expertise in muscle physiology, and on NIH study sections in the NIDDK, NICHD, NCRR, NAIAD, and NHLBI. He has chaired working groups for both the NIH and the World Health Organization. Dr. Christ is a co-inventor on more than 26 patents (national and international) that are either issued or pending, related to gene therapy for the treatment of human smooth muscle disorders and tissue engineering technologies. Dr. Christ has also been the driving scientific force behind the preclinical studies and IND approvals supporting three Phase I clinical trials for gene therapy for benign human smooth muscle disorders. This technology has been evaluated in 55 patients in the US and 21 overseas. He is also spearheading the multi-institutional development of a tissue engineered muscle repair (

    TEMR) technology platform for the treatment of Wounded Warriors. An IND submission for a 5 patient first-in-man pilot study is anticipated in 2018 to further develop this technology platform for treatment of cleft lip. That study is funded by DOD and will be conducted at UT-Houston. Another 5 patient pilot study has also been funded by DOD to evaluate a proprietary hydrogel for the treatment of lower extremity volumetric muscle loss injuries to the tibialis anterior muscle at UVA. An IDE application for that indication is in progress in collaboration with Keranetics LLC (W-S, NC). 

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  • Monday, April 02, 2018
    4:00pm to 5:00pm

    BME - Distinguished Lecture Series: "Engineered Human Heart Slices: Progress and Challenges" by Leslie Tung, PhD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

    Engineered Human Heart Slices: Progress and Challenges

    Research in the Cardiac Bioelectric Systems Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is focused on the development of engineered human heart slices (hEHS). These tissues consist of cardiomyocytes that are derived from human pluripotent stem cells and are grown on thin slices of decellularized cardiac extracellular matrix. This talk will review the evolution of hEHS, their electrophysiological properties, and the challenges in making them suitable for regenerative medicine, pharmacological testing, and disease modeling.

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  • Wednesday, April 04, 2018
    5:00pm to 6:00pm

    Sotak Lecture in BME: "The Convergence of Education and Innovation" by Curtis, R. Carlson, PhD

      Lecture 5 – 6pM / Reception 6 - 8pm

           Advanced registration is requested 

    The Convergence of Education and Innovation

    How the discipline of value creation can transform education, R&D, and commercialization


    Curtis R. Carlson, PhD

    Founder and CEO: Practice of Innovation

    President and CEO, SRI International 1998-2014


    The Department of Biomedical Engineering at WPI cordially invites colleagues, alumni, students, families and friends to the Christopher Sotak Lecture in Biomedical Engineering. This annual event perpetuates Chris’s passionate commitment to supporting and promoting innovative scholarship and research efforts in the field of bioengineering.



    Prof. Christopher Sotak
    1951 - 2011

    Our lecture will be given by Curtis R. Carlson, PhD.  Carlson is a pioneer in the development and use of innovation best practices and an advocate for innovation, education, and economic development. He is widely known for the development of high-definition TV and SIRI for the iPhone4, but he is also a trusted and sought-after adviser, sharing best practices with government leaders and organizations around the world. Carlson is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and an adviser to the U.S. National Science Foundation. He began two teams that received Emmy Awards for their improvements to television quality. Carlson has also authored two books on innovation.

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