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The Biomedical Engineering Experience at Cornell University Lawrence J. Bonassar

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The Biomedical Engineering Experience at Cornell University Lawrence J. Bonassar Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. What is Bioengineering? Biomedical Engineering?.

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The Biomedical Engineering Experience at Cornell University

Lawrence J. Bonassar

Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

what is bioengineering biomedical engineering
What is Bioengineering? Biomedical Engineering?
  • “Bioengineering integrates physical, chemical, or mathematical sciences and engineering principles for the study of biology, medicine, behavior, or health.”
  • Biomedical Engineering (BME) is the subset of bioengineering that focuses on human health.
cornell tradition in biomedical engineering
Cornell Tradition in Biomedical Engineering
  • Wilson Greatbatch ‘50 EE
    • Russ prize (NAE), implantable cardiac pacemaker
  • David Lederman ‘66 ME
    • First totally implantable artificial heart
  • Robert Langer ‘71 ChE
    • Draper Prize (NAE), drug delivery
  • David Fischell ‘74 AEP
    • Designer of J&J drug eluting vascular stents
history of biomedical engineering at cornell
History of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell
  • 1960s-1990s
    • Discipline-based research of biomedical problems (bioprocess engineering, biophysical optics, biomechanics)
    • Discipline-focused instruction of BS, MS, and PhD students augmented with targeted knowledge of biomedicine
  • 1990s-2004
    • Biomedical Engineering Program
    • Discipline-based faculty implementing integrated curriculum and research for MS/PhD students
  • 2004-
    • Department of Biomedical Engineering
    • BME-based faculty (currently 5, target 15) teaching BS, MEng, MS, and PhD students
    • Synergy between BME-based and discipline-based research efforts
biomedical engineering on the ithaca campus
Biomedical Engineering on the Ithaca Campus


  • Applied and Engineering Physics
  • Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Theoretical and Applied Mechanics

Agriculture and Life Sciences/Engineering

  • Biological and Environmental Engineering

Arts and Sciences

  • Neurobiology and Behavior

Human Ecology

  • Textiles and Apparel

Veterinary College

  • Biomedical Sciences
bme department philosophy
BME Department Philosophy
  • Vision
    • Quantitative understanding of the human body across scales (from atom to Eve, from gene to Gene)
  • Grand challenges
    • Can we replace and regenerate organs and tissues to treat arthritis, heart disease, and spinal cord injuries?
    • How do we design and deliver drugs to treat Alzheimer’s, cancer, and liver failure?
    • Can we develop advanced diagnostic tools to detect vascular disease, infectious agents, and osteoporosis?
target placement for bme students
Target Placement for BME Students
  • Industry
    • Design and build medical devices
    • Develop processes for manufacturing of drugs and devices
    • Develop medical and surgical diagnostic equipment
  • Medicine
    • Clinical practice
    • Work with clinicians to evaluate and develop medical devices
  • Business
    • Start businesses involving medical devices and diagnostics
    • Evaluate medical technologies for investment and development
bme educational vision
BME Educational Vision
  • Undergraduate
    • BME minor
      • Engineering undergraduates
    • No undergraduate major
    • BME program of study
      • Biology undergraduates
  • Graduate
    • M.Eng.
      • First BME professional degree
    • M.S./Ph.D.

B.S. existing engineering field

BME M.Eng.

Professional practice

+ BME minor

M.S./Ph.D. or M.D. program

bme minor
BME Minor
  • BME Core Curriculum (Multi-scale Quantitative Biology)
    • BME 301 (Molecular Biology)
    • BME 302 (Cell Physiology)
    • BME 401 (Tissue and Organ Physiology)
    • BME 402 (Systems and Information Exchange)
  • Minor Requirements: 6 Courses (18 credits)
    • Completion of courses in 4 of 5 areas of study:
      • 1. Introductory Biology
      • 2. Advanced Biology
      • 3. Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering
      • 4. Engineering Analysis of Physiology
      • 5. Biomedical Engineering Applications
collaboration with weill medical college
Collaboration with Weill Medical College
  • Joint offerings for students
    • More than 25 undergraduate and graduate students from Ithaca participated in internships and research at WMC
  • Courses taught electronically between campuses
  • Special topics courses shared: medical ethics, physics for medical imaging, soft tissue biomechanics
  • Mandatory six-week “immersion” term at WMC offered for MS/PhD students in BME
investments in bme infrastructure
Investments in BME Infrastructure
  • Duffield Hall (Fall 2004)
    • Cornell Nanofabrication Facility and Nanobiotechnology Center
  • Life Sciences Technology Building (Groundbreaking Spring 2005, Open 2007)
    • Department of Biomedical Engineering
    • Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology
    • Program in Computational Biology
  • Physics/Chemistry Annex (Open 2008)
    • Biophysics/Imaging Program
nm μm mm m

Multi-Scale BME Research at Cornell

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Instrumentation and Diagnostics
  • Biomedical Mechanics
  • Computational and Systems Biology
  • Drug Delivery, Design, Production and Metabolism
nm μm mm m

Synthesize polymer library

(~10,000 different “mutations”)

Quantify DNA delivery efficiency of

each molecular composition

Derive predictive mathematical algorithms

to help create more efficient polymers

Synthesize polymer libraries predicted

by algorithms

Synthetic Viruses for siRNA Delivery (D Putnam, BME)

Synthetic Evolution: Protocol

Synthetic Evolution: Concept

High mutation rate

Short timeframe (decades)

Bioactivity stressors

Water-soluble polymers

nm μm mm m

low MWCO

(small pores)

high MWCO

(large pores)

20 μm

Single Cell Analysis via Microfluidics (BJ Kirby, MAE)

+ V

- V

- V

Polymer membrane with ~1.2 nm pores


Polymer membrane with ~6 nm pores

- V

+ V

+ V

nm μm mm m

Vascular Gels for Wound Healing (AD Stroock, CBE)

nm μm mm m

Image-Guided Tissue Engineering (LJ Bonassar, BME)

biomedical engineering experience at cornell
Biomedical Engineering Experience at Cornell
  • Transition from decentralized, disciplined-based approach to department model
  • Department serves as physical and intellectual locus for BME education and research
  • Research and teaching emphasize quantitative biology across scales
  • Produce students who are broadly educated for careers in industry, business, medicine, and research