Cornell Engineering is combining the principles of biology with the tools of engineering to create new methods of mimicking and manipulating biological systems, both for medical and non-medical purposes. Researchers working in this area are engineering food, pharmaceuticals, energy, electronics and innovative new materials, including organoids, vaccines, biofuels, drug delivery systems such as nanoparticles to target cancer cells, body-on-a-chip microfluidic devices, and injectable gels made of living cells for 3D printing.
Expertise: Ilana Brito uses systems biology approaches to study the transmission of bacterial and genetic components of the human microbiome.
Christopher J. Hernandez
Expertise: Dr. Hernandez's research in biomechanics examines the musculoskeletal system and microscopic organisms. Current projects include understanding how the microbiome influences bone, arthritis and infection of total joint replacements and how bacteria are influenced by mechanical stress and strain.
Expertise: Dr. Fischbach-Teschl's lab applies biomedical engineering strategies to study cancer with the ultimate goal of identifying new mechanisms that may ultimately help to prevent and treat this disease.
Study could inform debate over arthritis treatment regulation
Poets and songwriters have called the heart a wheel, a fist, a soldier, a flower, a compass, a drum, a Wiffle Ball, a lonely hunter and a drunken idiot, to name just a few of the metaphorical comparisons that organ has been subjected to over the years. With apologies to writers everywhere, the heart is none of these things. It certainly may share some qualities with each of the listed items, (though one would be hard-pressed to explain how the heart is like a Wiffle Ball), but, in the end, the heart is one thing: It is a pump.
This is a functional truth. Millions of years of evolution have crafted a very efficient biological pump that, in humans, will beat approximately two billion times in the average lifespan. As unromantic as it may sound, acknowledging that the heart is a pump opens up all sorts of possibilities for treating the number one cause of death in the United States—heart disease. Cornell electrical engineer Wilson Greatbatch ’50 took this functional approach to the heart and it led him to invent the first implantable cardiac pacemaker in 1960. His invention continues to save millions of lives each year.
This focus on the mechanical and electrical nature of the heart is emblematic of the approach to biology and biological systems you will find throughout the many schools and departments of Cornell Engineering. The most obvious connection between engineering and biology is seen in Cornell’s Nancy E. and Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering. But the connection really just begins there. Cornell Engineering offers 14 undergraduate engineering majors across a wide array of fields. And in each of the schools and departments there are tenured faculty whose work overlaps with that of biologists in some way. (Click on headline to read the full story.)