Wednesday, 7 of October of 2015

Category » Biomedical Engineering

Tufts Names 2015 Summer Scholars

Tufts Summer Scholars program announced the 2015 Summer Scholars.

The Tufts Summer Scholars Program is funded by the Office of the Provost and by generous gifts from: Mr. Andrew Bendetson in honor of Laura and Martin Bendetson; Steven J. Eliopoulos A89 and Joyce J. Eliopoulos; Mr. George and Ms. Susan Kokulis; Mr. John L. Kokulis; Ms. Ashleigh Nelson; and the Board of Trustees in honor of former Chairman, Mr. Nathan Gantcher.

The Program is also supported by the Schwartz-Paddock Family Fellowships in the Visual and Performing Arts, the Helen and Werner Lob Student Research Fund in Economics, the Hopkins Summer Scholar Fund, and the Christopher Columbus Discovery Summer Scholarships for research spanning disciplinary boundaries. Summer Scholars is administered by the Office of Undergraduate Education.

Congratulations to all our engineering summer scholars!

Biomedical Engineering

Elim Na will work with Professor David Kaplan on his project on the “Evaluation of Silk Fibroin Stabilization of Doxorubicin and Vincristine.”

Chemical and Biological Engineering

Sylvia Lustig will work with Professor Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos on her project on the “The Selectivity and Efficiency of Various Single Atom Metal Alloys as Catalysts for the Dehydrogenation of Methanol.”

Mechanical Engineering

Kevin Ligonde will work with Associate Professor Robert White on a project to “Capacitive Micromachined Ultrasound Transducers for Mars Anemometry.”

Computer Science

Avita Sharma will work with Professor Soha Hassoun on a project on “Who is Doing What? Functional Matching between Metabolites and Genomics for Bacterial Pathways.”

Caleb Helbling will work with Professor Kathleen Fisher on a project to “Resequence: A Global Fine Grained Software Repository.”

Collins Sirmah will work with Assistant Professor Ben Shapiro on his project to “Peer Based Learning in Distributed and Parallel Computing Among High School Students.”

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Pengxiang (Jerry) Hu will work with Associate Professor Sameer Sonkusale on a project to “Study and Build Instrumentation for Saliva Diagnostics.” Peter Wu will work with Professor Jeffrey Hopwood on his project to “Improve Vintage Synthesizers for Increased Temperature Based Pitch Stability.”

Engineering Physics

Matthew Eakle will work with Professor Peggy Cebe on a project to “Understanding the Interactions Between Liquid Crystals and Carbon Nanotubes.”


Xu Wins NSF Award to Find New Ways to Deliver Drugs Directly into Cells


Qiaobing Xu

Qiaobing Xu

Qiaobing Xu, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical engineering in Tufts University School of Engineering, has received a $498,899 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund research into a new way to deliver protein-based cancer-fighting drugs and other therapeutics into cells.

Such an approach would enable drugs to destroy cancerous growth more effectively than existing treatments and target other diseases traditionally considered “undruggable.”

Chemotherapy drugs attack all actively dividing cells—healthy and diseased alike—often causing significant side effects in the patients. New protein-based therapy, such as cytokines, monoclonal antibodies and growth factors, allow for highly targeted treatment. The problem is that, unlike compounds used in chemotherapy, proteins are too large to easily cross the cell membrane to penetrate into the cell cytoplasm. Instead, most of these protein therapies work by targeting specific receptors on the outside surface of diseased cells.

The NSF program supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.

Xu is developing a method way to transport the protein inside the cell safely and efficiently by binding it with a nanoparticle that can cross the cell membrane and, when safely inside, release the protein. In his approach, the protein is first chemically altered to give it a negative charge and then bound to a positively charged nanoparticle composed of lipids. The lipids then pass through the cell membrane, which is naturally negatively charged.

– See more at:

BME Spring Newsletter Available

David Kaplan

Stern Family Professor and BME Chair David Kaplan

Dear Alumni and Friends,

The department moves forward, led as always by outstanding students, staff and faculty. The growth and popularity of our program continues to provide many opportunities, perhaps most notably: the class of 2018 will be the first where there is no enrollment cap in the BSBME program. Students interested in majoring in BME will now submit a declaration of major form, like all other engineering students. Additionally, course offerings in entrepreneurship and product development are broadening the student experience. These courses link engineering fundamentals, design, and research with industrial professionals’ experiences for better understanding of how technologies intersect with business, and regulatory needs, and ultimately, how they impact patients. Such exposure encourages broader thinking and, balanced by the fundamentals, empowers students to make informed career decisions.

We are proud our students continue to receive awards in support of their research:  Kyle Alberti and Kelly Sullivan, fellowships from the American Heart Association; Meghan McGill, National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program Fellowship; Erica Palma, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Kirschstein-NRSA Predoctoral Fellowship; Sarah Lightfoot-Vidal, Fulbright Fellowship. Postdoctoral Scholar Kyle Quinn was awarded an NIH Pathway to Independence Award.

Among the faculty, Assistant Professor Qiaobing Xu was the recipient of the prestigious CAREER Award from the NSF for his work on an effective approach to transport protein-based drugs inside the cell, enabling a generation of new therapies for a variety of diseases. I am also happy to announce that Professor Fiorenzo Omenetto has been appointed the Associate Dean for Research in the School of Engineering, providing strategic advice to the dean on all matters related to research and technology development. And, congratulations to Associate Professor Irene Georgakoudi; she was elected to the AIMBE’s College of Fellows.

Looking towards the future, we aim to nurture accessible, cohesive, and exciting opportunities for our students to gain a global view on entrepreneurship and biomedical engineering. Building upon networks available through the Tufts European Center in Talloires, France and Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, we can better integrate international views on medical devices, regulation, business, and partnerships. We ask our alumni to consider working with the department to support our efforts, making an impact for students and enhancing the world around us. Your thoughts are welcome; we value your input, updates, and engagement in department activities.


Download the BME Spring 2015 newsletter.

Silk-Based Surgical Implants an Orthopedic Innovation

silkscrewThe latest silk-inspired innovation from the lab of biomedical engineering Professor David Kaplan is receiving media attention: silk-protein surgical screws that could transform the way we heal broken bones. Researchers from Kaplan’s lab and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center published their findings in the journal Nature Communications this March.

Surgical screws and plates, or “fixation devices” are used to repair fractured bones and are often made of metal alloys or synthetic polymers. However, metal implants place undue stress on the bone, are prone to infection, and must be surgically removed from the body once a fracture has healed. Synthetic screws are designed to be absorbed by the body, but they can be difficult to set and may cause inflammation.

The research team manufactured plates and screws from the silk protein produced by the Bombyx mori (B. mori) silkworm cocoons. A silk solution was cured into molds that produced easily machinable plates and screws. The silk screws are self-tapping, an improvement from conventional resorbable screws that require careful drilling of a screw hole before insertion of the hardware. In vivo tests showed the screws remain fixed in the bone at four and eight weeks with notable improvements in the healing and resorbtion process.

Professor Kaplan told BBC News: “The future is very exciting. We envision a whole set of orthopaedic devices for repair based on this – from plates and screws to almost any kind of device you can think of where you don’t want hardware left in the body.”

Some added benefits to the silk technology over metal fixation devices include decreased sensitivity to the cold and zero interference with X-ray technology or metal detectors. “One of the other big advantages of silk is that it can stabilize and deliver bioactive components, so that plates and screws made of silk could actually deliver antibiotics to prevent infection, pharmaceuticals to enhance bone regrowth and other therapeutics to support healing,” says Kaplan.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (EB002520).

More coverage on this story: TuftsNow, New Scientist, The Telegraph, and Popular Science

Tufts University Alumni Association 2014 Senior Award Honorees

Each year, the Tufts University Alumni Association (TUAA) recognizes members of the senior class for academic achievement, participation in campus and community activities, and leadership. Twelve students are chosen from a pool of nominees for the TUAA Senior Award. This year’s cohort of Senior Award Honorees includes two engineering students: Briana Bouchard and Laura Burns.

Briana BouchardBriana Bouchard will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. Bouchard served as Corporate Relations Chair and Publicity Chair for Tufts Society for Women Engineers, Tufts Admissions Tour Guide and Engineering Panelist, Senior Representative and Academic Chair for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Residential Assistant for Tufts University Office of Residential Life. As a researcher, she designed a medical device to assist in the insertion of IV catheters in babies and children, was part of a team that designed an award winning audio speaker, and has researched the use of silk for breast implants for women who have had mastectomies.

Laura BurnsLaura Burns will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering. At Tufts, Burns was a Stern Family Scholar, was on the Dean’s List all semesters, a member of Tau Beta Pi (Engineering National Honor Society), President and Board Member of the Tufts University Engineering Student Council, Secretary and Board Member for Tufts University Society for Women Engineers, Captain of the Varsity Swim Team, and a volunteer at Tufts University Admissions Office. Burns was a research assistant in Assistant Professor Lauren Black’s Lab, where she worked with tissue engineering of cardiac tissue and design of an optical device to measure the thickness of delicate tissues.

Aldridge Wins NIH New Innovator Award

Bree Aldridge

Bree Aldridge, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology & Microbiology

Assistant Professor Bree Aldridge has received a 2013 National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award. Aldridge is an assistant professor in molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine, a member of the Molecular Microbiology and Immunology program faculties at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts, and adjunct assistant professor in biomedical engineering. She has been awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant for her research focused on improving drug treatments for tuberculosis.

Aldridge’s research addresses a major obstacle in controlling tuberculosis, which is the lengthy multi-drug therapy currently required to effectively cure the disease. Due to the prolonged treatment, adherence to the drug therapy can be difficult. In addition, when these drugs are misused or mismanaged, multi-drug resistance can develop. To improve health outcomes for patients, and reduce the emergence of drug-resistant strains of the disease, she hopes to shorten and simplify treatments for tuberculosis. The Aldridge lab includes a multidisciplinary team of researchers who combine molecular approaches with mathematical modeling to study the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.

Kaplan’s Team On Board for Continued Regenerative Medicine Research

Today, the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine announced that the second phase of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) project will move ahead with involvement from researchers on Stern Family Professor David Kaplan’s biomedical engineering team. The five-year, $75 million federally funded project focuses on applying regenerative medicine to battlefield injuries.

Anthony Atala, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is the lead investigator for AFIRM-II. He will direct a consortium of more than 30 academic institutions, including Tufts School of Engineering, and industry partners.

In the first phase of AFIRM, which began in 2008, Kaplan’s group looked at soft tissue reconstruction and peripheral nerve repair research. During this phase, Kaplan will focus on muscle regeneration.

Silkworms Stitch Together Engineering and Art

Professor Fiorenzo Omenetto in the Department of Biomedical Engineering collaborated with the Mediated Matter Research Group at the MIT Media Lab to produce the Silk Pavilion–a stunning geometric structure constructed by silkworms and guided by engineers.

The Silk Pavilion explores the relationship between digital and biological fabrication on product and architectural scales.

SILK PAVILION from Mediated Matter Group on Vimeo.

The primary structure was created of 26 polygonal panels made of silk threads laid down by a CNC (Computer-Numerically Controlled) machine. Inspired by the silkworm’s ability to generate a 3D cocoon out of a single multi-property silk thread (1km in length), the overall geometry of the pavilion was created using an algorithm that assigns a single continuous thread across patches providing various degrees of density.

Overall density variation was informed by the silkworm itself deployed as a biological “printer” in the creation of a secondary structure. A swarm of 6,500 silkworms was positioned at the bottom rim of the scaffold spinning flat non-woven silk patches as they locally reinforced the gaps across CNC-deposited silk fibers. Following their pupation stage the silkworms were removed. Resulting moths can produce 1.5 million eggs with the potential of constructing up to 250 additional pavilions.

Affected by spatial and environmental conditions including geometrical density as well as variation in natural light and heat, the silkworms were found to migrate to darker and denser areas. Desired light effects informed variations in material organization across the surface area of the structure. A season-specific sun path diagram mapping solar trajectories in space dictated the location, size and density of apertures within the structure in order to lock-in rays of natural light entering the pavilion from South and East elevations. The central oculus is located against the East elevation and may be used as a sun-clock.

Parallel basic research explored the use of silkworms as entities that can “compute” material organization based on external performance criteria. Specifically, we explored the formation of non-woven fiber structures generated by the silkworms as a computational schema for determining shape and material optimization of fiber-based surface structures.

Research and Design by the Mediated Matter Research Group at the MIT Media Lab in collaboration with Prof. Fiorenzo Omenetto and Dr. James Weaver (WYSS Institute, Harvard University). Mediated Matter researchers include Markus Kayser, Jared Laucks, Carlos David Gonzalez Uribe, Jorge Duro-Royo and Neri Oxman (Director).

Trimmer to Head New Journal on Soft Material Robotics

Barry Trimmer heads up a new journal, SoRo, focusing on soft material robotics.

Barry Trimmer heads up a new journal, SoRo, focusing on soft material robotics.

Barry Trimmer, Henry Bromfield Pearson Professor of Natural Sciences, adjunct professor of biomedical engineering, and Director of the Neuromechanics and Biomimetic Devices Laboratory, has been named editor-in-chief of a new journal dedicated to soft material robotics.

The new journal, called Soft Robotics (SoRo), will be published quarterly online with Open Access options and in print. SoRo combines advances in biomedical engineering, biomechanics, mathematical modeling, biopolymer chemistry, computer science, and tissue engineering to present new approaches to the creation of robotic technology and devices that can undergo dramatic changes in shape and size in order to adapt to various environments.

“The next frontier in robotics is to make machines that can assist us in everyday activities, at home, in the office, in hospitals, and even in natural environments,” says Trimmer director of the Soft Material Robotics | IGERT doctoral program at Tufts. “Soft Robotics provides a forum, for the first time, for scientists and engineers across diverse fields to work together to build the next generation of interactive robots. This journal provides biologists, engineers, materials specialists, and computer scientists a common meeting place, and we are very excited about this new forum.”

This article first appeared as a press release from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publishers, July 18, 2013.

Omenetto’s Research Provides Basis for Bionic Ears

Last year, a research effort led by Michael McAlpine, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, Naveen Verma, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, and Professor Fiorenzo Omenetto of Tufts University, resulted in the development of a “tattoo” made up of a biological sensor and antenna that can be affixed to the surface of a tooth.

Scientists used 3-D printing to merge tissue and an antenna capable of receiving radio signals. (Credit: Frank Wojciechows

Scientists used 3-D printing to merge tissue and an antenna capable of receiving radio signals. (Credit: Frank Wojciechowski)

A new project, however, is the team’s first effort to create a fully functional organ: one that not only replicates a human ability, but extends it using embedded electronics.

“The design and implementation of bionic organs and devices that enhance human capabilities, known as cybernetics, has been an area of increasing scientific interest,” the researchers wrote in the article which appears in the scholarly journal Nano Letters. “This field has the potential to generate customized replacement parts for the human body, or even create organs containing capabilities beyond what human biology ordinarily provides.

This story appeared as a press release on EurekAlert, May 1, 2013.