Duke BME Magazine

The Research Issue | Fall 2019

From the Chair

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Good work is rarely accomplished alone. For me, the 2019 Engineering Biology for Medicine conference served as an energizing reminder that breakthrough discoveries often emerge due to collaborations at the intersection of engineering, biology and medicine.

It was wonderful to welcome colleagues from schools as far-flung as Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Hopkins, MIT, UCSF, Yale, and ETH Zurich to Duke BME for the May 2019 conference, which was co-sponsored by Nature Medicine and Nature Biomedical Engineering.

With sessions covering topics that spanned mechanobiology, synthetic and systems biology and immune engineering, this event was a wonderful opportunity for leading researchers to highlight successful research, and discuss how their work could solve long-standing problems within the biomedical field.

I was thrilled to have several Duke BME faculty among the speakers presenting their own work and introducing sessions. In our newest issue of the Duke BME Magazine, we take a deeper look at their impressive research, with stories about researchers using lab-on-a-chip technologies to study diverse diseases, work in the emerging field of mechanobiology, novel approaches to mapping the human brain, and features about work at the intersection of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Our faculty are just one of the reasons Duke BME is consistently ranked among the best biomedical engineering programs in the United States, and I’m thrilled with the opportunity to highlight what is just a small fraction of their excellent research. Duke BME has blazed an exciting trail in the last fifty years, and I know there is more innovative work on the horizon.

Ashutosh ChilkotiAshutosh Chilkoti
Duke Biomedical Engineering

Ravi Bellamkonda addresses the crowd at the Engineering Biology for Medicine conference.

Engineering Biology for Medicine Inaugural Conference Held at Duke

When Ashutosh Chilkoti took over as chair of Duke University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, one of his goals was to host a specialized conference for biomedical engineers in partnership with a high-impact research journal.

 Julia Kuhl)

Zooming in on Neuronal Behavior

There are more than 86 billion neurons in the brain.

Vardhman Kumar examines a microfluidic chip.

Big Ideas on a Small Surface

Several small slides sit in an incubator in Shyni Varghese’s lab at Duke University, where they are connected to an assortment of machines via a network of delicate clear tubes.

 Gersbach Lab)

The Evolution of Genetic Engineering

Charles Gersbach, the Rooney Family Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, leads a lab that is centered on developing and applying genome engineering tools––most notably CRISPR-based technology.

Additional Stories

Understanding Cells Under Pressure

Most researchers today understand biology through the principles of chemistry. Cells can communicate through chemical signals, and traditional medicine has long focused on how to treat disease by modifying those signals.

The Body on Defense

When a person gets sick, the invading virus or bacteria often triggers an immune response, sending a wave of white blood cells to attack the source of the illness.

Programming Cell Behavior

When Lingchong You earned his PhD in chemical engineering in 2002, synthetic biology was in its infancy. Yet he was drawn to the field right away.

Fixing Muscle and the Brain

With the number of times the word “gel” comes up in the research of Nenad Bursac and Tatiana Segura, one would be forgiven for thinking they might work in the haircare or running shoe industries.

Past Issues

Spring 2019

Making the Next Wave of Imaging Tools for Cancer Diagnosis

With a joint appointment in the departments of biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering, Muyinatu A. Lediju Bell uses her position as an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University to push the boundaries of medical imaging.

Engineering Solutions to Foodborne Illness

Romaine lettuce. Ground beef. Eggs. Chicken. Turkey. The list of foodborne illness outbreaks in 2018 was so long it mirrored a grocery list and made eating some of your favorite meals seem like a risky activity.

Oh, the Places Grads Go

Like many PhD students in Duke University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, Erika Moore wasn’t entirely settled on what career to pursue after graduation.

Personalizing the Master's Degree

Leah Machlin didn’t expect to be working in an old tobacco factory in downtown Durham after graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering.

Fall 2018

A Year of Real-World Design

Every engineer knows that the design process is not a straightforward one.

A Path for Post-Grad Success

At the end of each academic year, Marc Sommer, the director of undergraduate studies, and Elizabeth (Libby) Bucholz, the associate director of undergraduate studies, organize a town hall for graduating seniors from Duke University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

From Cell Cultures to Mass Markets

"These are not projects you can start the night before they are due." 

Design on a Global Scale

Today, nearly 60 percent of babies develop jaundice in the days after their birth. Caused by a buildup of bilirupin in the blood, the disorder is characterized by a yellowing of the skin and eyes, and if left untreated, can lead to brain damage in newborns. 

Spring 2018

An Old Space for New Ideas

Update: In May 2019, BRiDGE became the Breakthrough Research Initiative to Develop Global Entrepreneurs. Visit the BRiDGE webpage »

Innovative Scholars

Charlie Gersbach: Launching a Platform for Genomics-Based Drug Development

A New Class of Entrepreneur

The Undergraduate Entrepreneur: Samuel Fox’s Student-Project- Turned-Startup Improves Patient Mobility

Fall 2017

Engineering a New Narrative

In the bustling neighborhoods in Lima, Peru, it’s common to see bright pink trailers parked by the side of the road.

Collaborating Across Continents

In hospitals with plenty of resources, infants in the neonatal ward are connected to separate oxygen tanks where the gas flow is carefully regulated, ensuring that they receive proper oxygen therapy for any breathing problems they may have.

Five Days of Fieldwork

The generator that powers the Redemption Clinic doesn’t click on until 10:30 in the morning, but this delay doesn’t slow the crowd of patients who fill the health care center before 8 a.m.