Resolve Magazine, 2010, Volume 1

Countering
AIDS in africa
A record falls
at bonneville
A hand-held,
Light and composite,
point-of-care
a sleek streamliner
diagnostic tool
sets a speed mark
offers new hope.
on Utah’s desert.
See page 18
See page 16
resolve
®
a focus on lehigh engineering • volume 1, 2010
engineering
affordable
medicine
A partnership with Mayo Clinic focuses on
new devices, systems and materials.
SEE PAGE 10
p.c. Rossin college of
engineering and applied science
Contents
resolve
®
a focus on lehigh engineering
volume 1, 2010
EDITOR
Kurt Pfitzer
Creative direction
Kurt Hansen
ART DIRECTION
Michelle Boehm
RCEAS ADVISORY BOARD
S. David Wu, dean
John Coulter, associate dean for
graduate studies and research
Chris Larkin, communications
and marketing director
Departments
1LETTER FROM THE DEAN
A growing synergy in bioengineering
2
BIO BRIEFS
Probing bacterial metabolism…Optimal healthcare
networks…The big picture of platelet adhesion
4NANO BRIEFS
Nano-toughened wind blades…Sharper focus on solid acid
catalysts…Tiny lunar time capsules
6Systems Briefs
Multihop sensors…Saving heat from CO2 capture…
Laser-smart wheelchairs…Automated document analysis
8
on the cover
A computer model of
DNA viewed along its
central axis. LehighMayo teams are
investigating new
biomaterials and
developing new
medical devices
and systems.
Q&A
The president of BD discusses the next frontiers in
medical technology and the need to build infrastructure
24RISING STARS
A particular interest in flowing suspensions
Features
10
engineering affordable medicine
Lehigh and Mayo Clinic form a partnership
16A DASH ACROSS THE DESERT
Composites deliver a new speed record
DESIGNER
Linda Gipson
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
William Johnson
Carol Kiely
Chris Larkin
William Tavani
PHOTOGRAPHERS
Douglas Benedict
Kate Holt
Ryan Hulvat
Jan and Agneta Isidorsson
John Kish
RESOLVE is published biannually by
the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering
and Applied Science and the Office
of University Communications and Public
Affairs at Lehigh University.
www.lehigh.edu/resolve
P.C. Rossin College of Engineering
and Applied Science
Lehigh University
19 Memorial Drive West
Bethlehem, PA 18015
610-758-4025
www.lehigh.edu/engineering
OFFICE OF UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Lehigh University
125 Goodman Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18015-3754
610-758-4487
SUBSCRIBE OR SEND COMMENTS:
engineering@lehigh.edu
18FIGHTING AIDS IN SUB-SAHARAN africa
…with point-of-care diagnostic tools
22
BIOENGINEERING’S SECOND WAVE
A maturing program sees impressive growth
Challenging great minds…inspiring great imaginations
letter from the dean
Medical care at our fingertips
Welcome to the seventh issue and fifth year of Resolve, a magazine
dedicated to research and educational innovation in the P.C. Rossin
College of Engineering and Applied Science at Lehigh University.
It wasn’t that long ago that the capabilities of smart phones and other digital
gadgets seemed dizzying. Now, we
hardly think twice about the comprehensive technical infrastructure that
supports them, or about the wireless,
portable world of personalized information and entertainment that is forever
at our fingertips.
What if we were to apply a similar
model to rethink today’s diagnostic,
therapeutic and drugdelivery technologies? The
potential for dramatic
improvement in the accessibility and cost of medical
care cannot be overstated
– nor can the urgency of
that need.
Think of advances in
biocompatible materials,
optics, nanotechnologies,
and biosensors and electronics, and
imagine integrating these with stateof-the-art communication devices and
imaging and data-management systems.
This could make it possible to complement or even replace massive, stationary,
hospital-bound equipment with small,
portable and even self-administered
devices. Currently, however, no major
U.S. biomedical research program
offers this integrated biomedical and
systems engineering approach to research
in affordable and accessible medical
technologies.
Meanwhile, a major demographic
shift – some have called it an “agequake”
– looms as the baby boomer generation begins to retire. Over the next two
decades, this phenomenon will overwhelm our hospitals and clinics.
From an engineer’s perspective, it’s not
a matter of politics; it’s a matter of
capacity and efficiency. Such growing
demand makes a medical-technology
framework that provides accessibility
and affordability not only desirable,
but altogether necessary.
Engineers do not deliver medicine,
but working with our colleagues in the
medical sciences, we can make medicine
more accessible and affordable. This
is the focus of Lehigh’s
Biotech Cluster and its
emerging partnership
with the Mayo Clinic,
as described in our
cover story on page 10.
The multidisciplinary
initiative draws upon
distinctive and complementary research expertise
at Lehigh and Mayo. It
combines strengths in materials science,
nanotechnology, optical technologies
medical science and healthcare intersect.
The Lehigh Valley is emerging as a
hotbed of biomedical device development, located at the geographical center
of five major biotechnology hubs in
the U.S. (Boston, Baltimore/D.C.,
Philadelphia, New York and New
Jersey). Our goal is to leverage our
core strengths in engineering through
"A systems engineering approach to medicine can have a translational
impact on therapies, diagnostics and drug-delivery technologies."
and systems engineering with world-class
biomedical research and clinical expertise to create a unique blend of research
competence that neither institution
could deliver on its own. Its goal is to
develop systems architecture, integrated
devices and new materials that will have
a translational impact on therapies, diagnostics and drug-delivery technologies.
This issue of Resolve focuses on
Lehigh’s research and innovation in
biotechnology and our commitment to
an area where engineering, life science,
– S. David Wu
partnerships, innovative programs and
unique facilities that will propel us into
this field’s intellectual center.
I hope you enjoy this issue of
Resolve. Please drop me a note to share
your thoughts and comments.
S. David Wu, Dean and Iacocca Professor
P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and
Applied Science
david.wu@lehigh.edu
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 1
Biobriefs
A microbiologist’s curiosity,
an engineer’s perspective
As an aerospace engineer with
McDonnell Douglas two decades ago,
Derick Brown decided to take a few
Tailoring the properties of surfaces, says
Brown, can affect a
bacteria’s behavior.
classes in environmental engineering at
the University of California-Irvine. He
fell for the field and the way it brought
together chemistry, biology, hydrology
and other disciplines.
Brown earned a Ph.D. at Princeton
and joined Lehigh’s department of civil
and environmental engineering, where
tips, so how do they know
when they hit a surface?”
Brown asks. “I want to understand what triggers that
change in ATP. What tells the
he is now Class of 1961
cells they’ve hit something?
Associate Professor. He
Then perhaps we can utilize
received a CAREER Award
ATP to either encourage or
from NSF and is studying,
inhibit cells from colonizing
among other things, the
certain surfaces.”
increase in metabolic
This complex link
activity that a bacteria cell
Even clean surfaces like
between
physiochemical and
undergoes when it adheres
glass can alter ATP.
bio-energetic processes fascito a solid surface.
nates Brown. If engineers can tailor the
“Wherever bacteria interact with
properties of a solid surface, perhaps they
solid surfaces, metabolic activity can
can control ATP formation. The right
vary,” says Brown, “even on clean surfaces
surface coating could deplete cellular
like the glass we use in our lab. We have
ATP and kill bacteria adhering to a water
found that when bacteria adhere to a
pipeline. Or it could increase cellular
surface, the cell’s adenosine triphosphate
ATP and stimulate bacteria to degrade
(ATP) level can change dramatically.
toxic chemicals in polluted water.
ATP is the main energy carrier for living
Brown also studies the movement
organisms, and we want to know how its
of bacteria through soils, which is of
concentration is affected by the process
interest to scientists tracking the spread
of adhesion.”
of pathogens in groundwater or homeBrown hypothesizes that there is a
builders seeking a safe distance from a
link between ATP formation and the
septic system to a water well.
variation in a cell’s surface charge and
“People often think of me as a
pH as it approaches another surface.
microbiologist, but I’m not. I am an
He believes the adhesion process itself,
engineer who happens to be studying
rather than the presence of nutrients or
micro­biology,” he says, “and I love
growth substrate at the solid surface, is
using math to describe microbiowhat affects ATP formation.
logical processes.”
“Bacteria don’t have eyes or finger-
Wireless networks for better healthcare
Wireless communication may soon be at the heart of a secure and reliable
patient healthcare network. The challenge, however, is to prevent signals from
mobile phones and laptops from interfering with more sensitive medical equipment and patient monitoring devices. Healthcare organizations are also under
tremendous financial constraints so cost must be considered.
Shalinee Kishore, an associate professor in electrical and computer engineering, studies the design, analysis and performance of different types of wireless
networks. Her group is currently working to optimize these networks, an endeavor
that includes signal verification, anomaly detection, algorithms for information
gathering and retrieval from sensors, sensor networking, and secure and lowpower wireless communications.
Kishore now plans to focus on the needs of the healthcare industry.
“The optimization of wireless communications within a healthcare facility
could lead to a healthcare information network constructed around an individual
2 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
patient,” says Kishore. “This would ultimately bring about an improvement in that patient’s treatment.”
In a collaboration with a team of scientists led by Dr. Barry Gilbert
and Dr. Erik Daniel at the Mayo Clinic, Kishore is planning to develop an
optimized wireless communication network that can handle data transfer
from patient monitoring devices. These wearable devices will be used to
track a person’s physiological data or physical activity. They will be
designed to carry out an initial analysis and to send relevant data to an
upstream network for detailed interpretation by a trained professional.
Such data transfer systems could be used to support a broad range of
medical studies in areas ranging from endocrinology, orthopedics, obesity
and neurology.
“Our aim is to develop a more efficient, secure and reliable method for
collecting and correlating patient information,” she says.
Predicting the onset of blood clot formation
A chemical engineer seeks to predict the likelihood of platelet adhesion in
damaged blood tissues.
When a blood vessel becomes damaged,
platelets come to the rescue. These discshaped cells, which are formed in the
bone marrow, are the first element in the
blood to adhere to damaged endothelial
tissue. A subsequent series of biochemical reactions then leads to the production of a fibrin mesh that traps red
blood cells and more platelets to form
a blood clot.
Being able to predict the likelihood
of platelet adhesion is the focus of a
fundamental computational study conducted by a research group led by Ian
Laurenzi, assistant professor of chemical
engineering.
A blood platelet measures approximately 2 to 3 microns in diameter. A
pint of blood in a healthy adult contains
between 70 and 190 billion platelets.
The surface of a platelet contains a
glycoprotein, which acts as a receptor
that can grab onto, react with and form
a “tether bond” with a certain type of
ligand, or chain of atoms. This is known
as the von Willebrand Factor.
As a platelet flows past damaged
tissue, the likelihood that it will form a
tether bond depends on many factors,
including the number of platelets that
are passing through the damaged zone,
how fast they are traveling (the blood
flow rate), and how quickly a bond can
form between the platelet receptor and
ligand (the chemical reaction rate).
Because most chemical reactions
are reversible to some extent, the rate at
which the tether bond can be broken
must also be considered when determining the likelihood that the bond will
form. The number of platelets passing
through a damaged area at any one time
can also fluctuate significantly; thus,
even when a platelet comes into contact
with the wound site, formation of a
chemical reaction is not guaranteed.
Numerical values for many of these
parameters have been gleaned from
experiments. For example, the lifetime
of tether bond strength under different
flow conditions was obtained by using
a microscope and a high-speed camera
to observe the interaction of platelets
with microspheres coated with von
Willebrand Factor. This experiment was
carried out in a specially designed flow
chamber in a collaboration involving
Laurenzi and Thomas Diacovo, assistant
all these factors and incorporates a
statistical approach to biochemical
kinetics.” The model can account for
many variables, such as a change in
blood flow rate, alterations to the
platelet receptors, and differing platelet
Ian Laurenzi’s computational model accounts for a wide variety of
factors related to platelet adhesion and incorporates a “statistical
approach” to biochemical kinetics.
professor of pediatrics and pathology at
Columbia University.
“Most studies so far have looked
at only one piece of the puzzle,” says
Laurenzi. “Our model takes into account
concentrations. Its application extends
beyond predicting the probability of
platelet adhesion and may play a key
role in the future development of new
clot-controlling drugs.
Laurenzi’s research could
play a role in the development of clot-controlling drugs. Above, the von
Willebrand Factor (vWF)
A1-botrocetin complex.
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 3
nanobriefs
Imaging advances
greener catalysts
Nanoparticles toughen wind turbine blades
of diblock polymers in turbine blades.
Diblock polymers are preferable to
commercial triblock copolymers because
the resulting rubber-toughened epoxies
flow better during turbine blade
manufacturing.
Arkema has supplied Pearson’s group
with diblock polymers that self-assemble
in epoxy resins, enabling the researchers to
Pearson and Robert Oldak
control and potentially optimize the per(above) are seeking to
formance of the composite material. The
optimize the performance
group is assessing the type of microstrucof self-assembling
tures that provide the best properties for
diblock polymers.
making blades that would last longer than
the current generation of turbines.
Pearson’s group also is experimenting
with diblock polymers to increase the fracture toughness of printed circuit boards,
which are now subjected to higher solder
reflow temperatures.
“If we can double the lifespan of wind turbines, that would go a long
Such high temperatures
are necessary
way toward making wind energy cheaper.” – Raymond Pearson
because the use of
environmentally unfriendly lead tin solder
toward making wind energy cheaper,”
is now banned in many countries. The
says Pearson. “We haven’t gotten to the
challenge is to determine the optimum
point of testing actual blades, but we’re
structure of the diblock copolymer addiseeing some promising results on laboratives that will reduce cracking.
tory test specimens.”
Electron microscopy and fatigue fracPearson’s experience with triblock
ture testing are conducted in Lehigh’s
polymers, which self-assemble on a
Center for Advanced Materials and
nanoscale, has led to a partnership with
Nanotechnology. The work is funded by
Arkema Inc., a French company with
the Pennsylvania NanoMaterials
research facilities in King of Prussia, Pa.
Commercialization Center.
The researchers are studying the use
Wind turbine blades, like those atop
the Pocono Mountains in northeast
Pennsylvania, can cost upwards of
$100,000 a blade, says Raymond
Pearson, director of the Center for
Polymer Science and Engineering.
So it’s no surprise that manufacturers and power generation companies are
interested in making blades that produce
electricity for as many years as possible.
To prolong the lifespan of these futuristic
“windmills,” Pearson’s group is investigating rubber nanoparticles that could
toughen the glass-reinforced, epoxymatrix composites out of which the
massive blades are made.
“If wind turbines are guaranteed to
last five years, and we can lengthen that
by a factor of 2, it would go a long way
4 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
The catalytic processes used to produce
chemicals and fuels could become much
more environmentally friendly thanks to a
discovery by researchers at Lehigh and
Rice Universities.
In an article published Nov. 8 in Nature
Chemistry, the researchers reported a novel
imaging study of tungstated zirconia that
enabled them to design a preparation procedure that increased the activity of the solid
acid catalyst by more than 100 times.
Liquid acid catalysts are used to produce
chemicals but pose concerns due to evaporation, spilling and corrosion. Solid acid catalysts, a potential replacement, can be more
cleanly used and disposed.
The Lehigh-Rice team used aberrationcorrected scanning transmission electron
microscopy and advanced optical microscopy
and spectroscopy techniques to illuminate the
nanostructure and nanoscale behavior of
a tungstated zirconia solid
acid catalyst.
The team was able to
directly image a variety of
tungsten-oxide species that
were supported on a nanocrystalline zirconia substrate.
Studies revealed that the
most active catalytic species Mono-tungstate
(blue), polywere tungsten-oxide clusters
tungstate (green)
that measured 0.8 to 1 nm
and highly active
in diameter and were mixed
Zr-WOx clusters
with a few zirconium atoms
emanating from the support. (red).
When the team deposited these clusters onto a tungstated zirconia
catalyst with low catalytic activity, the activity
of the poor catalyst improved by two orders of
magnitude, confirming the team’s hypothesis
about the identity and structure of the active
species within the tungstated zirconia material.
The Nature Chemistry article's authors
include Wu Zhou, a Ph.D. candidate at Lehigh;
Israel Wachs, professor of chemical engineering (Lehigh); Christopher Kiely, professor
of materials science and engineering
(Lehigh); and Michael Wong, associate
professor of chemical and biomolecular
engineering (Rice).
A noninvasive probe of lunar soil,
with X-ray vision
Using a new imaging technique, materials scientists open a window on
the moon’s geological history.
Ever since July 20, 1969, when Neil
Armstrong left the first human footprint
on the surface of the moon, scientists
have been fascinated by the fine powdery
soil in which that impression was made.
Today, more than 40 years later, Carol
and Christopher Kiely are using a new
imaging technique called X-ray ultramicroscopy (XuM)
to examine the
internal structure
of the lunar soil
particles that
were collected
from the Sea of
Tranquility during the Apollo
11 mission.
“These particles are like tiny
time capsules,”
says Carol Kiely, an adjunct professor in
the department of materials science and
engineering. “They provide us with clues
to all the geological processes that have
occurred on the lunar surface for the past
3.5 billion years.”
To the naked eye, lunar soil is a fine
charcoal gray powder. Under a microscope it becomes a collection of tiny
rock, mineral and glass fragments of all
shapes and sizes. This assortment, Kiely
says, owes its origin to the fact that the
moon, unlike the earth, has no atmosphere to protect it from solar wind or
from micrometeors that smash into its
surface at velocities of up to 25 km per
second. This continuous bombardment,
over billions of years, has led to the formation of lunar soil, or regolith.
The huge amount of energy behind
a micrometeor impact, says Kiely, can
fracture the underlying rock and cause
localized melting. Splashes of molten
regolith can then form droplets, which
cool and solidify to form glassy spheres,
ellipsoids, teardrops and dumbbells
before returning to the lunar surface.
Some of this molten regolith returns
to the surface before cooling and seeps
down in between the underlying soil.
As it cools, it encases the tiny mineral
and other fragments in a glassy matrix,
forming a type of particle called an
agglutinate that is not found anywhere
on Earth. The rise in temperature also
releases trapped gases implanted by the
solar wind, causing bubbles to form in
the molten regolith. As a result, much of
the glass found on the lunar surface
is vesicular.
While 40 years of research has
revealed much about the physical and
chemical properties of lunar regolith, it
has been impossible to view the internal
structure of a particle without fracturing it or slicing it open. The X-ray
ultramicroscope now enables scientists
to do this. Originally developed at the
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organization (CSIRO) in
Australia, XuM utilizes the divergent
beams of X-rays generated in a scanning
electron microscope (SEM) when the
electron beam is focused onto a piece
of platinum. These X-rays then pass
through a lunar dust particle and onto
an X-ray detector. Unlike many other
microscopy techniques, this method of
imaging does not require any focusing
optics – the entire XuM image is always
in focus – and the resolution, which can
be better than 300 nanometers, depends
on the size of the X-ray source. This
means that for the first time, the entire
internal structure of a lunar particle can
be imaged with the particle still intact.
“Combining these new X-ray images
with the corresponding secondary electron micrographs has allowed us, for
the first time, to view the internal and
external structure of the same particle,”
says Christopher Kiely, a professor of
materials science and engineering and
director of Lehigh’s Nanocharacterization
Laboratory. “This gives us a much fuller
understanding of a particle’s morphology.
For example, glassy particles that often
appeared smooth on the outside were
found to contain a myriad of pores, far
more than we expected.”
The XuM’s ability to take a sequential
series of images while rotating the sample
through 360 degrees yields a more
global view of the internal structure of a
particle and can help prevent erroneous
conclusions being drawn from a single
flat 2-D projection image. For example,
a platelike inclusion could be mistakenly
identified as a needlelike feature when
viewed ‘edge-on’ in a single 2-D projection image.
Sequential
imaging
also enables
rotational
movies to be
made, which
provides a
fascinating
3-D view of
a particle’s
internal
structure.
As part
of Apollo
11’s 40th-anniversary celebrations in
July 2009, a collection of XuM and
SEM micrographs, together with SEM
stereoimages, was displayed in the
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
in Washington, D.C. Carol Kiely presented the latest XuM/SEM results at
the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science
Conference in March.
SEM and XuM images
of a rodlike particle
of lunar soil (top) and
of a lunar agglutinate
particle (bottom).
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 5
systemsbriefs
The greening of multihop sensors
A multihop WSN, says
Cheng, should use
as little energy to
transmit as much
data as possible.
Wireless sensor networks (WSNs) are
indispensable to modern life. They
monitor the temperature and depth of
permafrost in the Swiss Alps, regulate
traffic on highways and make it possible
to track a person’s pulse rate and other
vital signals remotely.
In a WSN, battery-powered nodes
containing radio transceivers and CPUs
are embedded in the environment to
sense and process data and transmit it to
a base station, where data is interpreted
and a response determined. Data can
be transmitted from each node directly
to the base station or along a chain of
nodes to the base station, in what is
called a “multihop” topology.
The batteries that power
WSN nodes, says Liang Cheng,
consume a growing amount of
energy, much of which could be
saved by optimizing a network’s
configuration.
Cheng, an associate professor
of computer science and engineering, is principal investigator in an
NSF-funded project to develop
smarter, more energy-efficient topologies
“To make this determination, more
data processing has to be done by the
nodes. The overall goal is to transmit as
for multihop wireless networks, includmuch data using as little energy as possiing WSNs.
ble in a multihop network with reduced
“Topology control,” says Cheng,
interference and higher
“involves placing
capacity in the presence
and connecting
of multipath fading,
WSN nodes in
“We want to see if we
link failures, high error
strategic locations
can reduce the amount
rates and many other
with optimal powers
of data transmitted
radio irregularities.”
so that total energy
to the base station by
In another NSF
consumption – the
determining which
project, Cheng is colenergy required to
laborating with Sibel
do the computadata is vital.”
Pamukcu, professor of
tion and to transmit
– Liang Cheng
civil and environmental
data – is minimized
engineering, to develop
without affecting
WSNs that identify the
performance.”
properties of soil and other subsurface
About 80 percent of the energy
media while monitoring landslides,
consumed by a WSN, says Cheng, is
chemical spills and other geo-events, and
used for data transmission. The remainthe direction and flow rate of spills.
der is used for data processing by nodes
A wired sensor network can sense
in the network.
only those events occurring in the areas
“We want to see if we can reduce
local to the fibers connecting the netthe amount of data transmitted to the
work, says Cheng, but a WSN is not
base station by determining which data
similarly constrained.
is vital and needs to be transmitted, and
“One of the questions we’re hoping
which is not. If you are trying to transto answer is how far apart the sensors
mit too much data, you consume too
can be and still yield useful data.”
much energy.
The efficient capture of CO2 from power plants
Lehigh’s Energy Research Center (ERC) has developed a variety of technologies that improve the operating efficiency of power plants while reducing
emissions of toxic substances and greenhouse gases.
Recently, the ERC received a DOE grant to develop methods of recovering and reusing heat generated by the carbon-dioxide (CO2) compression process in a carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) system.
A CCS system makes it possible to generate electric power from
coal without emitting significant amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. The
system separates CO2 from power-plant flue gas and compresses the CO2
to high pressure. The compressed CO2 can be transported by pipeline and
is now used to help extract oil from underground reservoirs in a process
known as enhanced oil recovery. Scientists are also evaluating the feasibility of injecting compressed CO2 below the earth’s surface into saline
aquifers whose geological features would sequester, or store, the CO2.
The goal of the current project, says ERC director Edward Levy, is to
recover heat that is generated when CO2 is compressed and to use that
heat to improve the efficiency of the power plant’s operation. The ERC is
developing computational models of the methods used to capture and
6 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
compress CO2 and estimating the increases in efficiency that will result
from each.
“It requires a tremendous amount of pressure, about 2,200 pounds per
square inch or close to 150 atmospheres, to compress CO2 to a supercritical state,” says Levy. “In the compression process, CO2 heats up, creating
the potential for heat to be recovered and used beneficially within the
power plant.
“All carbon capture schemes reduce power plant efficiency and increase
the cost of generating electricity. We’re trying to mitigate this. We’re looking
at different types of compressors to see how much heat can be recovered
and what we can do with this heat to improve power plant efficiency.”
The ERC has conducted other research projects that promoted the
reduction of carbon emissions. One involved the recovery of water from
flue gas and another removed water from high-moisture coals. Both resulted
in improvements in power plant efficiency and reduction in the rates of
CO2 formation.
The project is funded through DOE’s National Energy Technology
Laboratory.
A smart wheelchair with laser vision
Disability, John Spletzer believes, should
pose no obstacle to mobility.
A blind person may not be able to
see or a paraplegic to walk, but each can
access technology that restores their ability to interact with their environment.
Spletzer, an associate professor of
computer science and engineering,
recently received a five-year CAREER
Award from NSF to develop a robotic
wheelchair that navigates on its own,
with no human guidance, through a city.
Armed with high-fidelity LIDAR
(light detection and ranging) lasers and
detailed maps, the “smart” wheelchair
avoids stationary objects like parking
meters and light poles as well as “random
events” like pedestrians and bicyclists. It
transports users who may not be able to
see or walk to doctors’ appointments, the
pharmacy and the grocery store.
Spletzer and his students have taken
a cue from Google Street View, which
allows users to take virtual tours of cities
by looking at thousands of stored images.
“We’re making similar maps that are
useful for robots, not people,” he says.
“Robots respond to different cues than
humans do. People see the real world
and all its details. Robots using lasers
recognize objects that reduce to an exact
point and are easy to track.”
Spletzer’s students drive through
sections of a city taking laser photos to
make a hi-fi 3-D map of the environment. The map is downloaded to the
robotic wheelchair, which can then
navigate that environment, halfway
in the real world, halfway in the
virtual world.
“The robot identifies landmarks –
trees, poles, building faces and
corners – in the real world and looks
for them in the laser map,” says
Spletzer. “Once it finds them, it will
be able to accurately estimate its position in the real world. It doesn’t need
GPS, because of the accuracy of the
server vehicle maps and because of
the LIDARs.”
The robotic wheelchair has traversed
a 1-km route and arrived at its
destination to within an accuracy
of 20 cm. Meanwhile, says Spletzer,
the robot learns from experience by
comparing new objects it sees in
the environment with images in its
database.
Robots, says Spletzer, respond to different cues than do humans.
An automated boost for
military intelligence
What happens when soldiers capture documents written in a
language they don’t speak and a script they can’t read? Are the
materials exploited for intelligence value or stored unread?
Too often, it is a case of too many documents and too few
translators. The American military has captured several million
documents in Iraq and Afghanistan, but fewer than 3 percent have
been evaluated, all by humans with little help from computers.
Henry Baird and Daniel Lopresti, professors of computer
science and engineering, urged DARPA several years ago to fund
research to develop faster, more computerized document-analysis
techniques to help intelligence agencies.
The result was the MADCAT
(Multilingual Automatic
Document Classification, Analysis
and Translation) project, in which
Baird and Lopresti participated.
Its purpose was to use computers
to convert foreign-language text
images into English transcripts,
and it has made impressive
progress in recognizing Arabic
handwriting.
The Lehigh team made the
case for a second DARPA undertaking, the Document Analysis and Exploitation (DAE) project,
recently approved by Congress. In this project, Baird, Lopresti
and Prof. Hank Korth of computer science and engineering are
collaborating with BBN Technologies to improve the automation
of document analysis and build a national resource for shared
research and access.
Optical character recognition (OCR) can identify fonts in
printed documents and enable searching and editing, says Baird,
but is limited mostly to Western languages on clean documents.
“You can buy OCR machines for printed text, but not for
handwriting. But no technology covers, for example, Arabic or the
Ethiopian languages.
“Intelligence officers might get papers in handwritten Arabic
that also contain maps, tables, drawings and photographs,” says
Baird. “We’d like to automate the analysis of these as well.”
“We want to go beyond written text to meta-data,” Lopresti
says. “For example, if we can tell that documents appear to be
written by the same author, that’s incredibly valuable information.”
Automating the analysis of documents involves scanning a
document, converting images to computer-readable characters,
and translating and evaluating content. Lehigh’s researchers are
focusing on the second step. They will exploit synergies of document layout analysis, character recognition, language modeling
and parsing, link analysis, and semantic modeling. The result will
be script- and language-independent, making it easily transferable to new applications.
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 7
Q&A
INTERVIEW By William Tavani • photography by John Kish
Mutual
reinforcement
Why engineering is driving biomedical research
Vincent Forlenza is president of Becton, Dickinson
and Co., a leading global medical technology
company that manufactures and sells medical
devices and diagnostics. Headquartered in New
Jersey, BD employs 28,000 people in 50 countries
and serves healthcare institutions, life science
researchers, clinical laboratories and pharmaceutical companies. Forlenza oversees BD’s three
business segments (BD Medical, BD Diagnostics
and BD Biosciences), as well as its International
and Quality functions. A member of the advisory
board of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering
Q: Do you think research in biomedicine will
spur a revolution in science and engineering as
information technology (IT) has?
A: IT and biomedicine have actually been
reinforcing each other for several decades.
Advances in life sciences depend on the ability
to generate and sort through vast amounts of
data. Progress in understanding genes, proteins
and cells, for example, has been driven by
advances in biology and enabled by IT. At BD,
we make a cell sorter that can analyze 40,000
cells per second and generate 14 different
data points on each. That kind of capability will
continue to drive progress in biotechnology and
biomedical engineering.
and Applied Science, Forlenza earned a B.S. in
chemical engineering from Lehigh in 1975 and
an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s
Wharton School in 1980.
8 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
Q: The U.S. healthcare system has given rise
to spectacular advances in medicine. How can
health-related research support breakthrough
progress and be affordable?
A: You start by building cost-effectiveness into your
goals. For example, new biological drugs are
very expensive. Industry is working to personalize medicine by targeting drugs to patients who
respond to them. Pharmaceutical companies
have invested in new diagnostics that segment
patients into responders and nonresponders. You
test the patient before you administer the drug
to see if he or she will respond.
Q: What are the next big research frontiers in
medical technology? What role will engineers play?
A: One trend is toward more biological medicines. Plants to produce these drugs can cost
$500 million and will pose many process engineering challenges. I see an enormous need for
engineers to solve these challenges and move
therapeutic cells from research to practice.
In the area of diabetes management, there’s
a big effort to create an artificial pancreas. This
Q: How can a university have the most impact on
biomedical research?
A: By leveraging its core competences, building
centers of excellence and partnering with industry.
For example, Lehigh does not have a medical
school, but it has capabilities in engineering and
it has a biomedical engineering program. Many
life science problems involve materials science
and engineering. Understanding the environment
in which cells grow is a materials problem. Also,
a tremendous amount of value for customers and
for society is driven by continuous improvement.
Engineering skills in manufacturing and process
development are critical here. Industry needs people from schools like Lehigh who have the mentality that something can always be made better.
Q: How does BD come up with new ideas for
products and services?
A: We look for large unmet healthcare needs
that relate to one of our three core businesses—
medical devices, diagnostics and biosciences. All
of these businesses are generating new opportunities. We create business cases around these
opportunities and we interact with our customers
to discuss their needs. Then we make a judgment
as to the areas where we think we can have the
biggest impact.
will require mechanical engineers to develop small
pumps and chemical and materials engineers to
make sensors.
Q: How can research institutions and corporations
collaborate in the field of medical technology?
A: By understanding what each other does well,
by grasping the realities of shared risk and shared
rewards, and by aligning goals, practical relationships,
leveraged opportunities and access between patients
and technologies. Universities do the early research.
They communicate how their areas of expertise can
be leveraged. Companies communicate their needs.
This provides the basis for collaboration.
For example, Lehigh and the Mayo Clinic are
seeking to marry Lehigh’s engineering know-how
with Mayo’s clinical expertise. (See story on page
10.) BD is supporting this; its role would be to provide internships for the Ph.D. program. Our goal is to
train clinical entrepreneurs by building engineering
requirements and an understanding of cost into the
program right from the start.
Industry and
academia, says
Vincent Forlenza,
must “grasp the
realities of shared
risk and shared
rewards.”
Q: Firms like yours rely on a pipeline of science
and engineering talent. What are we not doing in
K-12 and in universities that we ought to be doing
to support this?
A: We haven’t done a good job in the early grades
of linking challenges of the day, such as energy,
to science. Going into science and engineering
isn’t viewed as being cool. We also need to attract
more people into science teaching.
The people we hire at BD come from schools
that prepare them well in the fundamentals. But
more needs to be done in cross-functional areas.
Students have to learn better communication and
management skills and acquire an ability to work
on cross-functional teams.
Q: As an engineer and corporate leader, how
does engineering thinking influence the decisions
you make?
A: Engineering teaches you to take complex problems, define them, identify their key variables,
understand their relationships, and build models
to quantify them. That’s what you do in business
all the time. Also, engineering teaches you to
make a decision with the best approximation
you can come up with. That’s the real world.
We do the best analysis we can, but at the end
of the day we have to make a call.
Q: What is your most memorable accomplishment at BD?
A: Working with the Clinton Foundation to
provide low-cost diagnostic testing for AIDS
patients in poor countries. We started doing
HIV testing in five countries. Now we’re working
in more than 35 countries and we’ve added TB
testing. We give these countries special pricing,
about 60 to 70 percent less than in the developed world. We teach people good laboratory
practices, how to do testing and how to service
their instruments. This is a common theme
in the developing world. You can’t just sell a
product. You have to back it up with medical
infrastructure.
Q: Talk about BD’s work in Africa and other
regions of the developing world.
A: We saw that some people were reusing vaccination syringes, which causes HIV to spread.
We worked with them to create very low-cost,
auto-disabled syringes that you could use only
once. In China, people were infusing drugs with
a wing needle set. This is not a good device; the
developed world uses IV catheters. We knew the
Chinese market couldn’t afford a regular catheter, so we developed a less-expensive hybrid
device that has been incredibly successful.
Q: What attracted you to chemical engineering?
A: In Engineering 1 at Lehigh, a professor from
each engineering department taught a class
to illustrate the kinds of problems each field
solves. Prof. Fred Stein in chemical engineering
demonstrated an analog computer model of a
brewery. It was fascinating.
Q: What is the most striking difference between
the Lehigh you attended and Lehigh today?
A: The integrated cross-college degree programs
represent the single biggest difference.
Departments were much more siloed when
I was at Lehigh. You didn’t have the collaboration across colleges. Lehigh has carved out a
leadership position in this area and is attracting
great students.
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 9
feature
engineering
affordable
medicine
Lehigh and the Mayo Clinic are collaborating
to make medical care more affordable and
accessible. Researchers are focusing their
attention on medical systems engineering,
integrated devices and monitoring, and
emerging biomedical materials.
10 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
The politics of healthcare may
be impossible to predict, but one
trend in medicine seems certain
to gain momentum in the 21st
century: Engineers working with
biologists and physicians will
develop new therapies, new
devices and new diagnostic tools
that improve the quality of life
while giving people more control
over their medical choices.
Indeed, says Anand Jagota,
considering the potential benefits, engineers are compelled
to expand the role they play
in medicine.
“The huge expense of healthcare in the United States is
unsustainable and is a drag
on the economy,” says Jagota,
a professor of chemical engineering who directs Lehigh’s
Glass bone (left) and other new materials, combined with computer-generated image analysis (top left, above) and wireless technology, exemplify how engineering influences medicine.
bioengineering program. “This is
due partly to the system and partly
to tremendous inefficiencies in
healthcare delivery itself.
“Engineers cannot necessarily reform the system, but we can
help make the delivery of healthcare cheaper, simpler and much
more efficient, and we have an
obligation to try to do so.”
Jagota is taking the lead in
a collaboration between Lehigh
and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,
Minn., whose goal is bold if not
breathtaking: To help bring about
a revolution in medical care that
parallels the metamorphosis of
agriculture and manufacturing in
the 20th century.
The research and educational
partnership counts more than
three dozen participants. Key
players at Mayo include Gary
Sieck, vice dean for research and
chair of the physiology and biomedical engineering department,
and Michael Yaszemski, chair of
the division of spine surgery in
the orthopedic surgery department. The team at Lehigh includes
Mayuresh Kothare, professor of
chemical engineering, and Filbert
Bartoli, department chair of electrical
and computer engineering.
During the last century, say the
researchers, agriculture and manufacturing evolved from “diverse, smallscale and independent entities to
coordinated and efficient integrated
systems” producing many times
more goods and services with a
small fraction of the previous work
force. Medical care today is ripe for
a similar transformation in accessibility, affordability and efficiency –
if engineering principles and technological advances are applied systematically across modern medicine’s
broad and diverse landscape.
“Engineers
can help
make the
delivery of
healthcare
much more
efficient, and
we have an
obligation
to try to
do so.”
– Anand Jagota
A three-pronged
approach
Researchers from Lehigh and Mayo
are working on projects in three
categories: medical systems engineering, integrated devices and monitoring, and emerging medical materials. Advances in these areas, the
researchers say, promise to have a
significant impact on several aspects
of future medical care.
Imagine, for example, taking cell
phones and other wireless mobile
gadgets and fitting them with
biocompatible sensors and optical attachments that monitor the
body’s vital signals as people work,
play and sleep. These new devices
will alert users, and the healthcare providers in a user’s network,
when a trip to the hospital or clinic
is in order. They will also house
medical histories and records. In
the process, they will decentralize
medical care, says the Lehigh-Mayo
team, by extending diagnosis and
treatment beyond hospitals and
clinics into aspects of a patient’s
daily life.
On another front, new devices
and software will enable patients
to “self-administer” many of the
monitoring, therapeutic and drugdelivery functions that specialists
now do, again cutting costs.
Advances in understanding the
human genome will allow doctors
to personalize treatment. Microfluidic devices will enable “pointof-care” diagnoses that eliminate
the need for samples to be sent to
labs. Intuition born of professional
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 11
A circular genome map (above)
shows genetic material shared
between humans and other
species. Glass bone developed
by Lehigh researchers (right)
is porous at both the nano and
macro scales. A light micrograph
(facing page) shows invasive
cervical carcinoma.
Latex particles (above) encapsulated with
gold nanoparticles are being studied for
their ability to perform diagnostic tests
and to bind to and target cancer cells.
12 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
experience will still be critical, but
more and more medical decisions
will be assisted by precise measurements interpreted by computers
that learn from vast medical information databases.
Simplification, automation and
miniaturization, say the researchers,
will result in devices that cut costs
by allowing expensive medical procedures to be moved away from specialized facilities requiring
highly trained operators to
doctors’ offices and eventually to home care.
Meanwhile, new materials will lend greater biocompatibility to artificial
organs and synthetic
tissue. Coupled with
advances in bioelectronics
and biophotonics, for
example, a new generation
of microchips could be
developed that, when
implanted in the brain or
spinal column, will rewire
nerve cells, rejoin synapses and
reconnect nerve signals to muscles.
Similarly, implanted microdevices will
achieve “as-needed drug delivery”
by, for example, triggering a
surge of insulin when glucose
levels rise.
Critical to all three of these
areas, say the Lehigh-Mayo
researchers, and critical to the
overall drive to make medical
care more affordable with technology, is systems engineering.
“In the future healthcare system,”
the researchers believe, “constant
monitoring of patients will produce
vast data sets for new clinical
research studies. It will enable early
identification of the onset of disease
and greater quality and duration of life
outside managed-care facilities.
“Many innovations will be required,
such as novel, unobtrusive sensors;
power-efficient, small-form-factor
data-acquisition, storage, and analysis units; and power-efficient, highreliability, high-availability, secure
communications and networking
solutions. This wealth of challenges
opens exciting new opportunities for
students in engineering and students
in medicine.”
The new partnership thus has an
important educational component:
Mayo students seeking the Ph.D. or
M.D. in biomedical engineering will
study at Lehigh to master engineering
fundamentals and quantitative systems skills, while students in Lehigh’s
new bioengineering Ph.D. program
(see page 23) will complete laboratory rotations or clinical internships at
Mayo. These exchanges will give students an integrated biomedical and
systems engineering perspective and
enable them to develop the “essential
technology framework for affordable
medical care.”
Cervical cancer was once one of the most
common causes of cancer death for American
women. But death rates fell by 74 percent from
1955 to 1992 and, says the American Cancer
Society, continue to drop about 4 percent a
year, chiefly because of increased use of the
Pap smear.
Nonetheless, it is estimated that over 4,000
American women will die of cervical cancer
this year. And the disease is one of the leading
causes of death in middle-aged women in the
developing world.
Now, a new computer-assisted visual
interactive recognition system developed by a
research team led by Xiaolei Huang may lead
to a more cost-effective method of detecting
cervical cancer in its early stages.
The Lehigh-Mayo collaboration is
a key element of the emerging Lehigh
Biotech Cluster, a comprehensive initiative designed to support the efforts
of biomedical researchers and leverage
capabilities in advanced materials,
optical technologies and systems
engineering.
A logical merging
of interests
The Mayo Clinic enjoys renown not
only for the quality of medical care
it delivers but also for its efforts
to reduce the cost of its services.
President Barack Obama has praised
Mayo for offering “the best quality
and lowest cost of just about any
healthcare system in the country” and
has urged other providers to “learn
from what Mayo is doing.” Journalists
and bloggers have joined the National
Academy of Engineering in lauding
Mayo’s commitments to “patient-first
medicine” and “team medicine.”
A complementary test to the Pap smear is the
cervigram, a digital photo of the cervix. To highlight
abnormal tissue, a weak solution of acetic acid is
applied. Upon contact with the acid, all forms of
precancerous tissue exhibit some degree of opacity,
or aceto-whiteness. Various patterns signaling cervical
lesion, such as vasculature, mosaicism and punctations, can appear inside the aceto-whitened region.
The whitening starts to wear off after
about five minutes.
A cervigram enables a medical
professional to identify areas containing aceto-whitened tissue. This negates
having to send out samples for analysis,
which is important when access to wet
lab facilities is limited or nonexistent.
A cervigram can also be transmitted
via the Internet to a professional at a
remote site for interpretation.
“Recognizing aceto-whitened areas and other
abnormal visual patterns, however, is not as easy as
you might think,” says Huang, the P.C. Rossin Assistant
Professor of computer science and engineering. “Every
Lehigh in recent years has forged
research partnerships with hospitals, medical schools, and medical
technology and drug companies.
These include the Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine, the
Lehigh Valley Hospital, Merck and Co.
Inc., Olympus, B. Braun, and Becton,
Dickinson and Co. (BD). In 2002, with
support from NSF, Lehigh launched an
undergraduate bioengineering program
(see page 22) with concentrations
in cell and tissue engineering, biopharmaceuticals, and bioelectronics/
photonics.
In 2007, to coordinate research
efforts in diagnostic and therapeutic
technologies for affordable medicine,
Lehigh’s board of trustees approved
the Biotech Cluster. The endeavor is
part of the university’s Healthcare
Initiative, which is a centerpiece of
Lehigh’s 10-year strategic plan. A
specific plan has been developed
to establish a state-of-the-art facility
to house the Biotech Cluster and
patient is different, and the conditions under which
images are taken may vary. Our aim is to develop a
software system that will facilitate the recognition
process and reduce the number of false-positive and
false-negative results.”
Such a system, says Huang, must be robust. A
simplistic approach might identify pixels of a certain
color or intensity and highlight these as affected
areas. This would be error-prone as
pixels in unrelated parts of the image
might have similar characteristics due
to glare or other imaging anomalies.
Color and contrast ranges will not be
the same in every image.
“In order to develop a reliable
cervigram analysis system,” says
Huang, “the texture, size and relative
geometry of regions must also be
considered.”
Huang’s system combines data derived from
images annotated and analyzed by trained medical
professionals with computer learning software to
reduce false-positive readings. The reliability of the
system depends on the number of annotated
images used. To help Huang achieve her goal,
the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the
National Cancer Institute have given her team access
to more than 100,000 anonymous cervigrams and
their corresponding diagnostic notes.
Although she is only in the second year of her
project, Huang’s software can already reliably identify
aceto-whitened areas. Another goal of the project is
to enable users to retrieve similar cervigrams, along
with diagnostic comments from the NLM archive, via
a Web connection. This may help medical personnel
who must grade cervical lesions and decide what
treatment to take.
“We hope to be able to extend this methodology
to other fields of imaging diagnostics such as the
analysis of mammograms,” says Huang.
Huang is working with Profs. Daniel Lopresti
and Gang Tan in Lehigh’s department of computer
science and engineering; George Nagy of Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute; and Dr. Joseph Patruno of the
department of obstetrics and gynecology at Lehigh
Valley Hospital in Allentown. The work is funded by NSF.
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 13
Cell
A hand-held HIV diagnostic device (top left; see page 18).
A microelectrode array chip (above) cultures hypothalamic
neurons from mice, while dielectrophoretic quadrupole
electrodes (above left) trap and compress a cell.
Lehigh materials scientist Sabrina Jedlicka (above)
and mechanical engineer John Coulter modify
nanoscale substrates with protein-derived peptides
to promote the adhesion and differentiation of adult
stem cells. Vibro-acoustography (facing page, left
column) produces speckle-free images of tissues
and improves the characterization of the tissues’
material properties.
14 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
create space for
Lehigh’s biomedical
researchers and for
collaborative projects
with Mayo. The initiative also calls for a
major expansion of
the bioengineering
faculty, the appointment of endowed
chairs in health and
the construction of
user facilities devoted
to cell-tissue cultures,
imaging and characterization, device
microfabrication, and genomics and
proteomics.
Lehigh’s areas of expertise are
well-suited to the needs of advanced
biomedical research. The university’s
spectroscopy and microscopy facilities
are world-renowned for their ability to
characterize the properties and behaviors of materials at the nanoscale.
The newly restructured Emulsion
Polymers Institute has first-class labs
for synthesizing and characterizing
polymers and colloids. The Center for
Optical Technologies and Sherman
Fairchild Center for Solid-State
Studies contain labs that are ideal
for the fabrication of microelectronic
devices capable of sensing and
manipulating cells, molecules and
nanoparticles.
Biomedical research efforts now
underway at Lehigh and at Mayo are
highly complementary. At Lehigh,
computer scientists are automating
the analysis of MRIs and other medical images with novel computational
and data-processing tools. Chemical
engineers are developing nanomaterial hybrids of DNA with carbon nanotubes, while chemists are sequencing
single DNA molecules with magnetic
“tweezers” using massively parallel
dynamic force spectroscopy. Electrical
engineers are applying bioMEMS
(microelectromechanical systems) to
study lung cells and, separately, developing arrays of microelectrodes to
monitor electrical activity in neuronal
networks. Physicists use laser “tweezers” to manipulate and study cells,
and materials scientists and mechanical engineers are learning to control
the differentiation of adult stem cells.
At Mayo, a team of biomedical
engineers is developing wearable
monitors to gather patient data for
studies in endocrinology and obesity,
as well as orthopedics and neurology.
Wireless devices communicating with
the monitors will process data and
transfer it to an upstream network.
The project requires solving, and integrating, issues related to the flow and
analysis of information, the reliability
of data, the detection of anomalies,
and the privacy and security of data
traversing through a network. The
Mayo group is collaborating with an
electrical engineer at Lehigh (see
page 2) who has expertise in wireless
communications networks.
Ubiquitous, 24/7 care
Solving challenges like these, say the
Lehigh-Mayo researchers, will enable
healthcare networks to reach patients
in any location at any time, thus cutting costs by reducing patient travel
times and hospital visits.
In one proposed collaboration,
Mayo’s Sieck and Lehigh’s Kothare will
investigate the implantation of chips
and microdevices that could restore
function to patients with Parkinson’s
disease, epilepsy, cerebral palsy
and other neurodegenerative conditions. The issues involved are deepbrain stimulation, brain-computer
interfaces, computational modeling
and control theory. Under the educational component of the Lehigh-Mayo
partnership, a Mayo student would
study control theory at Lehigh while
a Lehigh student would learn at
Mayo how to apply control theory to
patients undergoing neuro-rehabilitation therapy.
In another proposed joint project,
Mayo researchers are exploring vibroacoustography, an imaging method
used in radiology that produces
speckle-free images of tissues while
offering a low-cost alternative to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Mechanical engineers at Lehigh will
contribute expertise in large-scale
numerical analysis, including finite
element analysis, which clarifies the
results of lab experiments by improving the characterization of the material properties of biological tissues.
Finite element analysis, say the
researchers, “can provide valuable
insights into the mechanical response
of tissues that are unobtainable by
any other technique.”
The overall goal of all the LehighMayo partnership goes beyond developing new devices, systems and therapies to propose a fundamentally
new approach to medical care.
“The discoveries in biology in the
last half-century,” says Jagota, “have
changed the way we look at the
world. Now it’s incumbent on us to
develop systems that can handle the
complexity of biological processes
and generate efficiencies.”
The Human Genome Project, says Stefan Maas, provided an unprecedented understanding of the body’s
genes while raising questions about how complexity and
diversity arise in humans.
The approximately 30,000 genes discovered in
the human genome, says Maas, a biological sciences
professor in Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences,
are far fewer than the 50,000 to 140,000 scientists
had expected. Some simpler organisms have more
genes than do humans. The rice genome, for example,
contains 50,000 genes.
This lack of correlation between genome size and
complexity suggests other phenomena contribute to
complexity and diversity in humans. Maas and Daniel
Lopresti, a professor of computer science and engineering, have studied one of these phenomena, RNA editing,
for four years.
RNA editing, says Maas, includes a variety of
mechanisms by which gene sequences are altered
after DNA is transcribed into RNA and before RNA is
translated to the proteins that determine an organism’s
structural, enzymatic and regulatory functions. The most
important of these mechanisms involves the modification of single nucleotides, the molecules that connect
to form the structural units of RNA and DNA.
The human genome contains 3.4 billion nucleotides. Modifications in them can cause changes to
the amino acids in the proteins that are synthesized,
which can lead in turn to an alteration of protein function. Thus, says Maas, RNA editing yields a potentially
exponential increase in the number of gene products
that can be generated from a single gene — and a
staggering volume of information to analyze.
“Only by examining all RNA sequences,” says
Maas, “can you determine how much RNA editing
occurs in the human genome, how much diversity
it generates and how many genes are subject to
RNA editing.”
“Searching for RNA editing sites,” says Lopresti,
“is like looking for a needle in a gigantic haystack.
You cannot do this manually, and you cannot guess
where editing sites are going to be.”
Lopresti has developed RNA Editing Dataflow
System (REDS), a software program that identifies discrepancies that arise when DNA is transcribed into RNA,
and eliminates those that occur for reasons other than
RNA editing. Maas and his students examine suspected
editing sites, isolating DNA and RNA from brain and
other tissues and amplifying the sequences of both to
determine whether editing has occurred.
“We then take the data we obtain from the lab and
feed it to our software to improve on our predictions,”
says Maas. “The more
data we obtain, the
more our predictions
can be based on
machine learning.”
Maas and
Lopresti are most
interested in a type
of editing known as
A-to-I editing, which
can cause amino
acid changes in protein products. These
changes have been
implicated in epilepsy,
depression and
other illnesses.
The researchers
also examine RNA
folding and the
Lopresti and Maas study RNA editing.
correlation between
folding structures and
the incidence of RNA editing. RNA’s structure is in
constant flux, like strands of spaghetti that fold and
loop over each other. It is at these double-stranded
regions where editing is most likely to occur.
Lopresti has written an algorithm that attempts
to deduce RNA’s structure from its sequence and to
determine, based on that structure, the location of
likely editing sites.
“We’ve developed fast computational techniques
that simulate folding in order to confirm the structures
that are right for editing,” he says. “Our algorithm ranks
all potential editing sites based on predicted folding
because of structure.”
“Each gene we find in which RNA editing occurs,”
says Maas, “opens a new chapter about the significance of editing, the pathways that are involved and
potential diseases that result from RNA editing deficiency or overactivity.”
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 15
feature
The product of five years
of design and testing,
Grenestedt’s streamliner
set a new U.S. land
speed record for
125-cc-engine vehicles
in Utah last September.
jan and agneta isidorsson
A land-speed record
Small engines and composite materials reach a new level at Bonneville.
Joachim Grenestedt’s enclosed streamlined motorcycle
seemed ill-suited to the rigors of racing.
The streamliner looked like a miniature
airplane with no wings. To fit inside its tiny
cockpit, Grenestedt, who is 6 feet 4 inches
tall, had to lie almost flat on his back. After
strapping safety restraints against his body,
arms, ankles, knees and thighs, he could
barely move his left foot to change gears.
The vehicle’s low center of gravity made it
wobbly at low speeds, and steering was counterintuitive: to go left, one had to first steer
right, causing the streamliner to lean, and
then steer left.
16 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
Last September, on the snow-white, level surface of the
Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, Grenestedt raced his streamliner to a speed of 133.165 miles per hour,
shattering the previous U.S. land speed
record of 125.594 mph for 125-cc engines
running on gasoline.
“I felt many impressions,” Grenestedt
says of his dash across the desert. “New
sounds, new smells, new feelings, new
sights. There were too many impressions to
sort out, because there was no blood running through my veins, just adrenaline.”
Speed is Grenestedt’s first engineering
love. Composite materials run a close
second. As a teenager, he built and
raced remote-control boats. As director
of Lehigh’s Composites Laboratory, he
has fashioned ships, airplanes and even
the deck of his house out of carbon and
glass fiber composites, often in the form
of sandwich structures with honeycomb
or foam cores.
Composite materials, says Grenestedt,
a professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, are strong, easy
to shape, resistant to corrosion and
efficient. Being lightweight, they boost
speed.
The Bonneville Salt Flats is home
to the Bonneville Speedway and many
of the world’s land speed records.
Grenestedt traveled there in 2004,
watched some runs and talked with
drivers and engineers. After he read
the rule book for land speed racing,
he resolved to challenge the U.S. land
speed record.
“I was looking for a new project,” he
says. “I had checked into drag racing,
but its rules discouraged innovation. The
rules for land speed racing have stringent requirements for safety, but impose
few other restrictions. I did some calculations for aerodynamic drag, power and
acceleration, and I saw that it should be
possible to beat a number of records
without spending a fortune on engines.”
Grenestedt worked on the streamliner more than five years. Bill Maroun,
a technician at Lehigh, helped with welding and accompanied him to Bonneville.
He had only a handful of opportunities to test-drive the racer.
“My first run with the bike was a few
years before the race,” he says. “I had
mounted the wheels, but I hadn’t yet
installed the engine, brake or any other
systems. I took the machine out on the
street in front of our house and rolled it
down a slope. My seven- and 10-year-old
sons pulled on a long rope to stop me. I
used training wheels to avoid falling over
and damaging the fuselage.
“For my second test, I installed the
engine and kept the training wheels. I
really started to learn to drive the thing.”
The next run, and the last before
Bonneville, came in 2008 at the Maple
Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pa. There,
Grenestedt revved the engine higher and
completed a quarter-mile.
Contending with salt and wind
His pursuit of the land speed
record, says Grenestedt, allowed him
to tie together his favorite engineering themes.
“I enjoy carbon and glass fiber
work, and I have a soft spot for twostroke engines. And I love cramming
myself into small, fast vehicles. I
wouldn’t feel comfortable driving
a supersonic streamliner, but I felt
At Bonneville, Grenestedt completed
shake-down runs of 75 mph and 100
mph, and tried out the parachute brake
deployment to stop the streamliner. Just
before stopping, he electrically deployed
two skids, one on each side of the
streamliner, for the vehicle to lean on.
“This was the first time I had pulled
the brake ‘chute. It felt like a gentle tug,
with no hint of pulling to the side. The
skids came out nicely and I was able
to stop.”
On his third and final shake-down run,
Grenestedt reached 122 mph while contending with two new phenomena –
the slippery salt surface and a light but
steady crosswind.
“The streamliner was not nearly as
stable as it had been on the asphalt
at Maple Grove. I had new tires for
Bonneville – high-speed slicks with a
round cross section – whereas I had
more square tires at Maple Grove. But
I think the real difference was that the
salt was more slippery than the asphalt.
“I also think the slight crosswind
made it feel less stable. I had to lean
into the wind but steer straight, which
fights natural steering.”
13,000 rpm and a new
speed record
The 11-mile-long raceway at Bonneville
contains a “timed mile” at its midway
point. Drivers use the first five miles of
the track to accelerate and the final
five to slow to a stop. They repeat the
process in the opposite direction, and
their official time is determined by averaging the two speeds achieved over the
timed mile.
“After my third trial run,” Grenestedt
says, “I mounted a smaller rear sprocket
to get more speed for the same engine
rpm. My first run on the 11-mile course
went fine. The launch was good, the
acceleration good, the engine temperature was high but not dangerously so.
“It was quite exciting seeing the
speed creep up to 120, 123, 125, to
the record of 126 and finally to 133.
By this time, the engine was revving
at 13,000 rpm, well past its peak power
at about 11,800 rpm. I should have
been able to go quite a bit faster if I had
used an even smaller rear sprocket.”
A computational fluid
dynamic (CFD) analysis of the streamliner
(above). Grenestedt’s
design (top) did not
account for driver
comfort.
great driving at the
speeds I designed my
streamliner for.”
Grenestedt has
retired from land speed
racing. He is now the
adviser to Lehigh’s Land
Yacht Club. Several of
his students have traveled to Lake Ivanpah,
a dry lake in the California desert.
There, last year, they watched a
land yacht set a new world record
– 126 mph – for wind-powered land
speed racing.
Grenestedt won’t disclose his
plans. But his students have built
a tire-testing rig and tried it out at
Lake Ivanpah. And the club is converting an airplane glider into a
high-speed land yacht.
“If I were a student today,”
he says, “nothing could keep me
from getting involved in a project
like this.”
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 17
feature
photography by KATE HOLT
Kenya’s healthcare workers
are dedicated, says Cheng,
but subpar facilities may
require her to reconfigure
her diagnostic device.
18 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
In Africa,
a point-of-care battle
against AIDS
More than 400,000 children a year contract
H I V in sub - S aharan A frica . X uanh o n g
C hen g creates hand-held devices that
help track the virus’s progress.
Medical science has not yet developed a cure or vaccination for AIDS or for the HIV
virus that causes it, but efforts to combat the global AIDS epidemic appear to be
having some effect.
According to UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS) and
the World Health Organization (WHO), the estimated number of new HIV infections
reported annually has dropped 30 percent worldwide since it peaked at 3.5 million
in 1996.
The number of people dying from AIDS-related diseases is also declining, the two
organizations say. And new treatments are enabling persons with HIV to lead productive and, in many cases, long lives.
This encouraging news, says Xuanhong Cheng, is tempered by the tragedy of
sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 33.4 million people in the world now coping with HIV, twothirds live in sub-Saharan Africa. And more than 14 million children in the region,
according to UNAIDS, have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
For Cheng, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, one
statistic stands out. More than 400,000 children each year are infected with HIV.
The vast majority contract the virus through mother-to-child transmission, a phenomenon that occurs during pregnancy, labor, childbirth or breastfeeding. Preventing or
decreasing the likelihood of mother-to-child transmission is a top priority of global
health organizations.
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 19
Cheng’s first device
contains a chip
(below) that uses
microfluidic chromatography to separate
cells from blood. An
electrical current
counts the cells.
HIV testing and
diagnosis are critical to this effort.
But in Kenya, to
cite one example,
an estimated 83
percent of the people with HIV remain
undiagnosed because of the lack of resources in hospitals
and clinics. To help overcome the shortage of facilities and
staff in outlying areas, as well as difficulties in transportation, health officials are seeking to develop point-of-care
diagnostics that eliminate the need to send blood samples
and other specimens to laboratories for analysis. The goal
is twofold: to determine if a child is infected with HIV and
to monitor the progress of the disease, thus helping a
doctor decide what level or type of treatment is necessary.
Tracking the progress of HIV
Cheng is part of a research team that has developed a
hand-held point-of-care diagnostic device that monitors the
progression of HIV by measuring the concentration of lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell – that possess a CD4
receptor on their surface in a droplet of blood.
In an infected patient, the HIV virus attaches itself to
a CD4 receptor and uses the cell to make copies of itself,
completely damaging the cell in the process. Because CD4
cells help initiate the body’s response to invading micro-
20 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
organisms, they are a vital component of the immune system. If they are destroyed, the immune system is compromised. A CD4 count in a healthy individual is around 1,000
cells per cubic millimeter of blood. Values below this level
may indicate the early stages of the disease even though
the patient might not show any symptoms. Counts below
200 are a sign that the immune system has been severely
weakened and the patient is then classified as having AIDS.
This CD4-counting device that Cheng helped develop is
now being made commercially by Daktari Diagnostics Inc.,
a company based in Cambridge, Mass., that was founded
by Bill Rodriguez, a former professor at Harvard Medical
School. The device uses microfluidic cell chromatography
to isolate cells from a blood sample without having to add
chemical reagents. A droplet of the patient’s blood enters
a tiny channel into an assay chamber whose walls contain
antibodies that act like Velcro, capturing only the CD4+
lymphocytes. Everything else in the blood passes through.
The chamber contains a simple electrical contact that is
used to detect the number of captured cells.
A mission to Kenya
Cheng’s group is hoping to carry out a field test of the
hand-held CD4-counting device later this year in Africa.
In December 2009, to gain a better understanding of the
conditions faced by African healthcare professionals, Cheng
went on a weeklong fact-finding mission to Kenya. The trip
was organized and funded by PATH, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to finding solutions to world
health problems.
“To me, the use of this technology is straightforward, but
there was no way of identifying potential problems without
talking to Kenyan healthcare workers and seeing for myself
the conditions in which they have to work,” says Cheng.
In Kenya, there are several different grades of health
facility ranging from major National Referral Hospitals to
local healthcare centers and dispensaries. The larger and
better-equipped hospitals are situated near urban centers
such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu. In rural
areas, patients have
access only to small
healthcare centers, dispensaries and mobile
clinics, many of which do
not have a full-time resident doctor.
During the first three
days of her trip, Cheng
visited the Mbagathi and
Kiambu District hospitals,
the Karuri Health Centre,
the National Public Health
Laboratory and the Kenya
Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Nairobi. On the
fourth day she flew to Kisumu, a town in eastern Kenya.
“With the exception of KEMRI, laboratory facilities
in Kenya are minimal, even in the large hospitals,” says
Cheng. “A lab is considered to be well-equipped if it has
a microscope and a centrifuge. A major problem is that
all the samples obtained from patients throughout the
hospital, irrespective of the disease, are analyzed in the
same room. Ventilation is often inadequate. This can lead
to cross-contamination and to the spread of disease to the
people who work there.”
In addition, a stable electricity supply cannot be guaranteed and power, in many cases, is available only during the
day. And the lack of air conditioning means that temperatures inside hospitals vary considerably from day to night.
“This has serious implications for the use of our device
as we use electrical measurements to obtain a CD4 cell
count,” says Cheng. “We may now have to introduce a selfcalibrating system into our device so that it can be operated at different temperatures.”
Funding for healthcare systems in Kenya has not
increased for several years and hospitals are lucky if they
have 60 percent of the required staff. Money for even the
most basic of diagnostic testing is limited. All funding for
point-of-care diagnostics would have to be obtained from
outside charitable agencies.
An affordable
blood test for HIV
Despite these challenges, says Cheng, the healthcare
workers she met were dedicated, often working long hours.
“One thing you notice is that the Kenyan people in
general are always smiling,” she says. “They seemed very
pleased to see us and waved to us as our cars went by.
The visit has made me even more determined to play a part
in improving their level of health care.”
Back at Lehigh, Cheng is working on a second hand-held
point-of-care diagnostic device that will measure the concentration of HIV virus particles present in a blood sample.
“HIV diagnosis in adults is simple,” says Cheng. “You
take a sample of blood or saliva and put it on a strip. If the
blood contains HIV antibodies, the strip changes color and
you know the patient is infected with the virus. Diagnosis in
infants, however, is not as straightforward. A baby receives
a lot of antibodies from its mother so the only way to confirm whether or not a baby has HIV is to detect the number
of virus particles in the blood.”
Currently, HIV viral loadings are measured using one of
three proprietary commercial methods. All are based on
nucleic acid amplification and all require state-of-the-art
laboratory facilities that are prohibitively expensive and not
available in developing countries.
Cheng’s second hand-held device, also based on micro-
fluidic technology, will be more complicated than the CD4counting device because HIV viruses are much smaller
than CD4 cells and therefore more difficult to detect.
The new device will contain a prefiltration chamber
designed to separate out viral particles, which are only
120 nm in diameter, from much larger particles such as
red and white blood cells. The amount of blood required
for this test is approximately 1 milliliter – considerably
more than the single droplet required for the CD4counting device. By passing this larger quantity of blood
through the chamber, the concentration of viral particles
is increased 1,000 times, which makes them easier to
detect and leads to a more accurate measurement of
concentration. The separated viral particles will then be
impregnated into a nanoporous membrane
that contains specific antibodies to which
the viral particles will selectively adhere.
The number of particles will be determined
from the pressure differential across
the membrane.
Designing this type of device requires
expertise in several fields of materials
engineering and
biomedical science.
Cheng is collaborating with Profs.
Wojciech Misiolek
and William Van
Geertruyden of
Lehigh’s materials
science and
engineering department and with
Dr. Timothy Friel, an
infectious disease
specialist at Lehigh
Valley Hospital
in Allentown, Pa.
Daniel Ou-Yang,
a professor of
physics, is helping
Cheng determine the feasibility of using
optical techniques to measure viral
concentrations.
“While both of these devices are
designed for point-of-care diagnostics in
developing countries, there is no reason
why they can’t be used in the U.S.,” says
Cheng. HIV patients are advised to check
their viral loading every four months to
monitor the effectiveness of their treatment
regime. Cheng’s devices could lead to
a more cost-effective and accessible
method of monitoring the disease.
The hand-held CD4
counter Cheng helped
develop would eliminate the need to test
blood samples in labs.
It could be field-tested
later this year.
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 21
feature
photography by douglas Benedict
Matthew Havener ’06
has helped Orthovita
develop a bioactive
composite material
that facilitates human
bone growth, along
with a delivery system
(below) that injects the
material into the bone.
students are making
their mark in industry
and graduate school.
Lehigh’s undergraduate bioengineering
program is one of the university’s newest
engineering majors and is quickly becoming one of its most popular.
Established in 2002 and accredited in
2008, the bioengineering program today
enrolls more than 100 students. Alumni
are enrolling in graduate school and taking jobs in the healthcare, biomedical,
Bioengineers take
pharmaceutical, biomaterials and biotechnology industries.
The program seeks to prepare students for a field that is constantly changing, says its director, Anand Jagota.
“We are in the midst of a second wave
of bioengineering, spurred by the maturation of the underlying cell and molecular
biological sciences,” says Jagota. “Cells
and biochemical pathways are well understood, which gives engineers and physical
scientists the basic knowledge and building blocks to develop new technologies,
therapies, diagnostics and materials.”
Lehigh’s bioengineering students
choose to specialize in one of three
tracks. Biopharmaceutical engineering
encompasses biochemistry and chemical
engineering, exploring genomics, protein
22 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
engineering, and drug synthesis and delivery.
and his adviser are trying to better underBioelectronics/biophotonics emphasizes elecstand how the human T cell, a cornerstone
trical engineering and physics with applicaof the body’s adaptive immune response,
tions in biosensors, MEMs, biochips and
is able to navigate microenvironments.
optical technologies. Cell and tissue
At Lehigh, Henry worked with
engineering straddles molecular and
Profs. Richard Vinci and Walter
cell biology, materials science,
Brown of the materials science and
mechanical engineering and electrical
engineering department to investiengineering.
gate the mechanics involved in
Students are encouraged to take
the puncture of a soft solid by a
part in research projects and summicroneedle, which may one day be
mer internships and are required
used to deliver drugs into patients
to complete Lehigh’s award-winning
with less pain than conventional
Integrated Product Development (IPD)
hypodermic needles.
program, in which interdisciplinary
“This experience was invaluable
teams of students make and market
in shaping my thought processes as
new products for industrial sponsors.
a young scientist and giving me an
Matthew Havener ’06 was
appreciation for what it means to be
Bioactive glass
inspired by the bioengineering
an educator both inside and outside
used as a bone
program to go into the field of biomathe classroom,” says Henry.
graft substitute.
terials. Havener is now a research
“My professors were instrumental
and development engineer for
in my decision to pursue my doctorOrthovita, an orthobiologics and biosurgery
ate. I see myself working at the interface
company based in Malvern, Pa., that makes
of both fields in a translational capacity,
medical implants, synthetic bone grafts,
applying basic scientific principles to clinical
surgical hemostats and bone cement, with
or industrial ends or, conversely, using the
a focus on orthopedics.
needs of industry to motivate further fundamental research.”
Michelle Cremeans ’06 earned degrees
in both bioengineering and integrated business and engineering (IBE) while participating in the IPD program and completing
research projects. This variety of experiences
helped her realize that, while bioengineering was a good theoretical match, dentistry
Havener does early development work
would provide the greater human interaction
for new materials and conducts the tests
that she desired.
that are required to obtain FDA (U.S. Food
Cremeans will graduate from Penn’s
and Drug Administration) approval for new
School of Dental Medicine in May and
products. He recently helped develop a
pursue a one-year residency before going
bone cement for vertebral compression
into private practice and teaching at the
fractures.
university level.
“The most beneficial part of Lehigh’s
“The research I did at Lehigh, both in
bioengineering program for me was the
the IPD program and in my summer internresearch project I did with Prof. Jagota,” says
ships, was a very valuable and eye-opening
Havener. “It gave me something I could talk
experience,” she says. “I was in the first
about passionately and intelligently in a job
class going through the bioengineering
interview. It was also a lot of fun. As a result
program and I think that the directors
of this work, a paper I coauthored was pubreally let us have a say in how the classes
lished in Langmuir.”
were developed.
Steven Henry’s research experience
“The education that I received at
convinced the 2009 graduate to enroll
Lehigh was amazing and I think that my
in the University of Pennsylvania’s doctoral
critical thinking skills are far superior to
program in bioengineering. At Penn, Henry
those of some of my colleagues.”
flight
PH.D. prOgram
has twin focus
As interest in bioengineering has grown, so too
have graduate programs at leading institutions.
In the fall of 2009, Lehigh introduced M.S.
and Ph.D. programs in bioengineering with
emphases on cellular and biomolecular science
and engineering.
Anand Jagota, who directs the program, says
the growth in bioengineering programs across the
nation and at Lehigh suggests that there will be
more than enough applicants for the new graduate programs. And, he adds, the U.S. Department
of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics recently
reported that biomedical engineers are expected
to have more rapid employment growth through
2014 than the average for job seekers in all
other occupations.
“Biomedical engineers, particularly those
with only a bachelor’s degree, may face competition for jobs,” Jagota says. “Unlike the case for
many other engineering specialties, a graduate
degree is recommended or required for many
entry-level jobs in biomedical engineering.”
Lehigh’s graduate programs in bioengineering will train students to solve problems that
require the application of interdisciplinary knowledge, says Jagota.
“We’re looking to attract students with
diverse academic backgrounds,” says Jagota.
“We are providing them with an integrated foundation in engineering, physical science and life
science, especially at the molecular through
cellular scale, with a strong appreciation of
physiological context.”
Jagota works with an oversight committee
composed of faculty from the P.C. Rossin College
of Engineering and Applied Science and the
College of Arts and Sciences.
Lehigh University • p.c. rossin college of engineering and applied science • 23
RISINGSTARS
Particulate systems – “as much art as
science, and fun to explore”
working with one colleague on a coating that would improve the efficiency of
solar cells.
“Particles in suspensions are usually
positioned randomly when at rest,” says
Gilchrist. “When suspensions flow, as
Gilchrist and his
blood does, they are no longer homostudents study the
geneous and this results in fluids having
behavior of particles
strange properties when the concentrain suspensions.
tion of solids is relatively high.”
Christopher Brunn '11
In their experiments, Gilchrist and
(below) tests solar
his
students control suspensions as they
cells coated with
transition
from fluid to gel. Using confotitania nanoparticles.
cal scanning microscopy, they observe
the 3-D structure of nanoparticles. As
they increase the nanoparticle concentration, the fluid turns to gel. When they
electrostatically charge the suspension, it
reverts to fluid.
“Other researchers have theorized as
to what’s happening, but we are the first
to do experiments that directly measure
how particles in fluids interact to generate these unusual
forces,” he says. “We
"Learning more about how particles interact in fluids can help us
want to learn more
design platforms that detect HIV and cancer." – James Gilchrist
about the kinds of
microstructures that
give complex fluids like blood or waste
“I want to learn more about how parproducts macroscopic properties.”
ticles interact in fluids.”
Gilchrist’s group analyzes suspensions
In Lehigh’s Laboratory for Particle
flowing in microchannels that are roughly
Mixing and Self-Organization, Gilchrist
the size of a human hair. When the
and his colleagues have learned to
suspension is not flowing, they observe
measure the internal structure of flowparticles randomly dispersed everywhere.
ing suspensions and to resolve nanoscale
deviations in these suspensions by tracking the relative positions of micronsized particles.
Predicting and controlling these
deviations has enormous potential in a
myriad of processes that involve suspensions. In mining, it could enable more
efficient processing of waste sludge; in
pharmaceuticals, it could reduce drugproduction costs. In medicine, it could
lead to simpler analyses of blood to
detect HIV and cancer. Suspensions are
also widely used in coatings. Gilchrist is
In a YouTube video, two barefoot young
men run across a pool of white liquid
and the crowd cheers. When they try
to stand on the liquid, they sink. The
crowd roars.
The white liquid – particles of corn
starch suspended in water – is a complex
fluid whose flow properties, unlike those
of water or honey, are not described by a
single constant value of viscosity. You can
bounce a spoon off the surface of a bowl
of this mixture, or allow the spoon to
sink slowly, because the fluid sometimes
behaves like a solid.
Flowing suspensions and their internal structures make James Gilchrist
excited to come to work. Beyond tricks,
he sees applications that could improve
many areas of life.
“Some scientists wake up in the
morning to try to cure cancer,” says
Gilchrist, the P.C. Rossin Assistant
Professor of chemical engineering.
24 • resolve • a focus on lehigh engineering
When the fluid is pushed through the
channel, they watch the particles demix
and migrate toward the channel center.
This migration is a result of particles
organizing themselves into clusters that
dissipate stress in a nonuniform way.
No one has measured the structures of
these clusters until now. Gilchrist and his
students, Changbao Gao and Bu Xu, can
stop the flow, locate the position of every
particle and determine their relationship
to other particles.
Such information has the potential
to improve blood analysis in HIV and
cancer patients by controlling the blood
flow so that sensors identifying AIDS
and cancer cells actually come in contact
with infected cells.
Gilchrist also collaborates with Prof.
Nelson Tansu in the department of
electrical and computer engineering on
a DOE project to improve the lighting efficiency of light-emitting diodes
(LEDs). Tansu creates high-efficiency
LEDs; Gilchrist coats their surface with
self-assembled microlens arrays to help
extract light. Particles dispersed in a
suspension organize when drawn into a
thin film atop the LED. The resulting
structure can enhance an LED’s overall
performance by over 200 percent.
Gilchrist plans to continue studying
the behavior of particulate systems.
“These systems behave in unpredictable ways. We want to develop an overarching theory that describes a broad
range of suspension and granular flows.
It’s as much art as science, which is part
of what makes it fun to explore.”
didyouknow
Biotech and Biomedical Leadership
Over the years, many Lehigh engineers have led research and
academic programs in biomedicine. A few examples:
Philip Drinker
’17 , who helped found
Harvard’s School of Public
Health, was the inventor of
the iron lung. The “Drinker
Respirator” was used in every
major hospital in the U.S. during the polio epidemic
of the 1930s.
William S. Pierce
In the 1970s,
’58 and his team at Penn State University’s
Hershey Medical Center designed and built the
Pierce-Donachy Ventricular
Assist Device, which was
designated an International
Historic Mechanical
Engineering Landmark by
ASME (the American Society
of Mechanical Engineers)
in 1990.
Michael
Yaszemski
As associate dean of research
at Case Western’s School
Clare
Rimnac ’80 M.S.,
’77,
’78 M.S. is chair of spine
surgery and director of the
Tissue Engineering and Polymeric
Biomaterials Laboratory at the
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
He is also principal investigator
in a research consortium that is
developing new techniques for
treating wounded soldiers.
of Engineering,
’83 Ph.D. studies orthopedic
biomechanics, seeking to improve
knee and hip replacements.
Todd Giorgio
’82 is chair of the biomedical
Clixphoto/Case School of Engineering
engineering department at
Vanderbilt University. His research
into nanoscale materials quantifies
and analyzes complex cellular
behavior for applications in the field
of biomedicine, including the detection and treatment
of disease.
Theodore Choma
A surgeon, researcher and educator,
’85 is director of the Missouri Spine Center at the University of MissouriColumbia School of Medicine. His research focuses on procedures aimed
at healing spinal injuries faster and more naturally.
To learn more about
the achievements of
Lehigh engineers, visit
the Lehigh Engineering
Heritage Initiative at
www.lehigh.edu/heritage
Lehigh University
Non-Profit Org.
US Postage
PAID
Permit No 230
Bethlehem, PA
P.C. Rossin College of
Engineering and Applied Science
19 Memorial Drive West
Bethlehem, PA 18015
mutual reinforcement
New biological therapies, artificial organs and
other medical advances, says Vincent Forlenza ’75,
president of the global medical technology company
Becton, Dickinson and Co. (BD), are a natural
consequence of decades of collaboration between
engineers and biomedical researchers.
See page 8