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Vol.26, No. 06 Oct. 16, 2000

Biomedical Conference Planned for Oct. 29-30

By Suzanne Trimel

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science will host a conference on Oct. 29 and 30 on cutting-edge developments in biomedical engineering to mark the creation of an interdisciplinary department and Columbia’s major research initiatives in the field.

The two-day symposium, open to the public, highlights Columbia’s new commitment to biomedical engineering. With the establishment of the department of biomedical engineering last year and the recent awarding of $7.5 million in grants from the Whitaker Foundation, the engineering school formalized its leadership in training and research in the field, although Columbia has played a pioneering role in developments in biomedical engineering for 40 years.

Columbia’s program, an interdisplinary department with the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, offers undergraduate and graduate programs focused on three major areas: biomechanics, cellular and tissue engineering and biomedical imaging.

During the first day of the symposium, to be held in Davis Auditorium at the Schapiro Engineering Center, advancements in the field over the last several decades by Columbia researchers will be outlined by Van C. Mow, Stanley Dicker Professor of Biomedical Engineering and chairman of the department, and others, including Elmer Gaden Jr. and Thomas C. Skalak of the University of Virginia and Edward Leonard, professor of chemical engineering at Columbia.

Sunday’s session opens at 2:30 p.m. with remarks by Dean Zvi Galil of the engineering school, followed by Gaden, Skalak, Leonard and Mow, until 4:45 p.m.

On Monday, the conference, from 9 a.m. to 6:15 p.m., will present talks by leading researchers on major developments in the field: efforts to treat heart disease through wider understanding of the mechanics of blood flow to the heart and the mechanics of the heart itself; work toward the development of artificial human tissue and, in particular, cartilage, and artificial joints; research on how human cells change and react under varying stresses, which can lead to more effective drug-targeting in the treatment of disease; the mechanics of gene therapy; and computer-aided diagnosis for the detection and treatment of breast cancer and other diseases.

As part of its new commitment in the field, the engineering school has raised an endowment for two named professorships, one awarded to Mow and the other in biomedical imaging to Truman Brown. In addition, six new faculty members have joined the department, another four positions have been created, and undergraduate and graduate enrollment has nearly tripled in numbers. The school is renovating 20,000 square feet in office and laboratory space for the new department, which has laboratories devoted to cardiac cell and cardiac tissue mechanics; bone bioengineering; cellular engineering, biomedical imaging, ultrasound, biomembranes, biomedical imaging, orthopedic research, cardiac physiology, and echocardiography.