Bioengineering offers the following tracks to help guide students in their future career, educational, and entrepreneurial goals.
- Computational Bioengineering
- Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering
- Biomechanics & Neural Engineering
- Biomedical Product Design & Development
- Biomolecular Engineering
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Director: Xinmai Yang, Ph.D.1
Bioimaging science is an evolving field of biomedicine and bioengineering that involves the development and application of imaging technologies and computational software tools to answer biological questions in life sciences. This discipline brings together engineers, computer scientists, physicists, biologists, chemists and clinicians engaged in the development of equipment and methodologies for characterizing tissue properties and examining its structure and function through in vivo or ex vivo visualization at multiple resolutions, ranging from molecular and cellular to organ level. The imaging technologies are mainly based on the principles of optics, photonics, magnetic resonance, nuclear medicine, radiation, ultrasonics and spectroscopy. Modern applications of bioimaging include multi-photon imaging, image-guided interventional procedures, surgical planning, oncology treatment planning, endoscopic and laparoscopic surgeries and virtual telemedicine. Image processing and analysis is an important part of bioimaging and allows measurement and quantification of anatomical, physiological and/or clinically meaningful parameters. This track is closely linked to the other tracks of the bioengineering program because of supplying critical supportive data. For example, as part of bioimaging, gene-array imaging and analysis provide data for mining with the techniques used in bioinformatics.
As the students in this track are prepared for careers in industry, academia and public service, they are trained in the current bioimaging modalities; fundamentals of physical and mathematical principles and operations, hardware and software, image contrast produced and its interpretation, image quality analysis and measures, quality control tests with phantoms, receiver operating characteristics and target detectability, molecular and cellular contrast agents. Students are exposed to in vivo and ex vivo applications and learn biomarkers specific to individual modality and their utilities. Students use this knowledge to interpret the image contrast for understanding the basic anatomical and physiological relationships in normal and abnormal (e.g. disease) states and for accurate and reproducible clinical diagnosis or visualization.
Director: Suzanne Shontz, Ph.D.
Computational bioengineering generally describes the science of computational approaches to biological problems below the cellular level. Although evolving, Computational Bioengineering has matured to comprise kernel sub-disciplines. These include biological sequence analysis, the structure and function of proteins and nucleic acids, genetic networks and gene expression, molecular evolution, and hypothesis generation from large-scale data sources.
Through modeling and analyzing systems, Computational Bioengineering provides a rationalization of hypothesis formation, thereby reducing the problem space confronted by experimental approaches in traditional biology. A computational progenitor to this is rational drug design, routinely employed by pharmaceutical companies. In the genome enabled era, random approaches to genetic engineering are increasingly complemented by rational approaches where Computational Bioengineering plays a pivotal role.
Central methodologies brought to bear on these problems are derived from probability and statistics, signal processing, algorithms and their analysis, linguistics, graph theory, linear algebra, differential equations and optimization theory, database theory, and data mining. The Computational Bioengineering core at KU provides the student with formal course work in methodologies and applications with an emphasis on research.
Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering
Director: Candan Tamerler, Ph.D.1
Research in the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering track involves the investigation and development of materials and structures to improve the quality of life for patients. These materials—which may be synthetic, natural, or cell-based—are intended to assist in the diagnosis of pathology or injury, monitor condition, and improve or restore normal physiological function in the human body.
Biomaterials science is the study of materials and their interaction with biological environments, and tissue engineering is the application of engineering and life sciences toward development of a biomaterial to restore, maintain and improve tissue function. Research in this inter- and multidisciplinary field involves collaborations among engineers, surgeons, materials scientists, biological scientists, chemists, dentists, and veterinarians in academics, industry, government and the clinic.
Students in this track are trained in structure-function-property relationships, which are built on a foundation in biology, materials science, and engineering. As a part of their coursework, students learn to independently develop a plan of research.
Specific research areas available at KU include drug delivery devices, tissue engineering, soft tissue biomechanics, biosensors, diagnostics and therapeutics, combination products, biocompatible materials, injury biomechanics, hydrogels, microparticle fabrication, gene and protein delivery, mass transport, polymer science, biocatalysis, biofluids, and dental materials. Graduates are prepared to enter into industry, government, or academics, where they will be able to assist in research programs in biomaterials.
Biomechanics & Neural Engineering
Directors: Currently Vacant, Pending Vote
Biomechanics is the scientific discipline that studies biological systems, such as the human body, using the methods of Mechanical Engineering. The purpose is to create new and innovative approaches, advance fundamental concepts, and apply knowledge to the improvement of the mechanics of biological systems.
While biomechanics represents a broad area of research, from the design of dental implants to the understanding of fluid dynamics in the vascular system, the biomechanics research focus at KU is on the human musculoskeletal system.
Our mission is to provide a quality graduate research and educational experience with emphasis on understanding and analyzing the mechanics of the human body through experimental measurement, mathematical modeling and computer simulations. This effort includes studies of the mechanics of the whole-body as a system, a group of body parts as a sub-system, and an individual body part as a component.
While this program is firmly grounded on the techniques in mechanical engineering, the nature of the research is multidisciplinary. Collaborative research is being fostered among researchers in engineering, mathematics, the sciences and the KU Medical Center.
Biomedical Product Design & Development
Lisa Friis, Ph.D.1
Sara Wilson, Ph.D.2
Design and development of new medical products requires advanced bioengineering expertise as well as an understanding of clinical applications, business considerations and regulatory aspects of the medical field. Advanced engineering skills must interface with clinical needs and requirements.
The Biomedical Product Design and Development Track combines graduate-level research and coursework with practical exposure to these clinical, business and regulatory processes in a professional, collaborative environment.
Students use their new understanding of market-driven forces to plan and execute their research with end-driven methods and an understanding of how their research results could be applied to development of a biomedical product. They not only work with their own basic and applied research, but also with other researchers in the KU Bioengineering community.
Medical products to be developed can include diagnostic tools, interventional and therapeutic devices, imaging equipment and methods, and biomaterials. This track includes a course in biomedical product development to introduce basic concepts of design, quality system regulations, regulatory aspects and entrepreneurship.
Required courses in engineering design methods teach students how to successfully complete applied research. A clinical or industrial preceptorship is required to give students practical exposure to applied biomedical research and development. Students completing this track will be prepared to apply their product-driven education either in industrial research and development, in a regulatory agency, or in academia interfacing with industry.
Director: Prajna Dhar, Ph.D.1
Biomolecular engineering research integrates the fundamentals of biology, chemistry and mathematics with engineering problem-solving methods to prepare students for careers in industry, academia and public service. Program faculty solve biological problems to increase understanding of a variety of biological systems.
Chemical and biological systems are studied to ultimately provide solutions—in the form of measurement of properties and function, imaging, diagnosis or therapeutics. Research in this area involves collaborations among engineers, biological scientists, chemists, physicians and pharmaceutical scientists in industry, academia, surgery and clinical settings.
Students in this track use a core background of mathematics, basic sciences and therapeutics and engineering courses to conduct interdisciplinary research. Elective courses are selected to prepare each student for their unique problem in such areas as drug design or development, biological materials design, characterization of cellular function or malfunction, transport in biological systems or analysis of complex data.