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IMAGINE - Annual Report 1999
College of Engineering -- University of Wisconsin-Madison


    a stream of ideas
        and possibilities...
Heart study

Big Letterssociate Professor Karyn Kunzelman (left) prepares a heart valve for study with assistance from undergraduate student Alexander Bobrov (center) and graduate student Jeff Kasalko. Kunzelman, in collaboration with Dr. Pat Cochran, is studying the material properties of valves in both the healthy and diseased states in an effort to improve the repair and replacement of heart valves. Previously, material testing of heart valve tissue was performed in a single direction (uniaxial testing). This test involves pulling on the tissue and measuring the forces generated and the amount of deformation. However, uniaxial testing does not represent the loading conditions in a physiologic system, where the loads are applied in many directions. Biaxial tensile testing more accurately represents the physiologic stresses encountered in an active heart. An understanding of a tissue's biaxial behavior will help improve valve repair and tissue valve design. The focus of the biaxial project shown is to determine the material properties of healthy and diseased mitral and aortic valve tissue. The ultimate goal is to track how the properties change as the heart is exposed to increased stresses (from various forms of heart disease), and to determine better methods for repairing or replacing the valves.

Silicon wafers yield cutting-edge surgical tools

Assistant Professor Amit Lal's research creations could give surgeons an incomparable new edge in medicine. Lal has created a new class of medical cutting tools etched from wafers of silicon, using some of the same lithography techniques behind integrated circuits. His silicon blades are up to 10 times as sharp as the advanced medical tools made from metal. The technology could lead to greater precision for highly sensitive procedures, such as cataract surgery or neurosurgery. It could also be used in the development of a genuine first in medicine: painless needles. Lal's devices use an electrical process called ultrasonics, which creates extremely fast sonic vibrations that are beyond human perception. Ultrasonic medical tools have been used for years in cataract surgery, where the vibration helps break up and remove cataract tissue. Those devices, made from titanium or other high-performance metals, are very expensive, tend to overheat and need high voltage to function.

A new era for Biomedical Engineering (BME)

Biomedical Engineering is entering a new era on the COE campus. With a change of status from interdisciplinary degree program to department comes the tools and resources necessary to manage growth. There are plans to add at least five new faculty over the next year, three in the coming academic year. The second floor of the Engineering Centers Building will provide the space to accommodate these new faculty members and the growing number of students in the department. These modern labs and offices will be designed with an eye toward interdisciplinary relationships. Those relationships are at the core of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. With joint and adjunct faculty members from medicine, pharmacy, education and engineering, BME is one of the most interdisciplinary departments in the entire university. Faculty and graduate student research includes such diverse areas as neurological modeling, new treatments for Alzheimer's disease, biomedical sensors, cardiovascular system simulation, biomedical instrumentation, biomedical computing and signal processing, imaging, biomechanics, rehabilitation engineering and ergonomics, to name a few. Many faculty members are Fellows of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers or recipients of The Whitaker Foundation grants. A recent $1 million grant from the foundation has enabled this growth. There are exciting new developments anticipated in the next few years as a result of this support.

Student teams design new biomedical devices

The first 16 students to take the new Biomedical Engineering Design class (BME 200)--part of the curriculum for the college's recently established Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering--demonstrated their semester's efforts in a poster session in Engineering Hall in December. The all-sophomore teams made presentations on projects ranging from a forearm prosthesis to a micro-dissection device for blood vessels. Taught by Professors John G. Webster and Frank J. Fronczak, the new course is presented in an interactive seminar and project laboratory format. Students gain experience in problem solving, team design, innovation, information technology, engineering medical ethics and social responsibility. Students Kelly Stevens and Eric Dvorak designed a device to test olfactory stimulation and its effect on the brain. According to the students' final report: "Neurobiologists are interested in studying the effects of different odors on the brain. In order to answer questions involving olfactory stimulation, they would like a device that will deliver several vaporized odors in alternating cycles to a patient in an MRI machine." The project client was Dr. Chris Luzzio of the UW-Madison Department of Neurology.

Robert G. Radwin (Chair)
Room 2130 Engineering Centers Building
1550 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1609

Tel: 608/263-4660
Fax: 608/265-9239

Copyright 1999 University System Board of Regents

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Date last modified: Monday, 30-Apr-2012 14:15:07 CDT
Date created: 27-Sep-1999

Annual Report 1999 Contents