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Bioengineering

The field of bioengineering is interdisciplinary, with a great deal of overlap among different specializations. Our faculty conduct research in such fundamental areas as Biomaterials and biomechanics, but they are also interested in many specific applications in the design of medical devices to prepare students for industry employment. Our newest thrust in neural engineering is growing with our involvement in the Engineering Research Center in Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (ERC/SNE), and will prepare students for working in this emerging area.

Biomaterials

In the area of biomaterials, students receive an in-depth introduction to the subject via our graduate course, ME681 Biomaterials. Research in this area has branched from faculty expertise in tissue mechanics, powder materials processing, and microfabrication.

Characterizing the material properties of cardiovascular tissues such as heart valves, and how they may be emulated by chemically-treated animal tissue or synthetic materials has been a longstanding interest. In addition, some applied problems related to the manufacturing of functionally structured porous materials for bio-implants are considered in the framework of the general powder science and technology direction. Examples of such material systems include knee implants and dental implant prototypes. These prototype materials have undergone preliminary biocompatibility testing, which allows for rapid feedback on whether further development is warranted. This research has been the subject of several MS theses in the Department.

Biological materials may be grown in vitro, which requires an understanding of how environmental cues influence the tissue growth. Mechanobiology combines mechanical stimulation and tissue culture for investigating the response of valve tissue cells to changes in their environment. Efforts are underway to develop a 3-D printer, a bioreactor and stretching system and to develop the capability to perform fluorescent staining and imaging, in order to build cardiovascular constructs following the principles of tissue engineering. As mentioned earlier in the section on Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), there are also long-terms plans for advancing our knowledge in large-scale bio-nanoelectronics.

Femoral Ball Head
CAD design of a Femoral Ball Head

Biomechanics

In the area of biomechanics, we have a research focus in cardiac and valvular mechanics, as well as several growing collaborations in musculoskeletal and neural engineering. Our Biomechanics course (ME 580) covers all of these topics and introduces students to hypothesis-driven research, which they can apply to their thesis projects.

Fluid and solid biomechanics of the heart and aorta are assessed to improve the human body’s response to chronic implantation of medical devices. Our current work evaluates intraventricular and aortic blood flow patterns and valve opening in Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) patients who have a high incidence of thrombus formation and valve disease. We are extending our in vitro flow visualization studies to develop noninvasive flow imaging and using vortex analysis to understand the link between stagnation and blood clot formation in VAD patients. The goal is to work with VAD companies to improve the performance of their devices. This work is part of a longstanding collaboration with cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons at Sharp Memorial Hospital and has produced several Ph.D. and M.S. graduates. We have a history of collaboration with the SDSU Department of Exercise and Nutrition and Children's Hospital in orthopedic/musculoskeletal biomechanics. One recent example is a study evaluating the use of shape memory alloy staples to correct scoliosis, which was the subject of a MS thesis.

The field of cardiac assist is moving towards the combined use of both engineering and stem cell technologies to tackle the challenge of healing diseased heart tissue. We plan to explore the mechanobiologic relationships that determine how implanted stem cells engraft, differentiate and integrate into the native heart as a function of myocardial wall stress and pressure development.

Our recent partnership through the ERC/SNE has expanded our interest in musculoskeletal biomechanics and created a need for further development of education and research in this area. Some of our current projects involve the development of assistive technology for patients with neuromuscular dysfunction, but in the long-term we wish to tackle complex problems including the design and control of prosthetic limbs, and how these may be optimized by using biosignal sensors, wireless systems, and smart feedback.

Schematic of the Prosthesis
Schematic of the Prosthesis developed by the Biomaterials and Biomechanics research lab.

Design of Medical Devices

The design of medical devices represents a synthesis of knowledge and experience gained from any of the specialization areas. One course, ME 683 Design of Medical Devices, has been designed especially to address this topic, and provides an immersive experience in the technical and regulatory requirements for designing a coronary angioplasty catheter and a spinal or orthopedic implant. Student teams develop a prototype, proof-of-concept demonstration, and 501K-style documentation for their projects. After this course, students are prepared to create designs as part of their graduate thesis or project, in collaboration with a faculty member. We are continually working to update and improve the course by consulting with industry members, who also visit as guest speakers. This course has been rated very highly by students, who appreciate the relevance to understanding the considerations of the medical device industry, as well as to the technical issues in the design process.

Tissues in the human body respond when an implant or foreign material is brought into direct or indirect contact. Controlling this response is the goal of medical device design, and is applied to faculty research in several areas. Several of these areas have already been described, including cardiovascular, orthopedic and neural. There are often opportunities to perform studies and develop device designs through local industry collaborations. This work has been particularly popular with our Masters of Engineering students, which they study for their seminal project.

We have expanded our efforts to develop industry collaborations in the design of medical devices through the SDSU Biosciences Center. We have worked with companies to design specialized syringes, pumps and an epidural thermal posterior annuloplasty device used in the biotechnology or medical fields. In addition, some applied problems related to devices, which may include functionally structured porous materials, are being considered in the framework of the general powder science and technology direction. Examples of such material systems include hydroxyapatite-based composites with micro-channeled structure with potential use in drug delivery devices.

We have a team of researchers in the areas of sensors and wireless technologies. Furthermore, San Diego State University has a well-established expertise in diabetic research. We will approach the problem via a deep collaboration between the researchers in ERC/SNE and BioScience Center at SDSU. Our goal is to introduce a new way of delivering health care through wireless technology that will allow healthcare providers the real-time ability to receive diabetes data from patients and send notifications to patients. In addition, the technology has the potential to lead to a new startup company.

Cardiac simulator developed at SDSU
Cardiac simulator developed at SDSU to test Biomaterials and Biomechanics devices.

Neural Engineering

In recent years, there has been major progress on implantable biomedical systems that support most of the functionalities of wireless implantable devices. We are working on the design of an implantable infrared wireless communication system for the measurement of neural signals in the brain with a collaborative effort with University of Washington. The multidisciplinary project involves faculty from all ERC/SNE research groups.
We are also working to develop new curriculum in this area in order to prepare students for working on closed-loop neural-inspired systems. One course in development is a laboratory experience that would include biosignal measurement, signal processing and analysis, and feedback control. We are currently funded to develop modules for this course and are seeking additional funding to launch the course in the next two years. Our research projects include the design and validation of electrodes for EEG measurement, sensors for measuring joint motion and EMG, and robotic assistive braces for arms and legs. All of these are multidisciplinary projects involving faculty from all signature areas, which will be maintained through the ERC/SNE collaboration.

Education and research efforts in Neural Engineering at SDSU focus on the adaptive closed-loop interaction between the human nervous systems and sensorimotor devices. This involves the merging of understanding how biological systems acquire and process information with the design of effective biomedical devices that interact seamlessly with human beings. These efforts concentrate on course development in bio-inspired robotics, neural devices, and BCI (brain-computer interface). As mentioned earlier under Biomechanics, in the long-term we wish to tackle complex problems involving the development of technology for patients with neuromuscular dysfunction including the design and control of prosthetic limbs, and how these may be optimized by using biosignal sensors, wireless systems, and smart feedback.


 

LVAD (mechanical pump surgically connected to the heart to treat heart failure)
LVAD, a mechanical pump surgically connected to the heart to treat heart failure.

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Smart Health Institute

SDSU awarded $10M NIH grant

ME Professor, Dr. Kee Moon is one of the PIs on a $10M NIH award entitled "Building Capacity and Infrastructue for Population Health and Health Disparities Research at San Diego State University".

1000 publications

1000+ Scientific Publications by SDSU Professor

Congratulations to Dr. Randall German, ME Professor, for exceeding the milestone of 1,000 scientific publications in powder-based materials and sintering, including 16 books. He is currently the most cited author in his field.

Olevsky-Multi-Layer-Sintering

Modeling Sintering Anisotropy

Dr. Eugene Olevsky has received a $630k NSF award to conduct a multi-scale fundamental investigation of sintering anisotropy.

This conceptual schematic shows a small particle solar receiver.

Concentrating Solar Power SunShot Research Award

Dr. Fletcher Miller is the PI on a $3.8M DoE grant for developing a Small-Particle Solar Receiver for High-Temperature Brayton Power Cycles.

Brain Picture

$18M NSF Engineering Research Center

PDF file: download Adobe Acrobat Reader

Dr. Kee Moon leads SDSU's efforts in the NSF Engineering Research Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering. Partner Universities include UW and MIT.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering Job Opportunities

  

  • Part-Time Faculty (Lecturer) 
  • Instructional Student Assistant
  • Graduate Assistant
  • Teaching Associate