Message from the Director

Marjolein van der Meulen

Cornell has a storied history of accomplishments in bioengineering by faculty, students and alumni, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in this field. Notable Cornell-affiliated BME innovaters include Wilson Greatbatch, who was instrumental in the invention of the cardiac pacemaker; Robert Langer, an alumnus who won the National Academy of Engineering's Draper Prize for his contributions to controlled drug delivery, biomaterials and tissue engineering; and David Lederman, whose company, Abiomed, engineered the first implantable total artificial heart. 

A Department of Biomedical Engineering was formed in 2004 to bridge engineering, biology and medicine and it had an extremely successful first decade. Areas of research excellence include biomedical imaging & instrumentation; tissue engineering & biomaterials; biomechanics and mechanobiology; drug delivery and nanomedicine; molecular & cellular engineering; and systems & synthetic biology. Our faculty size has increased from 3 to nearly 16 faculty slots, corresponding to 19 individuals through split appointments. We are housed in Weill Hall, the state-of-the-art life science building designed by Richard Meier & Partners architects that received a LEED Gold rating. Our academic programs include an engineering college-wide minor in biomedical engineering for engineering students, a research graduate degree, the Ph.D., and a professional masters degree in biomedical engineering (M.Eng.) degree, which focuses on engineering design and professional practice. 

The school’s vision centers around developing a quantitative understanding of the human body across multiple length scales to develop therapies, devices and diagnostics for improving human health. For BME students, our core curriculum introduces concepts ranging from molecular dynamics to human physiological conditions, reflecting the multiscale departmental emphasis. Despite our relative youth, BME faculty have received significant external recognition. Seven faculty have received NSF Career Awards, including 3 currently active awards. Members of the department have won all possible BMES individual awards including the Robert A. Prizker Distinguished Lecture Award (Shuler, 2011), the Diversity Lecture Award (entire BME department, 2013) and the Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award (Butcher, 2009; Reinhart-King, 2010). The school also has 6 fellows of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), the highest honor in the biomedical field. Teaching excellence has also been recognized through recipients the ASEE Biomedical Engineering Teaching award, participation in the NAE Frontiers of Engineering Education meeting and College of Engineering teaching awards.

Looking forward, several exciting milestones are on the horizon. Biological applications of engineering remain a strategic thrust in the College of Engineering with Bioengineering seen as one of four “differentiating factors” that set Cornell apart from its peers. While this effort permeates nearly the entire College, BME lies at the heart of this effort. We bridge not only to our sister departments in Engineering but also to the College of Veterinary Medicine here in Ithaca and Weill Cornell Medical College and ultimately also Cornell Tech in Manhattan. We have recently added an undergraduate major, since New York State approval in summer 2015. We have developed a core discipline skill set for BME that empowers undergraduates for both further education and careers in the engineering and life science industries. The technical focus of the BS degree centers around multiscale engineering analysis reinforced with application experiences essential for engineering excellence and innovation within real-world variability and risk in engineering, biology and medicine. To achieve this vision we will continue to grow to at least 22 faculty. 

The first decade of BME at Cornell was extremely successful. We look forward to a similarly productive and impactful second decade. 

Marjolein C. H. van der Meulen
James M. and Marsha McCormick Director of Biomedical Engineering
Swanson Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Spring 2015