2015 BME Newsletter


2014-2015 was a year of leadership transition in BME and for me personally in my first year as chair. The upcoming year will also be exciting and full of opportunities as a result of a couple of major milestones including commencing our new undergraduate major.

Let me start with a major recent milestone: The academic year ended on a high note when the College announced a $50M naming gift from the Meinig family that elevated BME from a department to the Nancy E. and Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering. We are immensely honored to be recognized by the Meinig family with such a transformative gift to BME that will allow us to continue to grow and develop.

Additional changes of interest from the past year include faculty retirements, hires and promotions, several of which are detailed further in this newsletter. We had two substantial departures this year with the retirements of David Lipson and Jonathan Black. Both David and Jonathan have deep Cornell roots but were ready to move on to their next phase. For the past decade, David had been the face and leader of the Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) program. Jonathan had returned to Cornell to advise a series of successful M.Eng. projects. Their departures are a transition for the M.Eng. program, but also an opportunity to update the program and its goals. Our first step was to hire a new M.Eng. program director, Dr. Newton de Faria. Newton joins us from National Instruments, where he spent several decades. His extensive BME experience includes the BMES Board of Directors and the Industry Affairs Committee and serving as a member of the industrial advisory boards for the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University, in addition to an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering appointment at the University of Connecticut.

Jan Lammerding was promoted to associate professor with indefinite tenure. Jan is appointed in BME and the Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology. Jan’s work on the mechanics of the cell nucleus is creative and impactful, with direct application to human disease. He will enjoy a sabbatical this year.

Two new faculty joined us in Ithaca, and one new faculty member was hired. Ben Cosgrove came to Ithaca last summer by way of the University of Minnesota, MIT, and Stanford. In January, Iwijn De Vlaminck also joined BME from Stanford after being at KU Leuven and Delft Institute of Technology. Both Ben and Iwijn’s research was featured in our 2014 BME Newsletter as well as in this newsletter. Ilana Brito was hired as an assistant professor and will move to Ithaca next summer. Currently a postdoctoral fellow in biological engineering with Professor Eric Alm at MIT, Ilana focuses on the microbiome using quantitative gene sequencing methods, work that is also described further in this newsletter.

On the student side, our graduate program continues to thrive. In 2015 we graduated 16 Ph.D. and 69 M.Eng. degrees. As our faculty continues to grow, so will the size of our graduate program.

Cornell’s leadership is changing with the retirement of President Skorton, whose campus appointment was in BME. New university President Beth Garrett has expressed strong support for BME. The recent selection of the new provost, Michael Kotlikoff, whose background in the life sciences, will help us manage the space limitations that we are facing due to a significant increase in the number of BME researchers and students. Kimball Hall is newly renovated and will be a critical site for laboratories for new faculty hires. Teaching and departmental space have yet to be identified, we hope within the Biotechnology Building and Stinson Hall corridor adjacent to Weill Hall.

As a final note, this summer BME received approval from New York State for the new B.S. degree in biomedical engineering. This step is essential to becoming a full-fledged department. Interest in the major is robust, and we expect the need to cap enrollments for the first several years as we launch the undergraduate program. We have spent the summer ironing out details on how we will implement the major and creating all supporting documentation. These efforts are being led by Jonathan Butcher, who succeeds Larry Bonassar as the associate chair and director of undergraduate studies. Jonathan provides a great deal of ideas and energy at this critical junction in our history.

It is an exciting time for Cornell BME. The combination of our transition to the Meinig School and the addition of an undergraduate major really sets the stage for the future of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell. Please enjoy reading about further highlights in the following stories.


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