2016 BME Newsletter

Message from the Director: MARJOLEIN C.H. VAN DER MEULEN

In 2015-16, after the Meinig family naming gift and New York state approval of our undergraduate major in the prior year, we focused on moving BME forward into a new era at Cornell.

Once the BME major was approved, the next critical task was implementing the undergraduate program. Professor Jonathan Butcher, our Associate Director and Director of Undergraduate Studies, continues to provide outstanding vision for the major. Now that the sophomore year classes have been developed and taught, our focus is on the junior year courses, including a new instrumentation lab required of all majors. After this fall, all majors will have completed the initial courses in each concentration, allowing them to focus on their concentration electives in the spring. For more detail on the undergraduate program, read the feature article: From Atoms to Organs: Undergraduate BME Major Underway.

Welcoming BME-focused undergraduate students into the fold has been an exciting and fulfilling program development. Our inaugural class of majors, the Class of 2018, was positioned to fulfill the BME affiliation requirements when the major was first announced in August 2015, and brought 19 majors who affiliated and began their coursework in January 2016. Last year’s freshmen, the Class of 2019 and now sophomores, were admitted prior to the B.S. degree approval, but are expected to be nearly double the size of the first group. The current freshmen, Class of 2020, chose Cornell with the BME major in place and are expected to have healthy interest in the major. This growth rate is ideal as we stage our curriculum. Ryan Sauvé joined the staff last fall as our inaugural undergraduate coordinator and has been getting to know our majors.

One incredible statistic I’d like to highlight is the diversity of our incoming classes. Current and prior freshman College of Engineering classes are 48% female. In BME, we are thrilled to contribute our share to improving diversity representation, with our first class of majors comprised of 75% women and greater than 20% from underrepresented minorities. Indeed, our commitment to diversity is evidenced not only by the numbers but also in the form of awards recently bestowed upon our faculty and staff; Associate Professor Cynthia Reinhart-King was awarded the Zellman Warhaft Diversity Award last year for her efforts to increase participation of underrepresented students in engineering, and this year our Graduate Coordinator Belinda Floyd received a Diversity Programs in Engineering (DPE) Award.

Our faculty continue to have a strong interest in pedagogy and training experiences for our graduate students. We received a Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) award that will train our graduate students to be outstanding educators through teaching experiences in the undergraduate curriculum. The NIH support for our Ph.D. immersion term at Weill Cornell was renewed this summer through the leadership of Professor Yi Wang and the Department of Radiology. Building on prior success with high school educators, we will soon be initiating a NYS Department of Health-funded Teacher-Scientist Partnership in stem cell biology.  These large efforts all provide unique experiences for our graduate trainees.

We are excited to expand our faculty this year with unique expertise that nicely complements our current research areas. This summer we welcomed Ilana Brito who joined us as an assistant professor after her tenure as a postdoc at MIT. Ilana brings an exciting area of microbiome research to the school and curriculum. Next summer we look forward to welcoming Mert Sabuncu to the faculty as an assistant professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, with a 25% appointment in BME. Mert’s expertise in biomedical imaging applied to the brain will contribute unique insights to the newly established Cornell Neurotech program. With an ongoing search for the McAdam Professor of Heart Assist Technology and a junior faculty search being initiated this fall, we look forward to adding two new faculty to our team in the coming year.

We are fortunate to congratulate faculty member Newton de Faria as one of the first professors of practice in the College of Engineering, which recently established this new academic title. Newton initially joined us a year ago as a lecturer after a 20-year career at National Instruments. He leads the Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) program, which had several key individuals recently retire. Newton has brought tremendous energy, insight, and new ideas to the M.Eng. program.

Among our current faculty we have had lots of good news, as featured in this newsletter, and a few items that I’d like to highlight here: 

Professor Claudia Fischbach-Teschl is leading the recently announced NIH-funded Center on the Physics of Cancer Metabolism. This Physical Sciences-Oncology Center will span the Ithaca and Weill Cornell Medicine campuses to advance our understanding of the regulation of tumor metastasis and function.

Professor Jan Lammerding published research on how Cancer Cells' Ability to Self-repair May Spawn New Treatments in the journal Science.

In March Professor Chris Schaffer was elected to a three-year term as the Associate Dean of the Faculty. This position follows on Chris’s prior involvement with the Faculty Senate and University Faculty Committee. We look forward to his contributions to faculty governance at Cornell.

Please read further to get the full scope of the Meinig School faculty, staff, student, and alumni accomplishments in the past year. Beyond the newsletter, our webpage and social media sites are continually updated. Your thoughts and feedback are welcome, and we hope you will share your own good news with us. As always, please reach out if you or your family are back on campus. 


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