2019 BME Newsletter


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

Welcome to our 2019 newsletter and the fifteenth year of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell, our “crystal anniversary!” We reflect on our path to this point with a timeline including notable milestones and growth.

Fifteen years ago, Biomedical Engineering began at Cornell as a graduate-only department offering Ph.D. and Master of Engineering degrees. Today those two programs remain vital and essential parts of the Meinig School. This year our graduate program took the bold step of eliminating the GRE requirement, perhaps the first BME program to do so. The response from our student community has been positive. Among other things, we expect that this change will attract a broader applicant pool to our programs. 

We are proud of the recent addition of our undergraduate major. This past May we graduated our second class of biomedical engineering undergraduates. The class of 2019 was nearly twice as large as our first class in 2018. As you will see, we are not only attracting outstanding students, but have high concentration of scholar athletes among our majors. In tandem with the undergraduate major we have started an undergraduate chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), new student project teams, and the like. We are grateful to Beckie and Neil Robertson for creating an endowment in honor of Michael Shuler, our founding chair, to support these undergraduate student activities. 

Our students and faculty continue to excel, as evident from the awards and other recognitions received this year. With the election of Jonathan Butcher, Chris Hernandez and Chris Schaffer, all full professors in BME are now Fellows of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). The accomplishments of our graduate students continue to be recognized by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with graduate research fellowships (GRFP). Our first B.S. graduates also have received NSF graduate fellowships to continue their studies. After 15 years we are proud to have trained a healthy number of engineering faculty and industry leaders around the country. 

Our faculty has grown substantially from the initial three faculty lines with six individuals in 2004. This year we are happy to welcome Esak (Isaac) Lee, who joins us from the laboratory of Dr. Christopher Chen in Boston. Esak develops organ-on-chip models to study the lymph system and associated diseases. He has been appointed a Nancy and Peter Meinig Family Investigator in the Life Sciences. We look forward to seeing his research lab develop and flourish. 

As a community, biomedical engineers excel at interdisciplinary collaborations. Research in the microbiome is one such area and is featured in this edition of our newsletter. We expect our faculty working on questions associated with immunity, infection and inflammation to continue to expand. The establishment of the Cornell Center for Immunology will help foster that growth. 

Finally, we continue to move forward on solutions for our teaching space in Comstock Hall. The BME laboratories and design studio will likely occupy the entire basement. We have seen the first renderings of our laboratories and look forward to the construction process starting a year from now. There will be many details to finalize between now and then.

As you will see in the following pages, the past year has been a good one. I hope you enjoy reading through our highlights. We look forward to catching up with everyone at the annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) in Philadelphia this fall and similar professional and alumni gatherings throughout the year. Connecting with BME alumni and friends remains one of the best perks of being director. Please stay in touch! 


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