Director's Message 2022

Marjolein van der MeulenAs the 2022-23 academic year starts, I find myself once again thinking, this year will finally be the return to “normal”, fully realizing that normal has been redefined. We had fewer pandemic effects in the past academic year but did have a notable omicron scare at the end of the fall, leading to an online start to the spring semester. We start this academic year without any mandatory testing and are down to optional masking. What gives me enormous pride is that these past two years have been handled well by our leadership and colleagues at Cornell. In addition, our biomedical engineering field has been responsible for advances in vaccines, testing and other solutions that have helped return us to our classrooms and research laboratories. 

During the past year we have made progress on several areas that are integral to our strategic plan. First and foremost, as some of you are aware, space has been an ongoing challenge for us as we grow our faculty and curriculum. Plans are progressing for a 30,000 sq. ft. addition to Thurston Hall that will house our teaching laboratories, and in fact construction preparation has started. The path to this solution has been long and varied, but the solution is excellent. The location is central to the Engineering Quad, giving our major a strong engineering presence and adjacencies with key facilities and food options. The addition will house teaching laboratories for BME and teaching and research labs for Materials Science & Engineering, which is based in the adjoining Bard Hall. Interaction space will also be included, which is currently lacking in the Kimball-Thurston-Bard complex. Our co-location will facilitate programming with MSE. And, as our undergraduate class sizes increase, the additional space is quite welcome. If all remains on schedule, we look forward to celebrating our 20th anniversary with the opening of this new facility. 

Connections between Engineering and Weill Cornell Medicine are a strategic priority for BME. Both deans are committed to formalizing these interactions in the form of a Cornell Engineering Innovations in Medicine Institute. The educational and research opportunities are myriad and will enhance both of our campuses. One particularly exciting program is a new medical immersion for juniors at WCM that will initiate this year and tie into senior design. 

This year’s newsletter highlights our long-standing interactions with the Hospital for Special Surgery, a topic near and dear to me. I am fortunate to have been part of the Cornell-HSS community since my arrival in Ithaca and have enjoyed seeing the community grow and expand. After celebrating the 40th anniversary pre-pandemic, we have been reimagining this orthopaedic research community to prepare for the next 40 years. The reorganization into CAMEO, Center for Advanced Materials & Engineering in Orthopaedics, is an exciting development. 

This year we also welcomed several new members to the BME family who are introduced in this newsletter. We are fortunate have Professor Alex Kwan and his laboratory join us from the Yale University School of Medicine. Alex adds to our strong presence in optical imaging with application to mental illness and depression. Understanding the mechanisms of neuropsychiatric conditions is critical to developing treatments. We also welcome Tony Roach, our new director of administration, after a distinguished career as an aviator and leader in the Navy. Sharon Kaplan joins as our new undergraduate coordinator, and Jordan McMahan oversees our design laboratory for seniors and master of engineering students. Please stop by and meet our new team members if you are in Ithaca. 

Finally, as we resume travel, I hope to catch up with some of you around the country, including at our annual reception at the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) annual meeting in San Antonio in October. 


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