The following stories offer a snapshot of health-related research at Princeton Engineering. The research often extends well beyond the work described here -- to entirely different fields such as energy, environment and security -- because the research grows out of fundamental approaches to broadly relevant problems.
Princeton researchers are applying Darwinian evolution principles and computational optimization methods to create novel antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals.
Princeton engineers are working closely with neuroscientists to understand how visual information and words are encoded in the brain.
Biologists have long been fascinated by the first moments when cells divide to become complex tissues and organisms. Now engineers — with an eye toward treating cancer and regenerating tissue — are increasingly joining the hunt for the quantitative principles and underlying mathematics that determine how these processes succeed or fail.
What if a person with diabetes could measure blood sugar without a pinprick? What if a quick scan of a person’s breath could reveal how their kidneys are doing or whether they have asthma?
Two Princeton engineering groups hope to use technologies based on inexpensive, easily available materials to give villagers in developing countries access to safe drinking water and help create local jobs.
EQuad News magazine recently spoke with four alumni who are visionaries in the field of health care: Patrick Beattie, Laura Forese, Cato Laurencin and Christopher Loose.
Princeton researchers are developing a system that uses an off-the-shelf digital camera and freely available software clinic workers who have modest training identify women who should receive further tests for cervical cancer.
Avoiding hospital re-admissions Mark Braverman, an assistant professor of computer science, is helping solve a pressing problem in health care: how to prevent patients from relapsing soon after being discharged from a hospital. During a previous stint at Microsoft Research, Braverman helped develop software that allows computers to “learn” based on actual patient data those patients that are most at risk so that hospitals can tailor their post-discharge care and avoid re-admissions.
Small packages: Nanoparticles improve drug delivery A technique for encapsulating drug molecules in tiny plastic-like coatings shows promise for improving treatment of cancer and tuberculosis, while aiding the laboratory testing of new drugs. Robert Prud’homme, professor of chemical and biological engineering, developed the fundamental method, called “flash nanoprecipitation,” and has numerous collaborations with companies, medical researchers and engineering colleagues to de
Fundamentals of fluids Researchers in the lab of Howard Stone, the Donald R. Dixon ’69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, are applying a deep understanding of fluid flows to reveal the mechanics behind critical biological functions. In one project, Stone’s group found the unexpected formation of bacterial ribbons in the middle of flowing fluids, which has implications for understanding serious infections and has led to a collaboration with Bon
Using mathematical concepts, Princeton researchers have developed a method of discovering new drugs for a range of diseases by calculating which physical properties of biological molecules may predict their effectiveness as medicines.
Katie Hsih puts her engineering education to work to help an African community recover.
An engineering project to dramatically improve diabetes care was among two research efforts chosen as the first to receive support from Princeton University's Eric and Wendy Schmidt Transformative Technology Fund.
Princeton engineers have developed a sensor that may revolutionize how drugs and medical devices are tested for contamination, and in the process help ensure the survival of two species of threatened animals.
A Princeton University-led research team has discovered an unexpected mechanism by which cells regulate an enzyme critical to early embryonic development in complex organisms, from yeast to humans. The work may inform new therapeutic strategies to fight cancer.
Researchers have demonstrated a method for identifying nitric oxide gas using lasers and sensors that are inexpensive, compact and highly sensitive, a portable device that could be of great value to atmospheric science, pollution control, biology and medicine.
A Princeton engineering undergraduate has been awarded a $100,000 grant to expand the iPhone application he developed into a Web-based tool to help treat and study diabetes.
Kelvin Lee '91, the Gore Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware and director of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, has been received the first Biochemical Engineering Journal Young Investigator Award.
Princeton researchers have created a Rosetta Stone for the human body, a website that offers clues to the role DNA plays in aging and disease by helping scientists make sense of the vast jumble of information emerging from genetics research.
Electrical engineering graduate student Ekua Bentil is the recipient of a Technology for Developing Regions fellowship to deploy a gas-sensing system in her native Ghana. With the goal of avoiding illnesses caused by the smoke of wood fires, Bentil will use the system to detect carbon dioxide, ozone and water vapor in the air.
Nicole Clarke has devoted much of her Princeton career to researching some of the biggest medical issues facing society, including malaria, cancer and genetic testing. Whenever she can, she takes the research out of the lab and into the world.
Princeton civil and environmental engineering graduate student Luke MacDonald is designing a sustainable strategy to defluoridate the groundwater drinking supply in rural areas in the state of Jharkland, India.
H. Vincent Poor, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, talks about the school's vision for future growth in the areas of energy and the environment, health, and security, and emphasizes the school's longtime tradition of intellectual freedom and exploration.
Associate professor Ron Weiss talks about Princeton's student entries in the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition for undergraduates working in the field of synthetic biology. The student iGEM experiments may lead to novel disease treatments.
With the energy crisis becoming ever more urgent, Princeton has established a new Program in Sustainable Energy to provide students with the quantitative skills and interdisciplinary perspective needed to develop innovative energy systems for the future.
A new report should spur public debate about how science and technology can best sustain the earth while furthering the goals of humanity, according to Robert Socolow, one of 18 maverick thinkers convened by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) to map the greatest technological challenges of this century.
Despite a January freeze in California responsible for $1 billion in lost orange crops, a team of Princeton students has managed to earn more than $1 trillion in the orange juice business this year. The student team, Jin & Juice, made their record-breaking profit during a competition unique to Princeton known as the "Orange Bowl."
Focus on fundamentals yields broad societal benefits Why is an aerospace engineer who developed control systems for a lunar module investigating the genetics of cancer? How did an expert in statistical finance come to identify genes involved in childhood tumors? In part, these unexpected combinations reflect the interdisciplinary approach that is increasingly common in academics: Solving complex problems often requires collaborations among people with different perspectives. At Princeton, ther
Revolutionary cancer treatments. Potent HIV drugs. Diabetes-fighting stem cells. Princeton engineers are bringing new and often unexpected perspectives to bear in developing these and an array of other medical breakthroughs, while advancing the basic understanding of biology. They are the vanguard of an emerging discipline that links engineering and biology -- with human health as the beneficiary.
Bacteria have to work to earn their keep in the lab of David Wood, assistant professor of chemical engineering. Designed to respond to human hormones, the busy bugs may help identify new compounds to treat endocrine problems, including Graves' disease and estrogen-related disorders.
Celeste Nelson is out to determine the rules that govern normal development so she can stop the cancer cells that don't play by them. Currently studying mammary gland development and breast cancer at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Nelson is funded by a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface. She will join the University faculty in the fall as an assistant professor of chemical engineering.
When faced with a decision, does the brain go for speed, or accuracy -- or some combination of the two? It depends on the situation, but in simple cases an optimal combination can be found. Philip Holmes, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and applied mathematics, is working as part of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute to study this and similar questions. The work could ultimately advance the diagnosis and treatment of a host of psychological problems.
"We have millions of times more biological data now than we did just a few years ago," says Olga Troyanskaya. "But we don't know millions of times more about biology -- at least, not yet. The assistant professor of computer science and genomics is doing her part to change that by designing computer systems that analyze massive amounts of genetic data. The freely available systems are providing researchers throughout the world with the ability to generate new insights into cancer and a multi
Mikko Haataja, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, views cell membranes as "very complicated beasts." As the beasts can't always be explored experimentally, he uses computer simulations to probe deep into their structure and function.
Flexible electronics being developed in Sigurd Wagner's lab are supple not only in form, but in function. The pliant systems -- first developed for bendable video displays -- have applications in brain injury research, tissue engineering and the development of next-generation prosthetics.
Medical devices that require nothing more than a single breath to instantaneously detect a number of ailments, including diabetes and kidney disease, are just what the doctor ordered. And, they are exactly what researchers are developing as part of the Center for Mid- Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE). Claire Gmachl
The vials of fruit flies that line the shelves of Stas Shvartsman's lab would be expected in a biology lab, but Shvartsman is a chemical engineer. His approach to developmental biology -- as unconventional as his lab -- has promising implications for the prevention and treatment of birth defects and cancer.
Fundamental approach targets practical problem Designing effective drugs and vaccines to combat and prevent disease is only half the battle—they also have to be formulated effectively for shipping and storage, which is where Pablo Debenedetti and Athanassios Panagiotopoulos come in. The chemical engineering professors use a combination of theoretical, computational and experimental techniques to explore how proteins behave in the presence of certain sugars that are often used as stabiliz
Mona Singh doesn't use the maps in her office to get from point A to point B -- she uses them to find meaning hidden in biological data, which may help advance the understanding of disease at the genetic level.
There are medical benefits to be found at the intersection of music and technology, according to Perry Cook. He should know -- he lives there.
Powerful proteins that are able to kill bacteria and viruses already exist in nature, but Kyle Vanderlick wants to make them even stronger. The chair of the chemical engineering department, Vanderlick conducts research on antimicrobial peptides -- short proteins that destroy disease-causing bugs by breaking down the membranes that surround them. The work, done in collaboration with biologists at the University of California, Irvine, could ultimately lead to the development of powerful new mic
Advances in medical imaging have added a new dimension, literally, to the research of Peter Ramadge, chair of electrical engineering. Rather than working with two-dimensional videos from cameras (his longtime area of expertise), Ramadge is analyzing three-dimensional movies of brain activity that are collected by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. His work, in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Brain Mind and Behavior of the newly created Princeton Neuroscienc
In a roundabout way, propellers advanced Julie Young's latest project—a new and improved heart valve replacement. "The blades of a propeller look very much like the leaflets in a mechanical heart valve," said Young, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, who studied propellers for her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Texas at Austin. "The same principles apply on a much smaller scale."
Engineer Ron Weiss' knowledge of circuits and biologist Ihor Lemischka's expertise in stem cells are a potent combination -- one that may lead to medical breakthroughs for diabetes and spinal cord injuries.
Szymon Suckewer needs eye surgery, but he's not going under the knife just yet -- he'd rather wait until no knife is necessary. Having recently developed an incision-free eye surgery technique, he's confident that will soon be an option.
Chemical engineer Christodoulos Floudas is rather like the proteins he studies -- able to perform a variety of functions that have major implications for human health. His current research promises to advance the understanding and treatment of cancer, HIV and diabetes, among other diseases.
Ten years ago, it would take ten days for Princeton biologist Edward Cox to separate a million base pair fragments of DNA by size -- soon, he may be able to do it ten seconds, thanks to micron-sized devices being developed by a team of engineers, biologists and physicists.
The bookshelf of Jianqing Fan, the Frederick L. Moore Class of 1918 Professor in Finance, is filled with books about finance, treatises on econometrics -- and massive tomes on cellular biology and biochemistry.
It might seem easy to visually distinguish between a kitchen and a beach, but Fei Fei Li recognizes the inherent complexity in telling sink from sand. Her research to understand the brain processes involved may ultimately enhance treatments for visual impairments and brain damage.
Aerospace engineer Robert Stengel remembers the day he realized that the theories and analyses that make space travel possible may also lead to better understanding and treatments of cancer and HIV.
A failure to invest in science and engineering education could have dire consequences in today's global economy, said corporate leaders from Xerox Corp. and Amazon.com in separate April addresses at Princeton.
One of the most coveted prizes in architecture was awarded in March to a team of Princeton architects and engineers for an ambitious plan to transform the Upper Bay of New York Harbor. The Latrobe Prize, a $100,000 purse awarded every other year by the American Institute of Architects, went to Princeton’s Center for Architecture, Urbanism and Infrastructure. The winning project team is led by Guy Nordenson, professor of architecture and affiliated professor of civil and environmental engi
Computer scientist Ken Steiglitz is happy to admit that he is an eBay addict. For starters, his pre-dawn "grazing" on the popular Internet trading site has yielded a trove of ancient bronze coins to add to his personal collection. Even more, he has discovered a wealth of information to advance the field of auction theory, which lies at the intersection of computer science, economics, mathematics and psychology.
Alexander Smits will become chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering as of July 1, returning to the position he held from 1998 to 2004.
Engineering students won several of the nation's and Princeton's top academic honors this year, including Marshall and Goldwater scholarships and the highest student prize in the field of computer science.
Frontiers of health: Little lifesavers: Nanoparticles improve delivery of medicines and diagnotistcs
Tiny particles filled with medicine may also contain answers to some of the biggest human health problems, including cancer and tuberculosis. The secret is the size of the package. A team led by Robert Prud'homme, professor of chemical engineering and director of the Program in Engineering Biology, created the particles, which are only 100 to 300 nanometers wide -- more than 100 times thinner than a human hair.
From the beginning, Winston Oluwole Soboyejo has been of two worlds -- the developing and the developed.
The second annual Innovation Forum at the School of Engineering and Applied Science Feb. 27 showcased emerging technology ranging from a novel laser eye surgery technique to a new way to improve security on the Internet.
A Princeton-led team of students who are programming stem cells to treat diabetes ranked third in the world in a recent competition to build working "genetic machines" out of DNA building blocks.
The National Science Foundation has funded a multimillion-dollar Engineering Research Center based at Princeton University that is expected to revolutionize sensor technology, yielding devices that have a unique ability to detect minute amounts of chemicals found in the atmosphere, emitted from factories or exhaled in human breath.