EQuad News: Health and engineering

EQuad News index

The School of Engineering and Applied Science is building its capacity to solve societal challenges while preparing leaders who will make wise use of technology. The winter 2012 issue of EQuad News, the school's magazine, highlights health-related research by focusing on collaborative work under way at Princeton in understanding human health and preventing, diagnosing and treating disease.

Cover design by Matilda Luk


Faculty and students at Princeton's School of Engineering and Applied Science seek to make technology effective in solving societal problems across the globe. The winter 2012 issue of EQuad News, the school's magazine, focuses on one area of this endeavor: health-related research.

The projects described often extend well beyond engineering and include partnerships with the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics and the departments of molecular biology and psychology. The magazine also includes a Q&A with alumni who bring a variety of perspectives to bear on the coming challenges and opportunities in global health.

EQuad News filter

In an effort to prevent disease in developing nations, Professor Wole Soboyejo of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is leading an effort to design clay filters that can easily be made from locally available materials yet are precise enough to remove bacteria and even viruses from water. Here graduate student Ismaiel Yakub (left) pours water into a filter system as sophomore Megan Partridge collects filtered water to demonstrate a system designed for use in Africa. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The complexity of these issues is a reminder of "the essential relationship between engineering and the liberal arts, and why it is vital that we build on our success in fostering teaching and research that is at once deeply grounded in fundamental scientific knowledge and highly nimble in making connections across the humanities and sciences," Dean of Engineering and Applied Science H. Vincent Poor wrote in the magazine.

With more than 20 percent of faculty members in engineering working on projects related to human health, the brief descriptions in the magazine offer just a snapshot.

Growing the school's strengths in this area will be a key focus in the coming years, Poor said. In 2010, the school changed the name of the chemical engineering department to the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. The Hoyt Lab, which recently was vacated by the chemistry department, is being renovated to accommodate research in biological engineering. And as Princeton's Aspire campaign — a comprehensive fundraising campaign — concludes this year, raising additional funds for health-related teaching and research is a major priority for the engineering school.

EQuad News hands

Among the health-related projects at the engineering school, one research center is developing a device that scans a person's skin to reveal his or her blood glucose level, which could provide a major improvement to diabetes care. The project is supported by Princeton's Eric and Wendy Schmidt Transformative Technology Fund. The two images above show the same hand, one in visible light, the second in infrared produced by a quantum cascade laser. The white dot on the forefinger of the lower image shows the infrared beam hitting the skin. Information in the laser light can reveal data about glucose levels without the conventional pin prick and blood test. (Images courtesy of Sabbir Liakat)