Our projects have included challenges presented by Biomedical Engineering Faculty, clinicians, members of the local community, and biomedical industry partners. Below are some examples of several types of projects.
Neonatal Respiration Monitor: Prototype designed by University of Rochester Biomedical Engineering students for a device to monitor very fast and small breathing in neonatal intensive care units. The speaker simulates the breathing of a premature baby. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Vick/University of Rochester)
Close proximity to the University of Rochester Medical Center makes it possible for our students to work closely with physicians, nurses and therapists in the design of devices for use in a clinical setting. Projects have included modifications to diagnostic or medical procedures for greater accuracy, improved patient safety or more efficient treatments. Whether designing for surgical procedures, intensive care medicine, physical rehabilitation or the emergency room, our students learn about the challenges of the clinical environment and the procedures involved in regulation of medical devices. For example, projects have included airway suction catheters, stents for liver surgery, blood pressure monitors, a vestibular evaluation chair, and a biopsy needle for reduced blood loss. Working with physical therapists, our students have designed several orthotic systems, a wheelchair sizing device, and improvements to gait retraining systems for rehabilitation.
Biomedical Research Technology
This system was designed to test silicon nanomembrane filters prior to marketing for various applications including protein separation and drug screening.
Working with faculty from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, student projects have developed research methods to investigate a variety of cutting edge medical technology. Often these projects develop prototypes to perform early benchtop experiments used to evaluate novel measurement techniques related to cell and tissue engineering. For example, students have developed microscopy-based systems to characterize cell adhesion and pulmonary surfactants. Other prototypes have investigated novel bioreactors to study red blood cell development and cartilage tissue engineering, as well as a system for transdermal drug delivery for asthma treatment. In another project, students developed a system to test a serial filtration method using silicon nanofilters, technology used by the UR spinoff company, SiMPore, Inc. At the macroscopic level, students have also developed prototypes to measure head accelerations during daily activities and to quantify physical activity in children who are overweight.
Biomedical Optics Technology
Blood Cell Bioreactor: This device is used in research of the maturation of red blood cells. In this pressure-regulated system, the cells are pushed through tiny openings, similar to tiny capillaries in the body. Fluorescent markers are used to track flow.
The use of optical technology has revolutionized numerous medical devices, whether for the surgical suite, the doctor's office, or remote locations. Our students have worked with faculty from the Center for Visual Science and the Institute of Optics to investigate improvements to vision correction surgery, methods for bedside blood analysis, sublingual monitors for the ICU, and even procedures for minimally invasive spinal surgery. Optical detection systems have been evaluated for urinalysis, saliva testing, or portable radiation or e.coli detection. Their prototypes have helped to refine clinical research studies, to investigate preliminary concepts and to forge ongoing collaborations between engineers and clinicians.
Ultrasound and Imaging Technology
Pressure Stimulus for fMRI: Students designed an MR-compatible device to reliably provide a pressure stimulus to the lumbar spine during functional MR imaging of the brain in patients with chronic low back pain.
The University of Rochester has considerable expertise in the area of medical imaging, including the Rochester Center for Biomedical Ultrasound and the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging. Capitalizing on this expertise, our students have developed prototype filters and robotic needle-steering systems for improving the accuracy of image-guided cancer treatments. Working with interventional radiologists, our students have developed improvements to liver and cardiovascular stent systems and biopsy procedures. Students have also developed image analysis methods to use video to study the activity of experimental animals and a prototype ultrasound transducer used to detect and monitor air emboli in the vena cava that may occur during brain surgery. Systems may involve low-cost alternatives for fracture detection using ultrasound or specialized technology such as magnetic resonance imaging to study chronic back pain.
Accessible Technology to Enable Daily Activities
Lynn Wood, a physical therapist at Unity Health, demonstrates the use of a special chair designed by University of Rochester biomedical engineering students that allows her to bend over to help stroke and brain trauma patients in using a treadmill without straining her back. (Photo courtesy of J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester)
The ultimate goal of many biomedical engineers is to design devices that have the potential to improve people's lives. In particular, we can use technology to assist individuals who face physical challenges due to illness or disability. Each year, our students develop prototypes that help people with disabilities manage their daily activities-whether at home, on a college campus, or at work. For example, students have designed devices to help children who are quadriplegic interact with their environment, to help others understand the difficulties caused by hearing loss, and to manage their medications at home. Student teams often consult with the University of Rochester Disabilities Cluster, a group of individuals who are dedicated to enhancing awareness of disability issues in the areas of education, health care, research and inclusion.