Biological Engineering Division

The Biological Engineering Division (BE), formerly the Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health (BEH) continues to grow in terms of top quality faculty and student numbers, innovative educational programs, and forefront research programs in pursuing its mission of fostering MIT education and research fusing engineering with biology. Our formal Institute mission statement is to organize education and research at the interface of engineering with biology, with special emphasis on biomedical engineering, pharmacology, and toxicology, and our aim is to define and lead the new biology-based engineering discipline which we term biological engineering. The central premise of BE is that the science of biology will be as important to technology and society in the next century as physics and chemistry have been in the previous one. Therefore, to translate the revolution in modern biology into a corresponding revolution in biology-based technologies, a new biology-based discipline of bioengineering must be established. We are endeavoring to educate engineers and scientists who can apply their measurement and modeling perspectives to understanding how biological systems operate, especially when perturbed by genetic, chemical, mechanical, or materials interventions, or subjected to pathogens or toxins, and apply their design perspective to creating innovative biology-based technologies in medical diagnostic, therapeutic, and device industries, as well as in non-health-related industrial sectors such as agriculture, environment, materials, manufacturing, and defense. This should lead to a new generation capable of solving problems using modern biotechnology, emphasizing an ability to measure, model, and rationally manipulate biological systems.

The current BE faculty members (with other MIT affiliations noted in parentheses) are Peter Dedon, William Deen (Chemical Engineering), Forbes Dewey (Mechanical Engineering), Bevin Engelward, John Essigmann (Chemistry), James Fox, Linda Griffith (Chemical Engineering), Alan Grodzinsky (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering), Neville Hogan (Mechanical Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Science), Ian Hunter (Mechanical Engineering), Darrell Irvine (Materials Science and Engineerng), Roger Kamm (Mechanical Engineering), Alex Klibanov (Chemistry), Robert Langer (Chemical Engineering), Douglas Lauffenburger (Chemical Engineering and Biology), Harvey Lodish (Biology/Whitehead Institute), Scott Manalis (Media Arts and Sciences), Paul Matsudaira (Biology/Whitehead Institute), Leona Samson, Ram Sasisekharan, David Schauer, James Sherley, Peter So (Mechanical Engineering), Steven Tannenbaum (Chemistry), William Thilly, Bruce Tidor (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), Dane Wittrup (Chemical Engineering), Gerald Wogan, and Ioannis Yannas (Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering); in addition, Angela Belcher (Materials Science and Engineering), Jongyoon Han (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), and Matthew Lang (Mechanical Engineering) will be joining the BE faculty during the coming 2002–2003 academic year as they arrive on campus.

Dalia Gabour is our new academic administrator, coming from the position of assistant director of educational services in the Sloan School of Management, replacing Debra Luchanin (who has moved to the position of assistant director of the Financial Technology Option program in the Sloan School). Rolanda Dudley-Cowans continues to serve as our administrative officer.

During fiscal year 2002, the sponsored research volume officially administered within BE was $6.9 million, representing a 19 percent increase over FY2001. It is important to note that this figure represents only those sponsored projects formally assigned to the division; most BE faculty members additionally operate sponsored research projects supervised administratively within other departments and centers; these include the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center, Center for Biomedical Engineering, Center for Environmental Health Sciences, and Division of Comparative Medicine, all of which are directed by BE faculty members (Douglas Lauffenburger, Alan Grodzinsky, Leona Samson, and James Fox, respectively). The major research areas within BE include: biological and physiological transport phenomena; biological imaging and functional measurement; biomaterials; biomolecular engineering and cell and tissue engineering; computational biology and bioinformatics; discovery, design and delivery of molecular therapeutics; genetic toxicology; macromolecular biochemistry and biophysics; metabolism of drugs and toxins; microbial pathogenesis; carcinogenesis; biomechanics; molecular epidemiology and dosimetry; molecular pharmacology; genomics, proteomics, and glycomics.

A special highlight of this past year was the first annual BE division retreat. More than 150 faculty, graduate students, and staff gathered at Ocean Edge Resort on Cape Cod for a weekend away from campus. An extraordinarily stimulating and enjoyable time of science/engineering discussion and social interaction was had by all! Heartfelt appreciation goes to Leona Samson, Olga Parkin, Christiana Struve, and Kevin Janes for their leadership organizational efforts.

Undergraduate Education

BE continues to administer two SB minor programs, in Biomedical Engineering (BME) and in Toxicology and Environmental Health (Tox/EH). In addition, it administers a five year MEng program in Biomedical Engineering (Bioengineering track). In June 2002, we had 50 graduates with the BME minor, 11 graduates with the Tox/EH minor, and four graduates with the BME/BE MEng. Unusually for School of Engineering programs, the aggregate population of these graduates represents women in the majority.

An especially exciting and important new undergraduate subject was introduced this past academic year, under the direction of Professor Bevin Engelward: BE.109 Laboratory Fundamentals in Biological Engineering. In this subject, students gained hands-on experience with experimental techniques and quantitative analysis methods, including internet database approaches, related to forefront topics in biotechnology.

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Graduate Education

BE continues to operate two PhD programs, in Bioengineering and in Toxicology, along with SM programs in the same two fields. The Toxicology program graduated five PhD and three SM students this past year, and the current enrollment is 41. The Bioengineering program was established only three years ago so still awaits its first cohort of graduates, although two students finished with SM degrees this past year; the current enrollment is 38. Similarly to the BE division undergraduate programs, our graduate student population represents women and men in roughly equal numbers.

BE has been the grateful recipient of wonderfully generous gifts for graduate student fellowships, most notably from Andrew and Edna Viterbi for Viterbi graduate fellowships in computational biology and bioinformatics, and from Gordon and Adele Binder for Binder graduate fellowships in molecular and cell bioengineering. Additionally, we have received financial support for graduate fellowships from the Medtronic foundation, the duPont/MIT alliance, the Merck/MIT partnership, and the Whitaker foundation.

Faculty Notes

Angela Belcher received the World Technology award in materials and was named among the Technology Review TR 100 Top Innovators. John Essigmann was named Leitch professor in residence for Simmons House. James Fox was named to serve on the National Advisory Research Resources Council of NIH. Linda Griffith was promoted to rank of full professor and became the deputy director of the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center. Darrell Irvine received the Karl van Tassel career development chair in biomedical engineering. Roger Kamm was named a Cambridge-MIT Institute fellow. Robert Langer received the Charles Stark Draper award from the National Academy of Engineering, and the Harrison Howe award from the American Chemical Society. Douglas Lauffenburger received the William H. Walker award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and served as chair for the college of fellows of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. Harvey Lodish was elected president of the American Society of Cell Biology. Scott Manalis received a Presidential Early Career award for scientists and engineers and was named among the Technology Review TR 100 Top Innovators. Paul Matsudaira was named a Cambridge-MIT Institute fellow. Leona Samson became director of Center for Environmental Health Sciences.James Sherley was inducted into the Pew Scholars Science and Society Institute Leadership and Policy program. Gerald Wogan was appointed senior research fellow for the Laboratory for Human Carcinogenesis at the National Cancer Institute.

Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Co-director and Professor of Biological Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Biology
Steven R. Tannenbaum, Co-director and Underwood Prescott Professor of Toxicology

More information about the Biological Engineering Division can be found on the web at


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