April 9, 2003

Greatbatch Visits Expo

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Over 100 Students, faculty and distinguished guest lecturers gathered in the Biotechnology building yesterday afternoon to hear speakers and presenters at the first annual BioEngineering Expo. Initiated by the student-run Institute of Biological Engineering (IBE), the event aimed to stir up enthusiasm and appreciation for the new and expanding field of Bioengineering, which combines aspects of biology and engineering in several diverse disciplines and applications.

The keynote speaker was Wilson Greatbatch ’50, a pioneer in the bioengineering field and inventor of the first successfully implantable pacemaker.

Half jokingly, Greatbatch began his talk by saying, “My point is to convince all of you to go into bioengineering.”

In actuality, Greatbatch’s speech focused on the past, present, and future of bioengineering. He recounted his own experiences at Cornell during the1950’s when he was a GI bill student.

“With $2,000 I made 50 pacemakers in the barn behind my house, which is pretty good. You can’t buy one for that price today,” he said.

Greatbatch then turned his attention to the present and future of his own research into MRI-compatible and defibrillation pacemakers through fiber optics.

“The innovation in this area is still not over. There is still a lot of work to be done and a large part of it is being done right here at Cornell,” Greatbatch said.

Looking forward, Greatbatch stressed the importance of continuing with cutting edge research in photonics and nanotechnology, in which Cornell is a world leader.

“I’ve had a lot of fun in the last 84 years and cannot wait to see what progress will be made in this exciting field,” said Greatbatch at the end of his lecture.

The keynote speech was followed by two other speakers, who showcased their own unique applications of bioengineering research and technology. Dr. Andrea Turner Ph.D. ’02 presented her findings on cell growth on different topographical structures. Her research could lead to a discovery in restoring neural functions that have been paralyzed. In addition, Dr. Ruth Richardson, civil and environmental engineering, discussed the uses of bioengineering in environmental science.

The second half of the expo allowed undergraduates to display their own research in bioengineering. About 25 students presented their work on posters and gave presentations to observers and judges.

Leo Shumuyovich ’03 researched the blood brain barrier which protects the brain from toxins.

“One of the parts of research is to present your findings. This expo was a good opportunity to do so. It’s a nice capstone to my undergrad research,” he said.

Olivia Millard ’03 attended the expo out of curiosity.

“I’m not a bio or engineering student but I wanted to see what research was being done,” she said. “I am extraordinarily impressed with the level of research that is being done by undergraduates here.”

John Belina, electrical engineering, and one of the judges, emphasized the practicality of bioengineering.

“That’s what this is all about: the combination of engineering and the fields of biology and medicine,” he said.

To prove his point, he recounted that one of the projects had been conceived while he was at lunch with two students. He encouraged them to find a way to ease his back pain through bioengineering. The resulting project by Bryan Kressler ’05 and Nicholas Burlett ’05 delved into the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) which affects the transmission of pain along nerves.

The student run expo was primarily developed and carried out by Rachel Ross ’03, Kory Reed ’03, Ben Eckhardt ’03 and John Connelly ’03, who are all members of IBE.

“We all put a lot of hard work into this to get it off the ground. Hopefully there will be others to continue this expo and create a great tradition,” Ross said.

Archived article by Emily Sketch