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The A. James Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland

A Celebration of Bioengineering's Potential to Improve Life for Millions of People

On May 3, 2007, The Fischell Department of Bioengineering held its first annual Fischell Festival. The all-day event to celebrate the department's first anniversary, billed as "A Celebration of Bioengineering's Potential to Improve Life for Millions of People," featured a variety of high-profile speakers, a telesurgery broadcast, student poster session, lab tours, a bioengineering career information session, and the announcement of the 2007 Fischell Fellow. Guests were also able to learn more about the Kim Building's new Fischell Bioengineering Wing, which is scheduled to open in Fall 2007. The semester's final Whiting-Turner Business and Entrepreneurial Lecture, delivered by Medonic Chairman and CEO Art Collins, capped off the day's activities.

Morning Sessions Highlight Bioengineering Research and Applications

A variety of distinguished speakers treated visitors to a morning of discussion and demonstration of bioengineering’s future in academia, medicine, and industry.

Shu Chien

Professor Shu Chien. Photo by Al Santos.


Shu Chien, president of the Bio-Medical Engineering Society, professor and former chair of the Department of Bioengineering,University of California at San Diego; former director of Whitaker Institute for Biomedical Engineering; and member of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, and Institute of Medicine, delivered a lecture titled "Bioengineering in the New Century." Chien outlined some of the areas in which bioengineering is expected to have the largest impact: targeted drug delivery, image-guided surgery, aging, the evolution of the operating room, and the integration of education and research. He discussed the expected significant job growth within the field by the end of the decade. He stressed the importance of collaboration between biologists, engineers, government labs, doctors, and society at large to the advancement of the field, and noted the role major organizations such as the NIH, the former Whitaker Foundation, and the Bio-Medical Engineering Society have played in the process.



Dr. Scott Roth, M.D. (upper center), describes a surgical procedure being broadcast from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, performed by Dr. Steve Kravic, M.D. Photo by Al Santos.


Festival guests were then treated to a live telesurgery transmitted from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dr. Scott Roth, M.D. described the laproscopic (video-guided) Nissen fundoplication procedure being performed by colleague Dr. Steve Kravic, M.D., and the tools and technology that made it possible. Dr. Kravic was able to field questions from the audience as he worked. Nissen fundoplications, which are performed to control acid reflux disease, recreate a defective valve between the patient's esophagus and stomach using his or her own tissues. The procedure, which dates to the 1950s, used to involve large and deep incisions to reach the affected area and required significant recovery time in the hospital. Today, it is performed on an outpatient basis. Surgeons find their way to the damaged area by inserting tiny cameras through a small incision in the patient. Instead of looking directly at the patient, they watch a picture transmitted to a monitor, working in an area roughly the size of a dime. Their tools, which can be a small as 5mm wide, include tiny forceps and "harmonic scalpels" which cut and coagulate tissues using sonic waves. The end result is less pain, less scarring, less bleeding, fewer risks of complications, and a shorter recovery time.


Dr. Scott Roth. The image on the screens is a live view of a patient's esophagus.


While the surgery reflected the amazing advances in biomedical technology, Drs. Roth and Kravic told the audience there was still room for improvement, and problems bioengineers could help surgeons solve. "It's like operating with chopsticks," Dr. Roth joked, explaining that some of the limitations of laproscopic surgery were limited mobility, no flexibility of or tactile feedback from the instruments, and its non-intuitive nature. Dr. Kravic expressed an interest in instruments that could see in three dimensions, so surgeons could avoid harming structures below or adjacent to the damaged area.

Larry Kessler, Director, Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), delivered a talk titled "Challenges and Opportunities: Medical Devices of the Future," in which he discussed the FDA's role in monitoring and regulating products, collaboration with academia and industry, and research of technology trends. He identified a number of emerging bioengineering technologies the FDA is following, including computer-aided diagnoses, gene therapy, personalized medicine, prosthetics, microelectromechanical systems-based devices (MEMS) and nanotechnology used in diagnostics, drug delivery, sensors and actuators, at-home healthcare, minimally invasive medical devices, and organ replacements.

  Larry Kessler


Larry Kessler, Director, Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)


The final speaker and guest of honor was department benefactor, medical device inventor and entrepreneur, National Academy of Engineering member, and Clark School professor of practice Dr. Robert E. Fischell, who spoke on "The Future of Biomedical Devices." Fischell predicted a rise in the prominence of devices used to treat and prevent illness without the side effects associated with drugs. One of the reasons for this, he explained, is our increasing understanding of the body's internal electrical systems, and our improvements to human-computer interfaces that could be used in both external and implantable medical devices. He demonstrated three examples from his own current research and development:

  •   Robert Fischell


    Dr. Robert Fischell talks to a student about her research. Photo by Al. Santos.

    The AngelMed system uses an implanted device to analyze a patient’s electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG), a record of the heart’s electrical activity, and inform both the patient and medical personnel via wireless connections (for example, a pager or call to a cell phone) if a heart attack is imminent.
  • Neuropace is a device implanted in the cranium that senses electrical activity in the brain that signals the onset of a seizure, and provides stimulation to stop them before they happen. Patients participating in tests of the device "have seen a dramatic reduction in the frequency and severity of their seizures," said Fischell.
  • Fischell is also developing a handheld device that uses transcranial magnetic stimulation for the treatment of migraine headaches. Migraines are caused by bands of electrically excited neurons (nerve cells) across the skull, and Fischell and his collaborators have found that magnetic pulses can depolarize their charges, effectively canceling the headache. Other potential applications of this technology include treatment of depression, Parkinson's disease, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Learn more about Dr. Fischell »


New Fischell Fellow Announced


Left to right: Fischell Department of Bioengineering Professor and Chair William Bentley, 2007 Fischell Fellow Daniel Janiak, and Dr. Fischell.



At the conclusion of the morning's lectures, Fischell Department of Bioengineering Professor and Chair William Bentley joined Dr. Fischell to announce the winner of the 2007 Fischell Fellowship in Biomedical Engineering. Department of Materials Science and Engineering graduate student Daniel Janiak, who is advised by bioengineering Professor Peter Kofinas and works in the Functional Macromolecular Laboratory, was selected for his research in molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs).

The Fischell Fellowship in Biomedical Engineering is a unique opportunity for talented and innovative graduate students interested in applied research and product design in the biomedical industry. It features a $35,000 12-month stipend, full tuition waiver, full health benefits, and is renewable for up to 5 years. Learn more about the Fellowship and current and past Fellows »

Earlier this year, Janiak was also one of only 20 students selected to participate in the Clark School’s new Future Faculty Program, which was created to prepare students for academic careers in top-50 engineering schools. Learn more about the Future Faculty Program »


Guests Visit Labs, Learn About Bioengineering Research at the Clark School



Students at the Functional Macromolecular Laboratory chat with visitors on a tour. Photo by Al Santos.

During and after lunch, Festival attendees learned more about current bioengineering research at a poster session given by students and research assistants, and had the opportunity tour a number of labs, where students and faculty discussed their work. Open labs included:

Guests were also able to view the new Fischell Bioengineering Wing, which is being added to the second floor of the Kim Building. The wing is scheduled to open in Fall 2007.

Poster Session  

The poster session held in the Innovation Hall of Fame. Photo by Al Santos.

New Wing Tour  

Dr. Fischell (left) and University of Maryland President C.D. Mote (center) receive a special tour of the new Fischell Bioengineering Wing. Photo by Al Santos.



Biotech Companies Host Career Information Session

  Career Information


A representative from Medronic, Inc., at the Fischell Festival's bioengineering career information Fair. Photo by Al Santos.


Eight companies and organizations were on hand to demonstrate products and discuss careers in bioengineering, biomedical engineering, and biotechnology with interested students, faculty and guests:


Medtronic, Inc. Chairman and CEO Delivers Bioengineering-Themed Whiting-Turner Lecture

Art Collins  

Art Collins delivering the evening's Whiting-Turner Lecture. Photo by Al Santos.


The evening wrapped up with this final Whiting-Turner Business and Entrepreneurial Lecture of the 2006-2007 series, "How Advances in Medical Technology Will Provide Greater Value to Patients and the Health Care System," delivered by Medronic, Inc.'s chairman and CEO, Art Collins. Collins discussed how advances in traditional medical technology are being combined with advances in information technology, biotechnology and other breakthroughs to improve medical outcomes as well as provide more cost-effective delivery of care around the world. He characterized the environment in which these advances are being made and highlighted specific examples of how technology is either extending life or improving the quality of life for an increasing number of people. He also discussed factors that either enhance or hinder innovation within the medical technology industry, while discussing Medtronic's approach to address both the opportunities and issues that lie ahead.

Media Coverage

The Fischell Festival was covered by the local news media:

See You Next Year!

The Fischell Department of Bioengineering would like to thank all of the Fischell Festival's guests, speakers, participants and presenters; and University of Maryland students, faculty and staff, for a wonderful and informative event. We hope to see you all next year!

Return to the Fischell Festival homepage »


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Dr. Fischell

Through a $31 million gift, Robert E. Fischell and his sons Tim, Scott and David established the Fischell Department of Bioengineering and the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices at the Clark School of Engineering.   

“The greatest achievement that engineering can make is to improve the quality of life for millions of people. Our gift will help young engineers develop their ideas to improve healthcare for human beings throughout the world.”

Robert E. Fischell, M.S. ’53, Physics

Visit the Fischell Department of Bioengineering web site to learn more about the Fischell family and their contributions »

Return to the Fischell Festival homepage »

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