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

The Fischell Department of Bioengineering at the University of Maryland presents:


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

Fischell and Student

Dr. Robert E. Fischell (right) talks to graduate student David Hwang about his research.


On April 21, 2009, the Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BioE) held its third annual Fischell Festival, featuring a variety of speakers and activities, including the presentation of Dr. Robert E. Fischell's newest stent, live video of a completely endoscopic coronary bypass surgery, the announcement of the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices, a demonstration of a robotic exoskeleton, the best of this year's senior design projects, a poster session, breakout seminars, and the announcement of the Department's newest Fischell Fellow, Graduate Program in Bioengineering student Deborah Sweet.

Photos by Luisa di Pietro, Essential Eye Photographics, LLC, unless otherwise noted.


Available Video Coverage:

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Fischell Introduces New Stent, "Gets Down to Business"

Fischell Presenting Svelte Stent

Dr. Fischell discusses the evolution of his stents.


The Festival kicked off with a presentation from department benefactor and namesake Dr. Robert E. Fischell, who introduced the audience to his latest medical device, the Svelte Stent.

Stents are used to reopen and keep open blocked coronary arteries, and they are considered effective alternatives to open heart surgery and balloon angioplasty. Fischell has a long history with stents—he is sometimes called "the father of modern medical stents"—but he has continued to find ways to improve them. After implantation, some patients eventually experience restenosis, a reblocking of the artery from scar tissue formed in reaction to the stent's presence. Stents containing timed-release anti-scarring drugs have reduced but not eliminated the problem. Stents are also sometimes misplaced in the patient because the surgeon must first open the artery with a balloon, then go back in a second time to insert the device. The Svelte Stent addresses both problems through the use of a new drug emitted from a new type of coating on its surface, and by providing the surgeon with an all-in-one method of opening the artery and placing the stent. It also has a longer shelf life than previous models.

In the second part of his presentation, Dr. Fischell reminded the audience that even the very best biomedical device won't help anyone if it can't get into surgeons' hands, and that inventors must be prepared to promote their work with a sound business strategy. Specifically, says Fischell, a device must be good for the patient, serve a large population, make money for the prescribing doctors, save both the hospitals and insurance companies money, and be fast and easy to implant or use.

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Endoscopic Bypass Surgery Performed Using da Vinci Robot

Griffith narrating surgery

Above: Dr. Bartley Griffith narrates the endoscopic bypass surgery performed by Dr. Bonatti. Below: two of the arms of the da Vinci robot work on the patient's heart.

daVinci robot  

For those patients who cannot be helped with a stent, there is an exciting new alternative to traditional open heart surgery: a fully endoscopic coronary bypass procedure using a da Vinci robot. The University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM-SOM) is fortunate enough to have on their faculty one of four people worldwide who can perform the procedure, and one of only two in the U.S., Dr. Johannes Bonatti—and Festival attendees were fortunate enough to see him in action! While Bonatti operated and commented, Dr. Bartley Griffith, M.D., Director of the Division of Cardiac Surgery and Cardiothoracic Transplantation and professor of the Department of Surgery at UM-SOM, narrated the procedure and fielded questions.

While using the da Vinci robot, Bonatti didn't need to touch the patient with his own hands. Instead, he guided its four arms—which enter the patient through four small incisions—with both of his hands and a foot pedal at a control console. Two of the da Vinci's arms are equipped with surgical tools, one helps stabilize the position of the patient's heart, and the fourth holds a camera, which transmits video back to the console. Viewers were able to see the patient's beating heart and Bonatti grafting an artery into place. Although robotic-assisted surgery takes longer to perform than a traditional bypass, the patient's sternum does not need to be cracked open, and the recovery time can be cut down by as much as half. The results are better and last much longer.

As amazing as the technology is, Griffith had a piece of advice for the audience: "It's really much easier not to smoke."

Learn more about the da Vinci Surgical System at the Intuitive Surgical web site »

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Bentley Announces Robert E. Fischell Institute of Medical Devices

William Bentley

Professor and Chair William Bentley discusses the goals of the Robert E. Fischell Institute of Medical Devices and the projects it might work on.


Professor and Chair William Bentley reported on the progress of the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices. The Institute's Formative Committee has been laying the groundwork for the Institute's major goals and services: to connect inventors and engineers with clinical practices, to serve as an accelerator for biomedical device creation, and to provide internships for students. "The overarching purpose of the Institute is to get devices out of the labs and into practice," Bentley explained, "using the 'Fischell Factors'—the same development criteria Dr. Fischell uses for his own devices and business ventures." Bentley also offered guests his vision of bioengineering's future, in which ever-smarter medical devices would not just be implanted, but capable of monitoring their status and the status of the patient, and reporting back to doctors.

Members of the Formative Committee include Associate Professor Elias Balaras (BioE), Professor and Chair William Bentley (BioE), Dr. Martha Connolly (Director, Maryland Industrial Partnerships), Associate Professor Jaydev Desai (Mechanical Engineering), Susan Fischell, Associate Professor John Fisher (BioE), Professor Reza Ghodssi (Electrical and Computer Engineering/Institute for Systems Research), Dr. Bartley Griffith, M.D. (Department of Surgery, UM-SOM), Sandra Huskamp (Director of Operations, BioE), Professor W. J. Lederer, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Maryland Medical Biotechnology Institute), Kevin Lepley (Assistant Director of Finance, BioE), Leonard Pinchuk,  Ph.D., D.Sc. (co-founder and President/CEO, Innovia) and Mel Schatz (President/CEO, Crux Biomedical).

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Announcement of the 2009 Fischell Fellow

 Bentley, Sweet, and Fischell

Left to right: Professor and Chair William Bentley, 2009 Fischell Fellow Deborah Sweet, and Dr. Robert E. Fischell.


Dr. Fischell joined Professor Bentley to announce the winner of the 2009 Fischell Fellowship in Biomedical Engineering. Graduate Program in Bioengineering student Deborah Sweet, who is co-advised by Graduate Program in Bioengineering affiliate faculty members Professor Hamid Ghandehari (Department of Bioengineering, University of Utah) and Professor Peter Swaan (Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Center for Nanomedicine & Cellular Delivery, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy), was selected for her research on an oral drug delivery system for chemotherapy drugs that are traditionally administered intravenously.

Learn more about the Fellowship and current and past Fellows »

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Capstone Design Awards

Every year, seniors majoring in bioengineering participate in Capstone, a two-semester course in which teams of students utilize what they have learned throughout their undergraduate studies to address a human health-related problem by designing their own solutions, from concept to prototype product.

This year, Mrs. Susan Fischell proposed, sponsored and inaugurated a new aspect of the Capstone experience: Each year the top three project teams, as selected by a panel of judges, will now win monetary prizes donated by Mrs. Fischell, and will also be invited to present their work to the public at the Fischell Festival. The teams may also have the opportunity to have their inventions put on track for development at the new Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices.

Nine teams competed. This year's winning teams and their projects were:

First Place:

G.I. Go device

A member of Capstone Team 9 demonstrates the prototype on their G.I. Go: Grip It & Go device.


Team 9: G.I. Go: Grip It & Go
Team Members: Sona Chaudhry, Bryan Hofferbert, D.T. Howarth, Tanya Saleh, and Kim Ziegler. Mentor: Assistant Professor Adam Hsieh.

G.I. Go, a lightweight, cost-effective device for therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment of the hand, allows the patient to keep his or her fingers straight, achieve 90º rotation, and exercise individual fingers, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles, and the whole hand. No products currently available address all of these important physical therapy requirements in a single device.

Second Place (tie):

Hemodialysis Potassium Monitor

Members of Capstone Team 8 control their prototype hemodialysis potassium monitoring device.


Team 8: Mechanization of the In-Line Potassium Sensor in a Novel Hemodialysis Machine
Team Members: Ajay Alkondon, Matt Dempsey, Adam Pfannenstein, Bobak Shirmohammadi, and Sarah Tostanoski. Mentor: Professor Adel Shirmohammadi

When a patient with kidney disease has toxins filtered from their blood using hemodialysis, an unknown quantity of potassium is also removed. The accidental removal of too much potassium can cause muscle weakness, seizures, arrhythmia, and even sudden death. Team 8 has designed a device capable of real-time monitoring of blood potassium levels, including safety checkpoints and built-in delays to allow for recalibration as potassium levels change. More effective dialysis means fewer lab and technician costs, and a reduction in the time required for treatment. The team hopes to eventually fully automate the device, which would allow it to run while the patient is sleeping, and to make it an add-on component to existing home dialysis products.

Team 4: Novel Modified Colonoscope to Reduce Looping in Colonoscopies
Team Members: Katherine Bail, Jeffrey Gair, Michael Gu, and Jennifer Uy. Mentor:  Assistant Professor Yu Chen.


Capstone Team 4 with their loop-reducing colonoscope.


Colonoscopes, the instruments used during colonoscopies to examine the patient's colon, are susceptible to looping, which causes them to buckle instead of advance. This results in more discomfort for the patient, longer test times, the need for more anesthesia, and sometimes the inability to complete the procedure. Team 4 designed a double-layered, biocompatible sheath for colonoscopes that uses air pressure to vary and control the stiffness of the device, allowing it to move more easily through the patient, particularly around sharp turns.

The Capstone Design Awards were sponsored by Mrs. Susan Fischell. Our panel of judges included Professor Leigh Abts (College of Education/BioE), Senior Lecturer Glenn Rahmoeller (affiliate faculty, UGST-Honors Program/BioE), and Dr. Jafar Vossoughi (President, Biomed Research Foundation and affiliate faculty, BioE).

The Department would like to thank Mrs. Fischell for her generosity and vision in promoting and forwarding our students' work. We would also like to thank our judges for their time.

For more Information:


Watch the Morning Presentations »

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Exoskeleton Demonstration


Dr. Craig Carignan demonstrates the robotic MGA Exoskeleton performing a variety of shoulder exercises used for physical therapy. Photo courtesy of Professor David Akin.


Dr. Craig Carignan (Research Associate Professor, Georgetown University; adjunct faculty, Aerospace Engineering) gave a demonstration of a robotic arm exoskeleton developed by the Space Systems Laboratory to treat shoulder injury. The Maryland-Georgetown-Army (MGA) Exoskeleton has five powered joints connected by adjustable linkages and is strong enough to be used for both orthopaedic and neuro-rehabilitation. A variety of standard shoulder exercises used in physical therapy were demonstrated as well as a functional task for stroke patients in which the exoskeleton was used to replicate forces from a virtual wall during a simulation of painting. MGAXOS is slated to begin clinical trials at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C. later this year, and future plans include producing a commercial version within the next 2-3 years.

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Afternoon Seminars

The Fischell Festival was pleased to host four seminar speakers who spoke on a variety of bioengineering trends and discussed current research:

  • Aldo Badano"Imaging Physics and the Assessment of New Medical Imaging Technologies"
    Dr. Aldo Badano, Imaging Physics Laboratory, Division of Imaging and Applied Mathematics, Office of Science and Engineering Labs, FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health

    Establishing the benefits of new imaging technologies is a critical part of the process of invention, development, and commercialization of new product concepts. In his talk, Badano highlighted recent imaging research at the Division of Medical Imaging and Applied Mathematics (OSEL/CDRH/FDA) where advanced computational methods are used to create virtual models of human anatomy and disease for performing in silico studies of new imaging modalities. The methods developed as part of this research are used by academic and industry R&D laboratories to speed up the design and development of detectors and techniques for the next generation of medical imaging systems.

  • Jaydev Desai"Image-guided Surgical Robotics: From Macro-scale to Meso-scale"
    Jaydev P. Desai, Associate Professor, Director—RAMS Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland

    Professor Desai described two of his current research projects, in which he and his group are trying to develop a robotic system that operates under continuous magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These two projects are in the areas of 1) breast biopsy (Bx) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of breast tumors; and 2) the design of a meso-scale robot for neurosurgery. The preliminary prototype of the Bx/RFA system provides realtime imaging and haptic (touch) feedback to the user as the biopsy needle is inserted into the tissue, while the prototype of the meso-scale robotic device developed for applications in neurosurgery consists of a multi-degree of freedom device with joint actuation provided by a shape memory alloy. (About Professor Desai »)

  • John Fisher"Developing Trends in Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine"
    John Fisher, Associate Professor, Director—Tissue & Biomaterials Engineering Laboratory, Fischell Department of Bioengineering, University of Maryland

    Professor Fisher spoke on the development of the field of tissue engineering, as well as the current state of the tissue engineering industry. He identified angiogenesis, stem cell science, molecular biology, and systems biology as areas that require increased, strategic attention from the tissue engineering community, and discussed current projects in his Tissue Engineering & Biomaterials Laboratory, including the engineering of articular cartilage and craniofacial bone. (About Professor Fisher »)

  • Peter Swaan"Drug Targeting and Imaging Approaches Using Nanotechnology"
    Peter Swaan, Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Center for Nanomedicine and Cellular Delivery, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy

    Professor Swaan discussed two of his current research projects in drug delivery. In one study, Swaan and his team are using high-pressure microfluidics to form liposomes (biocompatible capsules made of phospholipids, fatty molecules found in cell membranes) at precise sizes. Liposomes can carry therapeutics in their hollow centers, and Swaan's collaborator, Professor Don DeVoe (Mechanical Engineering), has found that his technique greatly increases the successful encapsulation rate of a drug in the liposomes during manufacturing, something very important when the drug in question is costly. In another study, Swaan is creating porous silicon wafer particles designed to cling to cells on the intestinal wall and emit the drugs they carry on the cell-side only. This increases the concentration of the medication delivered and reduces the amount lost to digestion. Its greatest potential could be in the oral delivery of insulin. (About Professor Swaan »)


Watch the Afternoon Seminars: Kay Boardroom East »
Aldo Badano, Peter Swaan

Watch the Afternoon Seminars: Kay Boardroom West »
John Fisher (Jaydev Desai's presentation is not available for viewing.)

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Biotechnology Career Fair and Information Expo

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

The Fischell Department of Bioengineering would like to thank the Clark School's office of Engineering Co-op and Career Services for organizing the career fair and information expo, as well as all of the companies and organizations that participated.

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Fineberg Looks Into the Future of Healthcare

Harvey FinebergThe Fischell Festival concluded with a Whiting-Turner Business and Entrepreneurial lecture delivered by Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., president of the National Academies' Institute of Medicine. The presentation, titled "Innovation in Medical Technology", asked whether it was possible to enjoy the benefits of new advances in healthcare while maintaining an affordable health system, particularly within the context of the comparative-effectiveness of our research and policy-making agencies. The most notable challenges, he told the audience, were the depersonalization of medicine and distance between doctors and patients caused by overuse, underuse, or misuse of technology in medicine. He advocated working smarter and more efficiently. "We carry over our expectations of the previous technology," he noted, and as an example cited electronic records, expressing the need for them to move beyond simply scanned documents and become the basis for automated research. Forward thinking like this, he feels, would enable Federal agencies to be proactive rather than engaging in "repeated response to disaster." (About Dr. Fineberg »)

Watch Dr. Fineberg's Whiting-Turner Lecture »

Photo of Dr. Fineberg by Al Santos.

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Thank You!

Group Shot

Left to right: Professor and Chair William Bentley, Dr. Bartley Griffith, Mrs. Susan Fischell, Dr. Robert E. Fischell, and A. James Clark School of Engineering dean Darryll Pines.


The Fischell Department of Bioengineering would like to thank the Fischell family, all of the Fischell Festival's speakers, participants, presenters and guests; 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 »

Were you unable to attend our other Fischell Festivals?

See photos, read reviews and watch presentations from past Fischell Festivals:
| 2011 | 2010 | 2008 | 2007

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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 »

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