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Have A Technical Innovation Idea That Could Improve Patient Care?

The UM Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program is pleased to announce the 2016 Call for Proposals.   The deadline for proposal submission is January 15th, 2016.

The UM Coulter Program is funded through proceeds of an endowment from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and supports collaborative translational research projects that involve co-investigators from any engineering department and a clinical department.

The goal of this program is to accelerate the development and commercialization of new medical devices, diagnostics, and other biomedical products that address unmet clinical needs and lead to improvements in health care. Projects are supported and mentored by a team of industry experienced experts who proactively work to accelerate Coulter Program objectives of developing new product concepts to the point of partnering with industry or forming start-up companies with follow-on funding to commercialize new products envisioned from translational research efforts. Funding does not require cost-sharing of salaries.

Distinctive aspects of the Coulter Program include business assessment work that dovetails with technical milestones for each project.  Specific benefits to each project include:

•         Business Development Support

•         Intellectual Property advice

•         Regulatory guidance

•         Follow-on funding guidance

•         Mentorship from Oversight Committee

•         The C3i Commercialization Planning Program

Karen Schroeder, a doctoral candidate in the Chestek lab for cortical neural prosthetics, records hand movements for development of control interface technology for amputees.

For more information, visit or Download Coulter Proposal Instructions and Application Form Here

For questions, please contact Thomas Marten, Coulter Program Director, at or (734)647-1680.

Posted in All News, Student/Post-Doc News

November 20th, 2015 by yjmoon

New Michigan Regenerative Medicine Center Formed

The new Michigan Regenerative Medicine Center will be led by Drs. David Kohn (left) and William Giannobile, seen here in Giannobile’s laboratory at the School of Dentistry.

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of 10 institutions in the country that has been selected by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to establish a center that will develop clinical applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine that have dental, oral and craniofacial tests.

The Michigan Regenerative Medicine Resource Center, as it’s official known, will be led by Drs. William Giannobile and David Kohn.  Their education and expertise complement each other – Giannobile’s as a clinician/life scientist; Kohn’s as an engineer.  Giannobile chairs the school’s Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine.  Kohn is a professor in the school’s Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences and a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering.

“The center will transform how clinicians in the not-too-distant future repair, reconstruct and regenerate dental, oral and craniofacial anomalies in patients due to injury or disease,” Giannobile says.  “In recent years there have been major discoveries and advances in dentistry, medicine, biology, materials science, technology and other fields, and NIDCR wants the Michigan Center and similar centers around the country to find ways to use those advances so clinicians can then apply those discoveries to help their patients.”

Crucial to achieving that objective, Kohn says, will be establishing teams of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary specialists from across the University of Michigan, industry and private practice.  “These teams will be dedicated to selecting the most scientifically sound, clinically and commercially applicable strategies to regenerate oral tissues,” he says.

Historically, Kohn says, discoveries in a laboratory have progressed in a linear fashion, that is, they move forward one step at a time before being commercialized and used clinically.  “We want to change that approach,” Kohn adds.  “Our teams will take discoveries that show promise and provide the resources to advance the technologies to apply them more quickly than in the past.”  This approach, he adds, is uniquely suited to Michigan’s broad scientific, clinical and engineering strengths, and interdisciplinary culture.

Giannobile says clinical teams will work with technical advisory groups and data centers to assess what might be feasible clinically.  In the past, he says, scientists and clinicians have not always communicated to take advantages of scientific advances that can be used by dentists in a patient care setting.

Above are three-dimensional printed polymer scaffolds designed to promote bone and periodontal repair in the oral cavity. The design offers the potential to regenerate the different tissues teeth needed to treat teeth that have lost support due to the periodontal disease process.

Among the groups that will help the Michigan Regenerative Medicine Resource Center will be the Wyss Institute at Harvard, a multidisciplinary research institute that focuses on developing new materials with applications in health care, manufacturing and other areas, and the McGuire Institute in Houston which focuses on delivering clinical applications based on research using new or improved technologies.

The center was established with a $125,000 grant from NIDCR, the first step in what will be a two-step process.  The next step involves submitting a proposal that could possibly lead to funding for as much as $10 million, sometime next summer.

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Posted in All News, Faculty News

November 6th, 2015 by yjmoon

The Sweet Smell of Science: A Failed Candy Recipe Solves a Sticky Problem in the Lab

Anyone who has made Jello knows how difficult it can be to spring the wobbly treat from its mold intact. Now, imagine trying to dislodge something 10 times softer than gelatin, while keeping every detail unscathed down to a microscopic level. That was the problem faced by University of Michigan postdoctoral researcher Chris Moraes.

Moraes’s team, led by biomedical engineering professor Shu Takayama, was studying  how scar tissue forms inside the body, specifically in the soft-celled lungs and liver. To do that, they were working with a type of silicone called Sylgard 527. It’s so soft that just a few cells can squeeze it out of shape.

“Soft silicone structures are useful for studying human cells outside the body,” Takayama said. “We can use them to measure the very small squeezing effect that cells generate during wound healing. This enables us to test the effects of drugs using very small samples of human cells, instead of testing on actual patients.”

Cellular Sugar Molds

Moraes wanted to mold the Sylgard into tiny pillars less than a millimeter wide, then position the cells around them in a donut shape. He could then apply different treatments to the cells and measure how much their expansion and contraction squeezed the pillars out of shape.

Molding those pillars, however, turned out not to be so simple. The team was using hard epoxy molds, and there was no way to remove the silicone pillars without turning them into useless lumps of goo.

The solution came when Moraes was at home in his kitchen. An avid cook, he was trying a new recipe for homemade cotton candy.

“The cotton candy was a total failure,” he said. “I ended up with nothing but a huge blob of sugar syrup. I gave up and left it to cool in the pan.”

But when he took the hardened mass out of the pan, he noticed something surprising: The sugar retained every detail of the pan it came out of. It got him thinking: why not use hardened sugar as a mold for super-soft silicone? They could pour in the silicone, wait for it to cure, then dissolve the mold in water, leaving perfectly cast pillars of soft silicone.

The next day, Moraes was in the lab, perfecting a recipe for sacrificial sugar molds. The recipe was simple: sugar, water and corn syrup, cooked in the microwave to just the right consistency.

“It smelled great,” said biomedical engineering doctoral student Joe Labuz, who also works on the project. “The trick is to caramelize the sugar, hardening it enough so that it doesn’t deform as the silicone cures. Eventually, we got it just right and also drew a crowd of our colleagues who wondered where the great smell was coming from.”

The sugar molds turn out perfect soft silicone pillars every time.


Joseph Labuz, BME PhD Student, puts sugar molds in a water bath for the casting of soft silicone pillars in the NCRC. Photo by: Joseph XuThe pillar-making process begins with a hard epoxy “negative mold” – a mirror image of the sugar mold used to cast the final pillars. The researchers pour in hard silicone to create an initial plastic mold. Next, the molten sugar mixture is poured into this initial plastic mold and left to cool, hardening into what looks a lot like a piece of hard candy. The hardened sugar is popped out of the initial plastic mold and the sugar is then used as a mold for the silicone. The researchers pour the silicone into the sugar mold and cure the concoction in an oven. Finally, the silicone and sugar mold are put into a water bath. The sugar dissolves, while the water-repellent silicone stays intact.

The team is using the new process to better understand how scar tissue forms inside the body. Internal scarring is a common occurrence in diseases like cancer and diabetes, where the body tries to repair organ damage done by the disease. The formation of scar tissue can cause further problems by preventing organs from working properly.

“Scarring happens when the body’s healing process goes too far,” Takayama said. “If we can prevent it from happening or even reverse it, we could reduce the impact of a lot of diseases and create better outcomes for patients.”

The candy molding process is detailed in a paper published in the journal Lab on a Chip. Labuz says it can also be used other researchers to create virtually any type of soft silicone structure. In the meantime, they’re in the lab enjoying the sweet smell of science.

The paper is titled “Supersoft lithography: candy-based fabrication of soft silicone microstructures.” The work was supported by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health (grant numbers CA 170198 and AI116482) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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Posted in All News, Faculty News

November 2nd, 2015 by yjmoon

$3.46M to Combine Supercomputer Simulations with Big Data


A new way of computing could lead to immediate advances in aerodynamics, climate science, cosmology, materials science and cardiovascular research. The National Science Foundation is providing $2.42 million to develop a unique facility for refining complex, physics-based computer models with big data techniques at the University of Michigan, with the university providing an additional $1.04 million.

The focal point of the project will be a new computing resource, called ConFlux, which is designed to enable supercomputer simulations to interface with large datasets while running. This capability will close a gap in the U.S. research computing infrastructure and place U-M at the forefront of the emerging field of data-driven physics. The new Center for Data-Driven Computational Physics will build and manage ConFlux.

Turbulence simulations for a vortex such as a tornado, a galaxy, or the swirls that form at the tips of airplane wings. Courtesy of Karthik Duraisamy, Aerospace Engineering.The project will add supercomputing nodes designed specifically to enable data-intensive operations. The nodes will be equipped with next-generation central and graphics processing units, large memories and ultra-fast interconnects.

A three petabyte hard drive will seamlessly handle both traditional and big data storage. Advanced Research Computing – Technology Services at University of Michigan provided critical support in defining the technical requirements of ConFlux. The project exemplifies the objectives of President Obama’s new National Strategic Computing Initiative, which has called for the use of vast data sets in addition to increasing brute force computing power.

The common challenge among the five main studies in the grant is a matter of scale. The processes of interest can be traced back to the behaviors of atoms and molecules, billions of times smaller than the human-scale or larger questions that researchers want to answer.

Even the most powerful computer in the world cannot handle these calculations without resorting to approximations, said Karthik Duraisamy, an assistant professor of aerospace engineering and director of the new center. “Such a disparity of scales exists in many problems of interest to scientists and engineers,” he said.

But approximate models often aren’t accurate enough to answer many important questions in science, engineering and medicine. “We need to leverage the availability of past and present data to refine and improve existing models,” Duraisamy explained.

Data from hospital scans, when fed into a computer model of blood flow, can become a powerful predictor of cardiovascular disease. Courtesy of Alberto Figueroa, Biomedical Engineering.This data could come from accurate simulations with a limited scope, small enough to be practical on existing supercomputers, as well as from experiments and measurements. The new computing nodes will be optimized for operations such as feeding data from the hard drive into algorithms that use the data to make predictions, a technique known as machine learning.

“Big data is typically associated with web analytics, social networks and online advertising. ConFlux will be a unique facility specifically designed for physical modeling using massive volumes of data,” said Barzan Mozafari, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering, who will oversee the implementation of the new computing technology.

The faculty members spearheading this project come from departments across the University, but all are members of the Michigan Institute for Computational Discovery and Engineering (MICDE), which was launched in 2013.

“MICDE is the home at U-M of the so-called third pillar of scientific discovery, computational science, which has taken its place alongside theory and experiment,” said Krishna Garikipati, MICDE’s associate director for research.

The following projects will be the first to utilize the new computing capabilities:

  • Cardiovascular disease. Noninvasive imaging such as MRI and CT scans could enable doctors to deduce the stiffness of a patient’s arteries, a strong predictor of diseases such as hypertension. By combining the scan results with a physical model of blood flow, doctors could have an estimate for arterial stiffness within an hour of the scan. The study is led by Alberto Figueroa, the Edward B. Diethrich M.D. Research Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Vascular Surgery.
  • Turbulence. When a flow of air or water breaks up into swirls and eddies, the pure physics equations become too complex to solve. But more accurate turbulence simulation would speed up the development of more efficient airplane designs. It will also improve weather forecasting, climate science and other fields that involve the flow of liquids or gases. Duraisamy leads this project.
  • Clouds, rainfall and climate. Clouds play a central role in whether the atmosphere retains or releases heat. Wind, temperature, land use and particulates such as smoke, pollen and air pollution all affect cloud formation and precipitation. Derek Posselt, an associate professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences, and his team plan to use computer models to determine how clouds and precipitation respond to changes in the climate in particular regions and seasons.
  • Dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter and dark energy are estimated to make up about 96 percent of the universe. Galaxies should trace the invisible structure of dark matter that stretches across the universe, but the formation of galaxies plays by additional rules – it’s not as simple as connecting the dots. Simulations of galaxy formation, informed by data from large galaxy-mapping studies, should better represent the roles of dark matter and dark energy in the history of the universe. August Evrard and Christopher Miller, professors of physics and astronomy, lead this study.
  • Material property prediction. Material scientists would like to be able to predict a material’s properties based on its chemical composition and structure, but supercomputers aren’t powerful enough to scale atom-level interactions up to bulk qualities such as strength, brittleness or chemical stability. An effort led by Garikipati and Vikram Gavini, a professor and an associate professor of mechanical engineering, respectively, will combine existing theories with the help of data on material structure and properties.

“It will enable a fundamentally new description of material behavior—guided by theory, but respectful of the cold facts of the data. Wholly new materials that transcend metals, polymers or ceramics can then be designed with applications ranging from tissue replacement to space travel,” said Garikipati, who is also a professor of mathematics.

Posted in All News, Spotlight

October 14th, 2015 by yjmoon

Engineering Alum Bets on Millennials with $2M Gift



“Your teaching style will crash and burn with the millennials.” That’s what friends told University of Michigan alum Bill Hall in 2004 when he took on a teaching role at U-M for the first time in more than two decades. He had volunteered to teach an entrepreneurship course for MBAs at the Ross School of Business, his first foray into teaching since 1980, when he left his professorship at Ross to launch a successful career in business.

Some told him that his teaching style, which relies heavily on students to collaborate, debate and learn from each other, wouldn’t work with a generation of students that grew up interacting through text messages and social media.

“They were wrong,” he said. “When I got into the classroom, I realized that everything I’d read about the millennials was totally incorrect. I found that the kids had the same curiosity, the same respect for knowledge, authority and accountability that I remember from my first days as a professor.”

Hall, 71, did find that plenty had changed during nearly a quarter century away from the classroom. But his experience with today’s students was worlds apart from that of those who suggest that millennials aren’t up to the big challenges they’ll face in the years ahead.

“Today’s kids have a set of experiences that I could never even have imagined when I was growing up as a poor kid in Adrian, Michigan in the 1950s,” he said. “They’ve grown up in a more diverse world, they’ve travelled more, and I think computers and smartphones have given them a greater interest in knowledge and learning.”

He was so inspired by what he saw that he has returned to teach the same class every fall since 2004. He has also developed and co-instructed two more courses for the College of Engineering over the past ten years; one on entrepreneurial leadership and one on the emerging ethical issues in personalized medicine.

Bill Hall, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies and M'69 Alumnus, chats with Rohit Maramraju, Lab Technician. Photo by: Joseph XuLate in 2014, he made an even bigger bet on the future with a $2 million chair endowment to the U-M Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint department that spans both engineering and medicine. The William and Valerie Hall Chair of Biomedical Engineering will fund ongoing research in areas like cancer treatment and tissue engineering. Hall hopes it will also spark conversations that will take students out of their comfort zones and get them working across disciplines to tackle the challenges that will define the future.“In my experience, innovation happens when you put business leaders and scientists in the same room and get them to talk to each other,” Hall said. “That’s why I think joint departments like Biomedical Engineering are so important. We need people who can work across the boundaries of science, engineering, medicine and business more easily than in the past.”

It started with Sputnik


Crossing boundaries has been a prominent feature of Hall’s own career, the roots of which he can trace all the way back to a fateful evening in 1957, when he saw Sputnik streak through the dark sky over his mother’s back yard. Though he was only 12 years old, Hall says he saw his future in the Soviet satellite.

“I can still remember the odd mix of amazement and fear that Sputnik stirred in me,” he said. “It was incredible that people could put something into orbit. But back in 1957, it was also very unnerving that the Soviets had put this thing over our heads. I saw that and realized that I’d better go into aerospace engineering.”

Four years later, he turned up on the U-M engineering campus with a $150 scholarship (enough to cover his freshman tuition) and a job as a busboy in the West Quad dining hall. By the time he was a junior, he was already working in the aerospace industry, doing trajectory work for NASA’s Apollo program. His first brush with business came soon after when he signed up for a statistics class at the Ross School of Business. It was a course that changed the trajectory of his life.

“I fell in love with statistics, with commerce, with the power of business to bring technology from the laboratory to the marketplace,” he said. “I wanted to instill that passion into others, to teach students that jobs are important not just to make money but to add value to society. That’s why I started teaching and that’s why I came back to it.”

Hall taught from 1970 until 1980, when he left his professorship for a stint in the automotive components industry followed by a string of successful startups in capital goods and aerospace systems. Over the years, he has maintained an active relationship with the university, holding seats on a variety of U-M boards including the Zell Lurie Entrepreneurship Center, the College of Engineering Center for Entrepreneurship, the University of Michigan Health System’s Depression Center, the Life Science Institute and a co-chair position with the Victors for Michigan capital campaign in Chicago.

“The luckiest Wolverine alive”

Bill Hall has been many things since that first day of class in 1961: a student, professor, engineer, CEO, founder, venture capitalist, husband, father, and philanthropist. But he’ll tell you that there are only two labels that span the entire 55 years between then and now. First: a Wolverine. And second: Lucky. Very lucky.

“I consider myself to be the luckiest Wolverine alive,” he said. “I don’t know how else to describe it. I got to be a college professor, I worked in the aerospace industry when it was booming, I started and grew a bunch of companies, creating jobs and satisfied shareholders. And today, I get to work with students at the University of Michigan who are getting ready to lead us into the future. And if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to get a scholarship to U-M, none of this would have happened.”

Through his teaching and his gift to the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Hall says he hopes to create similar opportunities for the millennial generation and beyond. His involvement with U-M has convinced him that, while the world they inherit is even more challenging than the world he grew up in, it’s just as full of possibility and promise.

“I tell skeptics: go to a classroom and meet the millennials, watch how they think and see for yourself what a bright future we have,” he said. “I have full optimism that the next generation is going to solve whatever problems are put in front of them, and I can’t tell you what an honor it is to play a small role in it.”

Posted in All News, Faculty News, Spotlight

October 14th, 2015 by yjmoon

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