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Message from the Chair

The Rice University Department of Bioengineering is located across the street from the Texas Medical Center (TMC), the largest medical center in the world. This ideal location has provided significant opportunity to build unparalleled teaching and research programs that solve a broad spectrum of complex problems in science and medicine.

Fall 2015 CoverThis year we celebrate the truly dedicated service and leadership in research and education of J. David Hellums. To Dr. Hellums retirement is a relative term. For 55 years he has devoted his time to engineering and health sciences advancement between Rice and the TMC.

Dr. Hellums joined Rice as an assistant professor of chemical engineering in 1960, after serving three years in the United States Air Force as a statistical services officer and three years as a process engineer for Mobil Oil Co. Within a couple of years into his Rice appointment, he was recruited to apply his knowledge of engineering fundamentals to seek solutions to the bleeding and clotting problems associated with cardiovascular prostheses and the first successful implantation of a left-ventricular bypass pump by Dr. Michael E. DeBakey.

By 1968, Dr. Hellums’ engineering efforts brought unprecedented dimensional insight to clinical applications in hemostasis and thrombosis. He established highly successful collaborative research projects in hematology between Rice chemical engineer Larry V. McIntire and a group of physician-scientists at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). His longstanding collaborators in hematological research and medicine also included physicians Clarence Alfrey, Jr.; Edward Lynch; Clarence (Buck) Brown III, and Joel Moake. Their work involved in-depth studies into the mechanical, chemical and molecular basis of thrombus-linked risk factors, including the disruption of blood flow, platelet dysfunction and activation, inflammation, and blood hypercoagulability.

Hellums was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1998. Research, education, and academic administration under his direction and his pioneering efforts to unite expertise were the genesis of what bioengineering is at Rice today. His vision to build top-ranked undergraduate and graduate programs in bioengineering has grown to include a core-faculty of 27 highly-recognized members in research and teaching, many of whom hold joint appointments with several TCM institutions.

Among the many successes described in our fall 2015 newsletter, our undergraduate bioengineering program is in a three-way tie for the No. 4 best biomedical engineering/bioengineering specialty by U.S. News & World Report.

The distinctive characteristics of our undergraduate studies in bioengineering are a collaborative culture that mixes teaching and research, and encourages active undergraduate participation in research; exposure to engineering design that begins as early as the freshman year and extends throughout the senior year; and engineering design at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen that is centered upon developing practical solutions to real-world global health problems. I also want to recognize bioengineering faculty Bilal Ghosn, Maria Oden, Renata Ramos, Eric Richardson and Ann Saterbak, all of whom exemplify these qualities in our program.

Planet Rice BIOE_webMedical device innovation today involves increasingly globalized research and development, manufacturing, funding and regulatory processes. To prepare engineers for careers in this international framework, we expanded our non-thesis master of bioengineering (MBE) degree program through the launch of a unique track in Global Medical Innovation (GMI). The distinguishing feature of the program is its intense focus on emerging markets.

Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum and the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering (IBB) at Rice are also launching a new training program for pre-and postdoctoral fellows in interdisciplinary translational cancer nanotechnology. The program, which is funded by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute, builds upon the success of the previously HHMI-funded Med Into Grad program between UT MD Anderson Cancer Center and Rice University. The program features an intensive two-year research experience and training in cancer nanotechnology.

I encourage students, alumni, and friends of our program to attend the department’s short courses, symposia, and events as they have become tremendous venues to gather and share ideas and discoveries in science and medicine. Events are listed at bioe.rice.edu.

Deem_ChairMichael W. Deem
Chair and Professor, Department of Bioengineering
John W. Cox Professor of Biochemical & Genetic Engineering; Founding Director, Graduate Program in Systems,
Synthetic, and Physical Biology (2012-2014)