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President of the National Academy of Engineering Presents ‘Recognizing the Direction to the Future: Why it Matters’ on April 4


C.D. Mote, Jr., president of the National Academy of Engineering, will present the seminar “Recognizing the Direction to the Future: Why it Matters,” at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, April 4, in the McArthur Engineering Annex, room 202.  This presentation, which is part of the College of Engineering’s Distinguished Speaker Series, will focus on recognizing 21st century directions and stepping away from the 20th century. For more information, call 305-284-3391 or email maldana@miami.edu.

 

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College of Engineering Presents Distinguished Speaker Naomi Halas on Plasmonics February 1


Naomi Halas, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the APS, OSA, IEEE, SPIE, MRS, and AAAS, will present “Plasmonics: From Noble Metals to Sustainability” on Monday, February 1, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the MacArthur Engineering Annex, room 202. Her expertise is in nanoscale optics, where particles and structures are designed t0 capture and manipulate light in specific ways. For more information, call 305-284-3291 or email ixr84@miami.edu.

This presentation will be broadcast live. To sign up for the live broadcast please visit the event link: coe.miami.edu/speaker/halas.

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Machine Shop Turns Concepts into Reality

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Machine Shop Turns Concepts into Reality


By Robert Jones Jr.
UM News
With Angel Morciego's assistance, Brigitte Morales, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering, works the vertical milling machine in the College of Engineering Prototyping Facility.

With Angel Morciego’s assistance, Brigitte Morales, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering, works the vertical milling machine in the College of Engineering Machine Shop.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 9, 2015) — It wasn’t as simple as flipping through the pages of a catalog and placing an order.

Much like scientist and inventor H.G. Wells in the movie The Time Machine, Lukas Jaworski had designed a first-of-its-kind device and needed to build it from scratch. So the biomedical engineering graduate student turned to the one place he knew could help—a high-tech machining facility on the first floor of the University of Miami’s McArthur Engineering Annex.

There, using Jaworski’s computer-generated schematics, technicians helped him construct the special bioreactor he designed for studying intervertebral discs that serve as shock absorbers in the human spine.

Chalk up another successful fabrication project for the College of Engineering’s 3,000-square-foot Machine Shop, where skilled machinists take the conceptual designs of UM researchers and turn them into reality.

From a phantom gauge that measures radiation, to equipment used with physical therapy patients, to a microinjection chamber for transplanting islet cells, the facility has built every kind of gadget and gizmo imaginable.

“I like to say we exist for the University community at large,” said Angel Morciego, the facility’s veteran machinist, noting that researchers from the Coral Gables, medical, and marine campuses all regularly seek the assistance of his technicians for building their inventions.

“It’s easy for researchers to conceptualize something, but can it really be built the way they want it? That’s where we come into play,” Morciego explained. “We try to make their designs functional, feasible, and user friendly. Sometimes we have to change their designs and the way they think certain things have to work. And they’re glad to accept constructive criticism.”

With vertical milling machines, drill presses, radial arm drills, computerized milling and lathe machines, and a welding and wood section, the shop can handle just about any job—a fact biomedical engineering student Jaworski was well aware of when he walked in with his bioreactor design. Because he already had some knowledge of machining, the shop’s technicians allowed him to perform some of the basic operations in building his bioreactor, but they took the lead in fabricating the more advanced parts of his device, which features a linear actuator that can apply either static or dynamic loads to intervertebral discs to simulate walking. His research could eventually help people with lower back pain, which, he said, “generally correlates with disc degeneration.”

Sometimes it’s not a new device at all that Morciego’s team has to build, but a modification of an existing piece of equipment, like the conductivity chamber Kelsey Kleinhans adapted for her research on knee meniscus tissue. Kleinhans redesigned a chamber previously used by her mentor, and last March the Machine Shop built two versions of the instrument for her—one that confines tissue, allowing Kleinhans to insert electrodes on both ends of the chamber to measure the electrical resistance across tissue, and the other into which she pours a high-glucose solution to measure how much sugar diffuses through tissue samples.

“They both work flawlessly,” said Kleinhans, noting that without the shop, her research would have stalled. “Eventually, we would like the research to move toward figuring out how osteoarthritis affects knee meniscus tissue and how it’s related to degenerative tissue versus healthy tissue.”

Within a few months of starting at the Miller School of Medicine’s Diabetes Research Institute in 2007, assistant professor Midhat Abdulreda realized that one of the existing tools the institute used for transplanting pancreatic islet cells in lab specimens needed to be improved.

“The prototype already existed, and several revisions of the prototype were built over the years at the machine shop on the medical campus,” Abdulreda explained. But that shop eventually closed down when the employee who operated it retired, leaving Abdulreda without a source to make the custom parts he needed to upgrade the device for transplanting islets.

Morciego and his team saved the day. Not long after learning about the shop, Abdulreda met with Morciego, explaining to the machinist what he needed, which was essentially for the shop to fabricate custom parts for which Abdulreda already had a blueprint. Still, Morciego went above and beyond, using computer-aided design (CAD) to not only make the slight modifications but also to improve the function of the device.

Such a close working relationship with researchers is what sets the College of Engineering’s Machine Shop apart, said Morciego. “Outside shops won’t sit and spend four hours with a researcher or grad student like we do, detailing their print and trying to understand what they’re really trying to achieve,” said Morciego. “We nurture the thought process and challenge them to think outside the box.”

Morciego, who completed a four-year apprenticeship in machining in the early 1980s, has worked at the facility since 1993. Prior to that year, students were not allowed to work in the shop.

“There was only one machinist, who produced what we call lab specimens, destructive test pieces used by students to conduct experiments,” said Morciego. “But when I came to UM we had a game plan; we wanted to create an educational environment. Much of the industry was complaining that their green graduates were book smart but couldn’t work with their hands. They could draw beautifully, but they had no idea how to build it.”

The phasing out of machine shop classes in high schools across the country probably has something to do with that, Morciego believes. But whatever the case, the industry began to look to colleges and universities to train engineering students in design fabrication. So the Machine Shop opened its doors to freshmen engineering students, providing intense training on lathe and milling machine techniques, measuring tools, and how to read and interpret prints.

On one particular day in late November, the shop was a hive of activity. Under Morciego’s guidance, a group of students took turns using a vertical milling machine to remove metal fragments from a puzzle piece that will be mounted onto a unit created by their mechanical engineering professor. Any less than the thickness of a sheet of paper, and the fixture wouldn’t work. “A plus or minus tolerance of that much can make or break a design,” Morciego told the students, holding the tips of his thumb and index finger only millimeters apart to drive home the point of just how precise they needed to be in their cutting.

In another section of the shop, mechanical and aerospace engineering majors Alex Cunnane and Colin Ruane worked on their senior design project—a metal beach chair that converts into a hammock. At a worktable, a group of freshmen started building a mousetrap car, using CDs and DVDs for the wheels. And in another area of the shop, Jeremiah Truesdell, a sophomore majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering, worked on a rocket that he and his fellow members of the UM Hybrid Rocket Club plan to enter in a competition in North Florida next spring. “We’d like to go 3,000 feet or higher,” he said of the elevation goal for their rocket.

Morciego believes he is witnessing a change in students’ attitudes toward machining. “I’m seeing a return to basics,” he said. “Theoretical concepts on CAD is here to stay, but I’m seeing more and more students saying, ‘Hey, I want to get my hands dirty. I want to get in there and build something, whether it’s right or wrong.”

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Organs on Chips: Researcher Creates Human Organs that Mimic Real Ones


By Bárbara Gutiérrez
UM News

Agarwal 2

Using traditional engineering materials, stem cells harvested from rodents and humans, and 3-D printing, Ashutosh Agarwal is creating artificial human organs that mimic the real things, providing researchers with a new way to study organ function and underlying disease pathways.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 24, 2015) – Imagine a heart beating outside of the human body. Imagine that the organ acts just like the real thing but can be handled and studied like any other object. What possibilities would that create for physicians, scientists, pharmaceutical researchers, and other scholars?

Ashutosh Agarwal, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Miami, is ready to answer those questions. He is creating “Human Organs on Chips.”

In a revolutionary new approach, he combines traditional engineering structures such as metal or plastic with stem cells from rodents and humans to create a heart, pancreas, and lungs that mimic the real organ—including normal functioning and diseased organs. The chips, about the size of a USB stick or credit card, are created through 3-D printing and 3-D milling with intricate, precise measurements.

UM News spoke to Agarwal about his research. Here are some of his observations:

What excites you about this research?

Recreating human organ-level complexity in a dish, in both health and in disease, opens up several important applications. We can now test drug molecules before running clinical trials, dive deep into disease mechanisms, and create better stem cells for therapy.

What is the most important aspect of this approach?

Nobel Prize-winning American physicist and visionary Richard Feynman famously said: “What I cannot create, I do not understand.” By building models of human disease on a dish, we will enhance the understanding of the underlying disease pathways. Current projects include type 1 diabetes, stage IV lung cancer, cardiac diseases, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

What kind of response has there been to your research in the past?

The significance of this research endeavor has been well recognized by federal funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, and regulatory agencies such as the FDA, and received recent interest from pharmaceutical companies. The lab has received major grant funding from the NIH. I have served on “Placenta on a Chip” workshop organized by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, “Wait What” conference organized by DARPA, as well as given a lecture at the “Futures of Cardiovascular Medicine” symposium by the American College of Cardiology (a primarily clinical conference).

Describe the process from being an idea to practicality.

We follow the engineering iterative process of Design –> Build –> Test.

Once we get interested in a disease model (typically through a clinical collaboration/announcement of a new funding initiative), we start with a physiology textbook. We study the template of how the body builds that organ and use that as a design template for our efforts in the lab.

In addition to mimicking the organ level structure, our devices allow evaluation of organ level function. We then populate these devices with cellular material sourced from human patients or stem cells. Based on the behavior of engineered tissues, we modify and optimize our devices. The last crucial step is validation by comparing our lab discoveries with clinical outputs.

Why is research in this area important (or relevant) for the average person?

Our tools will enable cheaper and faster drug development, discovery of therapies for some of the most intractable human diseases (such as type 1 diabetes, heart failure, lung cancer, and pulmonary fibrosis), and help make stem cell therapy a reality. Right now drug testing is first done on animals before it is approved for use on humans. That process is not always successful, and it is very expensive. We think we can make animal testing irrelevant.

What happens next?

The tools we are building in the lab need validation from two sources: clinicians, who are trying to understand and cure diseases, and pharmaceutical companies, who are developing new drugs. Validation from these two final ‘customers’ is the next step.

What’s the coolest thing about this development or something unexpected about it?

The interdisciplinary nature of the work. Currently, I am managing a group of folks with very different backgrounds and expertise. My postdoc has a Ph.D. in space propulsion, one of my technicians has a medical degree, and the other is a stem cell expert.

My master’s student is a chemical engineer with expertise in fluid transport physics. The three Ph.D. students are working on creating a Heart on a Chip, Diabetes on a Chip, and Pulmonary Fibrosis on a Chip. It’s a rich collaborative environment, and we learn from each other all the time!

The research is supported by the following: UM College of Engineering, Dr. John T Macdonald Foundation Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute at UM (BioNIUM); National Institutes of Health (Diabetes on a Chip); BioNIUM Research Award (Lung Cancer on a Chip), and UM-FIU Nanotechnology Award (Heart on a Chip).

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UCLA’s Ali H. Sayed Delivers Eliahu I. and Joyce Jury Seminar on ‘Learning and Inference over Networks’ on December 4


Ali H. Sayed, distinguished professor and former chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles, will deliver the 2015 Eliahu I. and Joyce Jury Seminar on Learning and Inference over Networks” at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, December 4 in the McArthur Engineering Annex, room 202.

Sayed has received numerous honors and awards over his career, including the Papoulis Award of the European Association for Signal Processing, the Meritorious Service Award, the Technical Achievement Award, the Distinguished Lecturer Award of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, the Terman Award of the ASEE, the Kuwait Prize, IEEE Donald G. Fink Prize, and several Best Paper Awards from the IEEE. He has served as editor in chief of the IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing and has been elected to serve as president-elect (2016-17) and president (2018-19) of the IEEE Signal Processing Society.

He is also a fellow of IEEE and the AAAS. For more information, contact Kamal Premaratne at kamal@miami.edu or 305-284-4051.

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