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Table of Contents IMPACT | VOL. 2 | ISSUE 1







Student Profiles

Headlines and milestones from the past year

Engineering researchers’ progress and findings

RYAN ANDERSON 14 Q+A with Ryan Anderson, graduate student in mechanical engineering

Alumni Profile




Stays passionate about music + engineering

Research aims to provide full range of


BRIDGING THE SCIENCES 6 Robin Shandas: Improving the odds for pediatric cardiology patients

SHANE TRANSUE 16 Changing the face of scientific visualization

motion and economical solutions Faculty Profile

TIM LEI 13 Shifting Focus: Research centers around patient outcomes


CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Christopher Casey and Amy Vaerwyck, University Communications; Erica Lefeave; Mary Lemma EDITORIAL REVIEW Faith Marcovecchio Editorial

DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Anabliss Design + Brand Strategy COVER ILLUSTRATION Bryan Leister PHOTOGRAPHY Glenn Asakawa, Cherrey Visual Solutions, Michael Ensminger Photography

ABOUT Impact is published annually by the University of Colorado Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science for college alumni and friends. Send correspondence to Erica Lefeave, CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science, Campus Box 104, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364.

DEAN’S NOTE hree years ago, the

biophotonics, neuroscience engineering,

and well-being of Colorado and the world.

college established

rehabilitation engineering, ophthalmology,

I cannot think of a better way to support

its Department of

orthopedic biomechanics, and surgery and

this part of the mission than through our


urological sciences. Research expenditures

bioengineering educational and research

offering degrees

during the last academic year exceeded $5

efforts. In this issue of Impact, we’ve

at the graduate

million by the core faculty alone.

highlighted many of our bioengineering-

level. Today, I am

Bioengineering is one of the most

related activities. I hope you enjoy

important collegewide research and

reading about our very exciting endeavors

to announce the arrival of the college’s

educational thrust areas within the college,

in this arena.

first undergraduate bioengineering class

and it’s not limited to the bioengineering

on campus this fall. The undergraduate

department. For example, faculty in

bioengineering program is unique in

mechanical engineering are studying

several respects, including the fact that

skeletal biomechanics, active materials for

it will be the first program in the College

biomedical devices, orthopedic soft-tissue

of Engineering and Applied Science that

materials, mechanics of bone fusion and

spans both the Denver campus and the CU

cellular biophysics. Faculty from the civil

Marc Ingber, Dean

Anschutz Medical Campus. In particular,

engineering department are studying

College of Engineering and Applied Science

bioengineering undergraduates will spend

microbial fuel cells, biofuels and bioenergy

University of Colorado Denver

their first two years at the Denver campus,

production from biomass and wastewater.

receiving most of their basic science and

In the Department of Electrical Engineering,

mathematics training along with their

faculty are studying the use of low-energy

humanities and social science core classes.

plasmas for decontamination, sterilization

They will then move out to the Anschutz

of surgical instruments and treatment

Medical Campus for their final two years,

of live tissues, biomedical imaging,

allowing them to interact directly with

advanced spectroscopic techniques

biomedical researchers and clinicians in a

for disease diagnostics and

multidisciplinary environment.

optogenetics. Finally, faculty in

extremely pleased

The undergraduate bioengineering

the Department of Computer

program complements the MS and PhD

Science and Engineering are

programs in bioengineering, which

studying bioinformatics,

are now starting their fourth year.

human-computer interaction and

Since its inception, the Department of

biochemical differential diagnosis

Bioengineering has grown to eight core

of major disorders of the lung.

faculty members and 32 affiliated faculty

A significant part of the

members. The department has research

mission for the University of

thrusts in cardiovascular biomechanics

Colorado Denver is to apply

and hemodynamics, diabetes, imaging and

knowledge to improve the health

Kind regards,



Department of Computer Science and Engineering moves to new location

Wu named founding editor-in-chief of new journal




In August 2012, the Department of Computer Science and Engineering relocated to the

server room capable of housing five racks of highdensity computing equipment cooled by a 20-ton computer room airconditioning unit. Students also enjoy lounge space and study and discussion areas.

engineering students traveled to Disney World to compete in

third place and the Media Award.

five computer labs: PC and Mac computer

lab. In addition to the labs there is a custom

of five electrical

presented by Intel. The team won

Lawrence Street Center. The new space has

distributed systems lab and a networking

In May, a team

the Cornell Cup USA competition,

custom-renovated eighth floor of the

labs for students, a graphics lab, a parallel

Students win third place at 2013 Cornell Cup USA

Their project, Intracell, consists of Jonathan Wu, professor of civil

networked cell phone transceiver

engineering, has agreed to serve

nodes that function together as a

as the founding editor-in-chief

local extension to the global cellular

of a new journal, Transportation

network. The network connection

Infrastructure Geotechnology.

provides a digital path for calls,

The journal will be published

bypassing the geographical and

quarterly by Springer, with

architectural constraints that

whom more than 150 Nobel Prize

would normally prevent coverage.

winners have published their

Team members are Kyle Dunn,

work. The editorial board of

Ben Larkin, Rich McLean, Damaris

the journal consists of some of

Smith and Jeff Wiencrot. The team’s

the world’s best academics and

faculty advisor is Dan Connors,

practitioners; the first issue will

associate chair and assistant

launch in January 2014.

professor in electrical engineering.

Students compete in Baja SAE Rochester World Challenge 2013 In June, a team of nine mechanical engineering students traveled to Rochester,

College renovates former print shop into workshop space

New York, to compete in the 2013 Baja SAE Rochester World Challenge

In January, the college finished renovations on

competition. The car, based on guidelines and specifications for this specific

the former Auraria print shop, converting it into

competition, is engineered to navigate

a world-class design and fabrication facility.

obstacles and complete different technical

The primary design space is 4,100 square feet,

feats. Team members include Hussain

supplemented by another 1,894-square-foot

Alabdulmohsin, Jeff Blum, Thomas

manufacturing space. These facilities have or

Caranese, Joseph Gardner, Byron

will have manual and CNC mills and lathes,

Gray, Jon Le, Sean McDonough,

welders, a composite material fabrication area

Raymond Packingham and

and electronic testing space. The new space

Fraser Sanderson.

currently houses the mechanical engineering motorsports and senior design programs.


Students spend Maymester in China In May, the College of Engineering and Applied Science sent 11 students to Beijing and Tianjin, China, on a cultural


Students win first place at 2013 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas

and educational exchange program.

In April, nine mechanical engineering students traveled to Houston, TX with their senior

The study abroad course, titled Global

design project to participate in the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas competition. The

Science, Technology and Culture:

competition encourages students to design the most fuel-efficient vehicles in the world. The

China, was hosted by the University

team won first place in the hydrogen fuel cell prototype category. The vehicle they designed

of Tianjin, one of the top Chinese

and built achieved a maximum of 205 miles per gallon. The team members included:

universities in science, engineering and

(pictured left to right) Ronnie Prado, Ibrahim Alzamanan, Ryan Anderson, Dong Nguyen,

the health sciences. An interdisciplinary

Surawud Martinez and Aydh Alajmi, as well as (not pictured) David Edelman, John Van

faculty, which included an engineering

Ngo and Nick Wager. The team’s faculty advisors were associate professor Ron Rorrer and

professor from the University of Tianjin,

senior instructor Joe Cullen.

Michael Tang from the Department of Civil Engineering, and John Sunnygard, director of CU Denver’s study abroad program, taught the Maymester course. The course’s teaching assistant was Yiming Zhou.

Tau Beta Pi receives Chapter Recognition Award CU Denver’s Tau Beta Pi (TBP) chapter received a Chapter Recognition Award and was awarded the district conference for 2013. The conference took place on the Auraria Campus in February and was accompanied by a TBP-organized engineering job fair. About 25 companies participated, and more than 200 students attended. “The recognition award is recognition on two fronts,” says Darick LaSelle, former TBP chapter president. “One is the recognition of our growth as a chapter, and the second is a monetary award to help increase campus and community recognition of our chapter.”


New Engineering Student Services Center Open In January, the college opened the doors at the new Engineering Student Services Center (ESSC). Designed as a one-stop shop for students, the ESSC provides general undergraduate advising; guidance about university requirements, policies and procedures; meeting space for students and student organizations;

Dan Connors speaks at TEDxMileHigh Dan Connors, assistant professor and associate chair of electrical engineering, was one of 11 speakers at TEDxMileHigh Values and Instincts. He asked the question “What would you do with infinite computing power?” and discussed how he uses this topic to inspire his students. He pointed out that talking about how to use computer vision is necessary due to the unbounded ways in which individuals can leverage computers this way, for good

and information about scholarships

and bad. Learn more about

and internship opportunities.

TEDxMileHigh at


Whites’ support benefits past, present and future generations at CU Denver

New Faces


Tam Vu comes to the college from WINLAB,

Rutgers University, where he recently

Don and Karen White have been active supporters

completed his PhD in computer science.

of the college for decades, donating time and

Vu’s research is in the areas of pervasive

resources to foster the success of students, faculty

and mobile systems, including context

and the college.

discovery, context-aware wearable

Don is a Denver native who, after completing his

devices, security and privacy protection

active duty in the U.S. Navy, began working as a truck

for mobile systems, and mobile-centric

driver for a small electrical contractor in Denver.

network architecture for future Internet.

He took night classes at what was then the Denver Extension Center of the University of Colorado, and in 1965 he was one of the first graduates from the Department of Electrical Engineering. He went on to found Riviera Electric, one of the largest electrical contractors in Colorado. In his current role as chairman of the board at E Light Electric, Don continues to be an industry leader through the company’s emphasis on renewable energy sources. Since 2002, the Whites have funded the semiannual Senior Design Competition/Open House. In 2012, they provided funding for the college’s newly established electromagnetics lab, which is now the best-equipped educational high-frequency lab in the CU system. They also support the S. Gilbert Blount Endowed Chair in Cardiology at the CU School of Medicine. Currently, the Whites are working with the college to establish the Don and Karen White Professorship in Electrical Engineering. This will be the first-ever


Jason Lewis holds a PhD in computer

science from Clemson University. For the past six years he has been a police officer; his latest assignment before joining the college was as a computer crimes investigator. Lewis’s research interests are in the field of computer forensics: how to improve the efficiency of computer forensic software and how to automate (using machine learning) the processes used in computer forensic exams.

named professorship in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Their generosity is truly spectacular and appreciated by the entire college community.


Cathy Bodine joins the Department

of Bioengineering as an associate professor. Bodine comes to the college from the CU School of Medicine and Assistive Technology Partners. She is internationally recognized for her leadership in the field of assistive technology and vigorously pursues her passions for new product design, research and service to families and persons with disabilities.


Jeff Wiencrot stays passionate about

MUSIC+ENGINEERING eff Wiencrot has

Student Award and was the department’s

played music since

nominee for the Colorado Engineering

for fun, he plays in a local band called

he was 3 years old. It

Council’s Silver Medal Award. In addition,

Chemistry Club. In the end, what drives

wasn’t until he began

Wiencrot, along with four classmates,

him in both endeavors is a passion for life

his music studies at

represented the university at the Intel

and all he does.

CU Denver, however,

Cornell Cup USA, where they won third

that he discovered his

place and the Media Award for the small,

passion for engineering. Today, these seemingly different fields are a

degree, I started to build guitar effects and other music toys,” he says. “In that process, I began to see that there was an enormous iceberg underneath the little bit of electronics I had picked up. I took a couple of classes on music electronics, and they just sort of set my brain on fire. I signed up for the engineering degree shortly after.” From there, his studies took off, but it wasn’t easy. The additional degree added nearly 80 credit hours to his academic plan

“Sometimes, it seems like engineering is all stuffy math and abstraction, but we

modular cellular phone system that they

are learning really wonderful things that

developed for their senior design project.

can be used to make all sorts of awesome toys and devices…and, of course, it isn’t

complementary, important part of his life. “When I came back to school for the music

for big data storage and processing, and

“...It seems like engineering is all...math and abstraction, but we are learning really wonderful things that can be used to make all sorts of awesome toys and devices.”

just toys. There are people out in the community designing new, inexpensive robotic prosthetics and more affordable hearing aids—things that change people’s lives. That’s stuff you can be working on in your basement with your friends. “If I could inspire other engineering students to do anything in particular, it would be to use what they are learning in their real lives. Engineering has a lot of room for love and passion.”

and additional courses that required long hours and serious commitment. Wiencrot credits Dan Connors, assistant professor

His music studies focused largely on

in electrical engineering, and Jeff Merkel,

guitar pedal design and on digital synthesis,

lecturer in the College of Arts & Media, for

and his audio senior design project was a

inspiring him to succeed.

fully functional digital modular synthesizer

“Early in the engineering degree, I was feeling unsure that I had made the right decision,” says Wiencrot, who went to

based on the original analog synthesizer systems built in the 1960s and 1970s. In May, Wiencrot graduated with

Connors for guidance. “He started giving

bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering

me extra projects, and eventually I started

and in music, earning honors in both.

doing research with him. He is a passionate,

Since graduation, the balance of music

brilliant guy and he has pushed me to do

and engineering could not be

great things with my education.”

more prevalent. He works

Wiencrot’s dedication paid off. During

for Panève, a company

his senior year, he received the electrical

in Boulder, CO that

engineering Outstanding Undergraduate

develops systems

Jeff Wiencrot, BS electrical engineering 2013, mixes engineering and music in everyday life.




ven before Robin Shandas was an undergraduate student studying electrical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he just wanted to make a lot of money and drive fancy cars. Instead, he’s helping improve the odds for pediatric cardiology patients. As chairman of the only bioengineering department in Colorado, Shandas is engaged not only in preparing the next generation of scientists and mentoring faculty, but also in research that has direct clinical application. Shandas collaborates with local, national and international scientists, including working extensively with the pediatric cardiology group at Children’s Hospital Colorado and surgeons at the CU School of Medicine to improve outcomes of pediatric patients with congenital heart defects. Among his research interests, Shandas has focused on developing an accurate means of measuring blood flow in children with pulmonary hypertension, or PH, a lung disorder in which the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs become narrowed, making it difficult for blood to flow through the blood vessels. As a result, blood pressure in those arteries rises above normal levels and strains the heart. When a child born with a congenital heart defect requires surgery to repair the defect, PH adds a complication that can be fatal. To improve patients’ chances of survival, Shandas and his colleagues have developed a means of assessing their cardiovascular status that is less invasive but more accurate than the more traditional method, which requires anesthesia and direct access to the blood vessels. Using this new method, cardiologists get a more accurate picture of how PH will affect the surgical outcome. For patients with any form of PH, Shandas explains, “It’s critical to quantify the severity of the disease, whose origins are complex, to have an accurate measure of the disease before surgery and to be able to track the effectiveness of drug therapies to palliate symptoms and allow for the best possible post-operative recovery.”

There is no cure for PH, so managing

But how do you accelerate the process

New Program Facilities

the disease is the only clinical form of

and manage risk? It’s a great question, he

treatment, which, Shandas says, requires

responds. “There is danger in accelerating.

“cocktails of drugs to treat the various

You never know what’s going to happen.”

To accommodate the new

components. Thus, diagnostic approaches to

That’s why Shandas is convinced that CAD—

undergraduate program in

accurately and quantitatively track the state

computer-aided design—is the way to more

bioengineering, the department

of the disease are crucial. This is where we

accurately predict outcomes in medicine,

renovated space in the North

have made substantial impact.”

especially in cardiology.

Classroom building on the Auraria

With CAD, “we can create thousands

“You have to take engineering language and translate it into physics language, and then translate that into biology language, and then to clinical medicine.”

Campus to include student study and

of scenarios to measure the viability of an

meeting space, faculty offices and a

artificial organ so we can better predict the

dual-use classroom and workshop.

outcomes, and at much lower cost than the

The goal: for students to have a place

more traditional process,” he says. “Testing

to collaborate, learn and experience

on animals, for instance, can cost millions of

firsthand aspects of 3-D anatomical

dollars, and there are only so many scenarios

modeling and medical prototypes.

a researcher can create to predict success.”

The classroom is designed to

So far, CAD is being evaluated for in vivo use

promote teamwork and student

through animal studies.

success. Traditional classroom seating

In that bioengineering bridges

is complemented with whiteboards

engineering and medicine, scientists like

and workbenches for student teams

Shandas “walk the talk,” as he says, to put

to problem solve and brainstorm. The

engineering principles into clinical practice.

room is also retrofitted with a custom

“You have to take engineering language

projector and whiteboard system that

and translate it into physics language, and

enables faculty to diagram on what’s

flow as a clinical metric has been well

then translate that into biology language,

being projected.

funded through NIH grants and is starting

and then to clinical medicine. If you’re a

to gain acceptance at institutions in

bioengineer, you can’t work in isolation.”

Shandas’s work in the physics of blood

Boston, Toronto and at National Jewish

Despite the time consumed by cutting-

In the workshop, students have access to two 3-D printers, a laser scanner and all the finishing tools

in Denver. “It’s very gratifying to see it

edge research that can literally save lives,

needed to develop physical 3-D

catching on,” he says.

Shandas is actively involved in recruiting

anatomical parts and working

and mentoring students. “It’s essential if you

prototypes. Learn more about

Others are taking note, too. Late in the spring Shandas was invited to speak at the

want to bring high-quality students to the

annual conference of the American Society

program,” he says.

for Artificial Internal Organs, whose mission

“I tell potential students that we’re

is to promote “the development of innovative

developing a bold and dynamic program

medical device technology at the crossroads

with foundational integration with the

of science, engineering and medicine.”

medical campus and that this program will

Shandas compares designing an artificial

open many, many doors for them on the

organ to designing an airplane engine.

engineering and clinical sides. But it’s up to

“Both involve risk, which is why in aviation

them to walk through those doors.”

there’s a reliance on the tried and true.”

In addition to his work with

After all, he says, “if you have engine failure

students, Shandas shows faculty how

when you’re in the air, passengers will

to mentor students effectively. “There

die, so you want to be conservative.” Still,

are many rewarding things about

to improve patients’ chances of survival,

mentoring,” he says, “but one of the

Shandas and fellow bioengineers have been

most rewarding is seeing the mentee

seeking more accurate and faster ways to

go off and be a successful independent

help cardiologists employ artificial organs.


the undergraduate program at


PROGRESS+FINDINGS Casey Forrestal plays role of inventor and environmentalist

dioxide, produce chemicals and more.

reactor configurations and operational

Through his research, Forrestal, Ren and a

methods for industrial application. “Our go-to

professor from Colorado School of Mines, Pei

market strategy is to target developers in the

Xu, developed an idea to incorporate a new

unconventional natural gas industry for the

method of desalination into MES technology

sustainable treatment of produced water,”

called capacitive deionization (CDI).

says Forrestal.

“CDI desalinates salt water by applying electrical potential to electrodes to physically and electrically adsorb ions,” explains Forrestal. When the electrical potential is removed from the electrodes, the previously adsorbed ions are also

Cold plasma research may significantly impact medical field

removed and go back into the solution—this is unique in that it provides a method to remove and recover salts from salt water. Using this technology, Forrestal designed CASEY FORRESTAL

an MES called a microbial capacitive desalination cell (MCDC) that is capable of

Ever since he was a kid, Casey Forrestal dreamed about being an inventor and helping the environment. In May he graduated with a PhD in civil engineering systems and is living his dreams, determined to use a technology he helped develop to solve hydraulic fracking water pollution problems. “My main inspiration is nature,” says Forrestal. “I’m a big supporter of biomimicry, which is essentially engineering modeled off of natural systems.” Under the guidance of affiliate professor Jason Ren, Forrestal spent the past three years conducting research related to microbial fuel cells (MFC) and microbial electrochemical systems (MES). An MFC uses bacteria to convert chemical energy—available in some types of organic matter—into electricity. MES is a platform technology that uses microorganisms to generate an electrical current that is then used to treat wastewater, desalinate salt water, sequester carbon


desalinating salt water, treating wastewater and generating electricity, as well as producing a concentrated saltwater solution. “Using the MCDC system I also investigated its ability to treat produced water from the production of natural gas,” he says. “Produced water is a unique wastewater in that it has a high salinity as well as


water, could be removed while generating

What if there was a way to safely treat infections without antibiotics, or to sterilize electronics without damaging them? Assistant professor Mark Golkowski’s research in cold plasma technologies illustrates that

external electricity. “Few to no other

both of these things are possible.

dissolved organics, which makes traditional water treatment options difficult.” Using the MCDC system, Forrestal discovered that organic carbon, as well as dissolved salts found in produced

technology can perform these functions simultaneously,” he says. “It’s also

“The goals of the research are to

important for the industry because it

engineer cold plasmas for a variety

means the technology is self-powering.”

of medical applications,” says

In March 2013, Forrestal, Ren and Peter

Golkowski. “This involves understanding how

Jenkins, professor of mechanical engineering,

plasmas affect bacteria cells and human cells,

formed a company called Bioelectric Inc.

and how they should be used for various

Bioelectric is a system manufacturing and

applications, whether we are trying to kill

services company that will use Forrestal’s

bacteria on a cell phone without destroying it

patented MCDC system as well as other

or trying to treat an infected wound.”


distributions and the distribution of bone

does it work? Plasma is the fourth state

the fundamentals

density. He then uses imaging software

of matter, in addition to solid, liquid and

of engineering and

to insert the device into the modeled

gas. When energy is added to gas, it’s

applying them in

spine to see how it will work.

converted to the plasma state, where

new, life-changing

So what is cold plasma, and how

ways. Dana Carpenter

electrons are no longer attached to

“This is imperative because we can simulate how it will change over time,”

atoms, making them “free.” This gives

and Christopher Yakacki, both assistant

says Carpenter. “Through the digital

plasmas unique electrical properties.

professors in mechanical engineering,

models we’re able to look at load-sharing

established the Smart Materials and

and the distribution of mechanical force,

very high energies and very high

Biomechanics Lab to discover new

and adjust the device as needed.”

temperatures, for example fire or the

biomedical materials and investigate

surface of the sun. In cold plasmas,

uses for biomedical devices.

Most plasmas are associated with

however, only an extremely small

Their research interests complement

There are many benefits to the team’s multifaceted research approach. They can test the product without

fraction of the molecules are in the

one another: Yakacki studies the

the need for cadaveric testing; they

plasma state, which means that the

materials used to build these devices

can simulate the amount of bone that

average temperature of cold plasmas

and Carpenter uses imaging techniques

will be absorbed into the material,

is room temperature, and they are

to create models of the devices and test

the mechanics of the bone and how it

therefore safe to touch. Creating

their functionality.

can interact with the device; and they

cold plasmas is typically achieved by

Currently the duo is creating a new

applying very short electrical pulses

class of spinal fusion cage, a prosthesis

to a gas. Those pulses keep the

that is inserted between the vertebrae to

electrons in the plasma state but do

maintain the height and decompression

not let heavier particles absorb too

features of the spine.

much energy and get too hot. In his

Typically, these cages are made

research Golkowski takes advantage

with titanium, carbon fiber epoxy or

of the unique chemistry of these

grafted tissue from a donor. However,

cold plasmas and applies it to the

Yakacki has found a polymer called

biomedical field.

polyparaphenylene that maintains a

“The cold plasmas we work with are able to effectively kill bacteria very quickly without using liquid

high strength when it’s made into a porous material. “When you place the device between

chemicals or high temperatures,” he

the vertebrae, the surrounding bone can

says. “As drug-resistant bacteria are

grow into the pores,” explains Yakacki.

becoming a major issue in the health

“The fact that this material maintains its

care industry, plasma technologies

strength in a porous state is important

are seen to be promising alternatives

because it enables us to create new

for current approaches to sterilization

implant designs, increase load sharing

and disinfection.”

and decrease the time it takes for spinal

His research team is currently

fusion to occur. We really want to make

working to better understand the

something that challenges the traditional

chemical processes at work and

way fusion cages are designed.”

conducting tests on applying the technology to viruses and human cells.

Through digital models of the spine, Carpenter is able to determine load

can see how the load distribution will change with the bone over time.


RETHINKING PROSTHETICS Research aims to provide full range of motion and economical solutions


hen people lose an arm or a leg, the nerves that control the limbs continue sending

signals to the muscles left behind. Decoding those signals to articulate natural movement in a sophisticated prosthetic is the goal of research being conducted by Richard Weir, associate research professor of bioengineering. Weir’s work is focused on developing a prosthetic hand and fingers that provide a full range of movement as well as a sense of touch for persons with hand amputations.



The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiative

According to Weir, the key is the development of implantable

assigned different teams to various parts of the arm, such as the

myoelectric sensors (IMES), rice-sized capsules that will be implanted

elbow, shoulder and hand. Weir was the architect of the hand, and

into muscles in the forearm. The sensors wirelessly transform muscle

the team’s prototype was featured in a 2010 National Geographic

signals into signals that can be used to control hand and finger

cover story on advances in prosthetics.

movement. The goal is to give the prosthesis the full 22 degrees of movement articulated in a human hand and wrist. Current technology provides a control interface that allows only two commands to be delivered to the prosthetic hand: to open and close, Weir says. After a decade of research on this formidable challenge, Weir

Ultimately, DARPA reoriented the project to focus on developing a brain-machine interface to help patients with high-level spinal cord injuries. Weir opted to continue with the neural and muscle interfaces in the arm because a brain-machine interface has a risk-benefit ratio that’s not necessarily justified for people with amputations. Also, he says,

and his collaborators—the Alfred Mann Foundation, Illinois Institute

amputees already have been through trauma and are resistant to the

of Technology and Sigenics Inc.—are on the cusp of seeing IMES

more invasive surgery that is required for brain-machine interfaces.

technology reinnervate muscle in amputees, and potentially transform their lives long-term. “It’s pretty exciting,” Weir says. “If we can go into each of the 18 muscles in the forearm with sensors that give 18 control signals

The IMES development is being supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health from the National Institute on Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. Assisting in Weir’s research are students from the Departments

rather than the two we have at the moment, that would advance the

of Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering, including Matthew

science. If they work well, this will completely change the way the

Davidson, bioengineering, and Nili Krausz, mechanical engineering,

devices are controlled. We’ll be able to do much more than just the

as well as students from CU Boulder and the Colorado School of

open-close type of approach.”

Mines. “Hopefully, we’ll get to the point where we’re doing an

The goal is to create a prosthesis that an amputee can control for the remainder of his or her life. So far in lab settings, Weir says, nerve interfaces are functional for two to three years before tissue necrosis sets in. He pointed out that operating such a prosthesis in day-to-day life for an extended period of time “is a much different kettle of fish.” Weir previously worked with a team at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago on a neurally controlled hand, which was part of a project to develop a physiological replacement for the human arm.

Richard Weir, associate research professor in bioengineering, hopes to one day provide hand amputees with full range of motion.

implantation here in Denver,” says Weir. Cont’d on page 12

Using a high-tech 3-D printer, Weir’s research team is able to manufacture the components needed to build their prosthetic models.

Feature cont’d

CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY Beyond his IMES research, Weir’s lab is working with a piece of machinery that few have access to. Thanks to a $600,000

human skull—at a laboratory at North Carolina State University. “When I saw that I said, ‘I want one of those,’” says Weir. He got his wish in 2011 when the VA, well aware of how Weir’s

capital equipment grant from the Veterans Administration, the

pioneering research could benefit veteran amputees, funded the

BioMechatronics Development Laboratory is home to a cutting-edge

purchase of one of these machines through a capital equipment

3-D printer: a laser metal sintering machine.

grant. His lab had already been using a 3-D plastic printer, but a metal prototyping machine dramatically expands the horizons for their prosthetic designs.

“It’s a whole new way of thinking about how to make things...The revolutionary aspect is to be able to do stuff that you can’t using conventional technology.”

“That’s what we have a need for when we’re building our small hands,” says Weir. “We have all of these tiny parts that need to be very strong, and a lot of times steel turns out to be the best material to work in. If we want, we can change the machine’s setup, for a fee of course, that will allow us to print in a different metal. We can print in titanium, nickel, magnesium, cobalt.” The machine uses a three-dimensional digital image to methodically laser-sinter beads of metal powder into solid metal. Most components will be built overnight in the machine, which has a door—much

Weir says the fabricator will allow his research team to develop better components—created faster and at a lower cost— for prosthetic fingers, hands and arms. “It’s a whole new way of thinking about how to make things,” Weir says. “The revolutionary aspect is to be able to do stuff that you can’t using conventional technology. There is the possibility to fabricate impossibleto-machine components and to explore whether that confers advantage to the designs we’re working on.” While 3-D plastic printers have been available for many years, metal printing is still “a very nascent technology,” Weir says. He estimates that only a couple dozen of the devices, built by Germanbased EOS e-Manufacturing Solutions, are being used in the United States, mostly for biomedical and aeronautical applications. Weir first saw a 3-D metal rapid prototype machine being used to create cranial implants—custom titanium plates in the shape of the


like a microwave oven—that allows manufacturers, or in this case researchers, to view the progress of each iterative design. Jacob Segil, a CU Boulder mechanical engineering student who works with Weir, says the machine creates a “whole new modality” to turn ideas into reality, especially in the tricky area of anthropomorphic design. “For things that don’t have hard edges, like our bodies, it makes a world of difference,” he says. “To [create] something like our finger, which has curvature and intricacies, out of metal is a horribly difficult and expensive thing to do using conventional machining processes. Now we have a machine to do it.” Weir comes from a family of medical and engineering professionals. His father was a professor of medicine at Trinity College Dublin, and an uncle ran an engineering company in London. Weir’s twin sister lost a hand in a lawn mower accident when she was five. “It’s probably all of that” that contributed to his interest in arm prosthetics, he says.



Tim Lei’s research centers around patient outcomes

ver the past three

structure of the cell. Lei is using microscopic

years, there’s been

techniques to try and understand how

the end result—helping to better treat these

a shift in Tim Lei’s

proteins interact within the lipid rafts and

diseases. He relishes the benefits of partnering

research interests.

under which conditions proteins get in/come

with Emily Gibson, assistant professor in

He joined the

out of rafts.

college in 2007 as an

“The idea is that we want to control the

assistant professor

mechanism to add/remove proteins from

in electrical

lipid rafts so that the kidney functions in a

Through all of his research Lei is focused on

bioengineering, and doctors from the CU School of Medicine in the departments of ophthalmology, renal disease and physiology. “Many times, engineers work within

engineering. His research involved catalytic

proper way,” he says. The hope is to provide

discipline without medical doctors, and they

analysis on the molecular level—trying to

better treatment outcomes or drugs, or to

often design devices that don’t work in real

understand how heavy-metal catalysts

develop more imaging techniques so that

life,” he says. “That’s why I think it’s critical

convert carbon monoxide into carbon

researchers can learn more.

to work with these doctors who understand

dioxide using advanced laser spectroscopy

the problem enough so that we can provide

techniques. Then Lei was diagnosed with

a good engineering solution that will turn

stage 1 lymphoma. “After I was diagnosed with cancer I thought, maybe I could use some of my research techniques to further explore that area,” says Lei. “I started to learn more about the biosciences, and the more I learn, the more I find that my optical/spectroscopy training from my previous life is directly applicable to this research.”

“...It’s critical to work with...doctors who understand the that we can provide a good engineering solution.”

He has since been awarded a prestigious K25 National Institutes of Health award for

In addition to his work with proteins,

his research in chronic kidney disease. Lei

Lei is conducting research in two other

is using advanced microscopy techniques

areas. The first involves developing imaging

to look at how one protein interacts with

techniques to help identify early glaucoma.

another in a live cell.

He is applying advanced imaging techniques

“In kidney disease, phosphate levels are

to look into the cornea and retina to

imbalanced,” explains Lei. “Proteins absorb

understand how the disease occurs, how to

phosphates, and if the body has too many

help patients identify the disease and how to

phosphates, you want them to get out of

help doctors treat the disease.

the body so they don’t form plaques and clog arteries. However, how this works

Lei is also trying to create new tools, including an iPhone and Android app, to understand the brain and provide modeling

molecularly is unknown.” In the cell membranes, there are

as to how the brain works. The intent is not

concentrated areas of protein interactions

just to gain a better understanding, but to

called lipid rafts, which help regulate the

help treat diseases like Parkinson’s.

Electrical engineering assistant professor Tim Lei received an NIH K12 award for his research in chronic kidney disease.

into real application and helps patients or advances medical science.” Today, Lei is cancer free and enjoys spending time with his family when he’s not in the lab or teaching.


Q + A with Ryan Anderson, graduate student in mechanical engineering

ankle fusion solution. A new nail that incorporates a compression device has been computationally modeled, and experimental mechanical testing will be

accomplishments)—we wanted

used to confirm our model. We

to know more about him.

would like to look at the loading conditions needed to promote

Q: Where did you grow up? I grew up in Seattle and moved to Denver in 2000.

Q: Why did you choose CU Denver engineering? The location offered a unique experience, and the engineering program was well respected in the community.

Q: Why mechanical

bone fusion, hopefully offering a greater understanding of how to design and implement orthopedic devices.

Q: What do you want to do when you’re finished with school? I’d like to start my own business—I would love to apply my research and the technical skills I developed in school to impact the future of the medical field. Engineering is beginning to

engineering? Ever since I

influence the field now more than

was little I’ve loved tinkering

ever, and I want to be right there.

with things. Whether I was building Lego robots or fixing a lawnmower, the more complex, the more fun. Mechanical engineering offered insight into the physical explanation of these types of things.

yan Anderson graduated in May 2013 with his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and immediately began his graduate studies in the Engineering and Applied Science PhD Program.

Q: You decided to pursue


and Creative Activities


Symposium Undergraduate

senior design team

Researcher of the Year, and was

you? My parents have always been great role models for me. Both of them are CU Denver mechanical engineering alumni. Though math was easily their favorite subject of mine while in school, they never pushed me

the Engineering and Applied

toward engineering, they let me

Science PhD—what is your

choose my own path.

area of concentration? I am interested in biomechanics, which entails mechanical engineering and how it is applied

After a busy senior

Q: Who and/or what inspires

to the biological sciences. Specifically, I focus on bone applications in the ankle.

Q: What has been your favorite part of your educational experience thus far? This past year was the most challenging and the most enjoyable part of my

took first place in the hydrogen

named the 2013 Outstanding

category at the Shell Eco-

Undergraduate in Mechanical

Q: What does your research

Marathon Americas, he was

Engineering (and these

entail? My research looks at

me constantly busy but really

the CU Denver 2013 Research

are just a few of his many

the mechanical analysis of an

gave me insight into engineering

education. Senior design and research in biomechanics kept

application, working as a team and physical production.

Q: What do you like to do outside of school/for fun? I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and biking, but I also like working on my car,


doing home remodeling, tinkering with technology and playing with my two

n August, the Department of

lectures, clinical research and hands-

Australian Shepherd mixes.

Bioengineering welcomed an

on design projects. He also wants

inaugural group of 27 students

them to begin immediately using the

Q: Is there anything else you want

to the new bioengineering

department’s brand-new 3-D printers,

to share? It goes without saying that

bachelor of science program.

laser scanners and state-of-the art

there are always behind-the-scenes

Students will spend their first

software for turning medical images

people helping you to great success.

two years on the Denver Campus

into anatomically correct, patient-

There is absolutely no way that I

downtown and their final two years on

specific parts.

could have had the opportunities and

the Anschutz Medical Campus.

successes in my education without

Craig Lanning, research instructor

“Our undergrads are going to be able to do projects that have

my girlfriend, Alysia; my professors,

in bioengineering, developed and is

potential for real-world impact, maybe

specifically Dana Carpenter, Chris

teaching the department’s very first

something a company might want

Yakacki and Ron Rorrer; my H2 Eco

bachelor’s-level BIOE 1010 course. “We

to license,” Lanning says. “We want

Challenger teammates; my SMAB lab

want to get them excited from the

them to understand what the pay-out

team; and my friends and family.

beginning,” he says.

is for making this commitment to the

He has structured the introductory course in a way that exposes students

program and what they’re going to be able to do with their degree.”

to the field right away, through guest

New bioengineering undergraduates attend a department orientation on August 13. Pictured from left to right: (back) Hithaishini Kodicherla, Meghan Arora, Aimee Lam, Ryan Brody, Avilene Delgado, Keanu Lynn, Brittany Lowell, Ryan DePinto, Bhavya Khilnani, Anthony Caffaro, Mohammad Abdullah; (front) Ashley Newton, Amanda Ta, Jacob Altholz



Shane Transue is changing the face of scientific visualization

amount of information that we can collect from the real world. Building virtual models and providing alternative perspectives of our physical environment

This would greatly increase the

will drastically increase our

speed at which physical objects

understanding of the world

can be transmitted, impacting

around us.” His goal is to make

everything from manufacturing to

this process easy and accessible.

art reproduction. For example, if an auto manufacturer developed a functional prototype of a

basis upon which 3-D scanning

mechanical part and they then

and printing will revolutionize

wanted to send that prototype

scientific visualization and

to their manufacturers for mass

modern manufacturing, so that

production, they could send an

anyone with a 3-D printer can

exact 3-D definition of that part to

create their design,” he says.

the manufacturer via 3-D scanning. The manufacturer could then print as many replicas of the mechanical

of computer science such as

part as they need.

language design and web design; he’s used these skills to develop the

instantaneous (compared to

department’s Graphics Lab website

manually sending the part

and manage the lab equipment.

with shipping) will impact how

He often visits his parents in

businesses can transfer products,”

Nevada, where he spends a lot

Transue explains.

of time running and working on

Additional applications include

ATVs, and he enjoys skateboarding

3-D scanning for highly accurate

and playing the drums. Transue

standardization of mechanical

also maintains an extensive

parts, surface-property analysis and

collection of remote-controlled

thermal imaging of 3-D objects.

cars, rockets and planes, all of

Transue is on track to

which he constructed. Maybe one

complete his master’s degree

day he’ll duplicate his collection,

Transue is currently

devices,” he says. “We hope to

in spring 2014, after which he

without all the work of building it

developing a 3-D

accomplish a similar feat with 3-D

intends to continue his research

piece by piece.

scanning system

scanning and printing.”

with associate professor Min-

with the hope that anyone with

According to Transue, with

Hyung Choi and pursue a PhD in

a 3-D scanner and a computer

the increasing availability of

can scan large physical objects

3-D printers, one domain is

and transfer them into a virtual

rapidly expanding: the virtual

set of tools that provide the ability


transmission of 3-D objects. The

to change how we interact with

premise of this application is

virtual models of our physical

availability of 2-D scanners and fax

to scan a physical object into a

environment,” he says. “Scanning

machines, we are able to effectively

virtual format and then transmit

surface information of physical

send any document between any

it to a 3-D printer to re-create

objects to build virtual models is

two locations that contain these

the object in a different location.

merely an introduction to the vast

“Based on the everyday


Outside of his research Transue enjoys working in other areas

“Making this process almost

magine having the ability to scan something— a physical object—and then duplicate it somewhere else. Not only has Shane Transue imagined this, he is working to make it a reality through his graduate studies in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

“I hope that my work, along with Dr. Choi’s, will lead the

computer science. “My hope is to develop a new



What’s your story?

Fall and Spring Senior Design Competitions DECEMBER 13, 2013 AND MAY 16, 2014 | AURARIA CAMPUS Come see our students’ finest work as they present their senior design projects to a panel of industry judges and compete for cash prizes. Visit seniordesign in early December (for the fall competition) and late April (for the spring competition) for information about

We’ve shared some of our stories, and now we want to hear from you. Tell us about the impact you’re making by sending an update to Erica Lefeave at or at CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science, Campus Box 104, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364.

the showcased projects.

Get involved We are always looking for ways to build stronger connections with our alumni, our partners and the community. If you want to get involved with the college— as a mentor, a volunteer or through internships—contact the Office of the Dean at 303-556-2870.


Commencement Ceremonies DECEMBER 14, 2013 | COLORADO CONVENTION CENTER MAY 17, 2014 | AURARIA CAMPUS Graduating students participate in a commencement ceremony each semester to mark the completion of their degree. Everyone is invited to attend and to congratulate our newest alumni. Find additional details for these monumental events at

Make a gift Give a student scholarship, send a student team to an engineering competition or support cuttingedge research. Your gift makes a tremendous impact at the college. For more information on how you can help, contact Noelle DeLage at noelle. or 303-315-2026.


Year-End Celebration 2014 MAY 16, 2014 | LOCATION TBD Join faculty, staff, students and alumni for sun, BBQ, conversation and fun as the college hosts its third annual Year-End Celebration. Stay tuned to celebration for details this spring.


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College of Engineering and Applied Science Campus Box 104 P.O. Box 173364 Denver, CO 80217-3364

VISIT US: 1200 Larimer Street, Suite 3024 Denver, Colorado 80204 Tel: 303.556.2870 FIND US ONLINE:

ABOUT: Researchers in the college are developing new prosthetic technologies to improve amputees’ range of motion and sense of touch.

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Impact 2013  

CU Denver Engineering Magazine

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