Table of Contents IMPACT | VOL. 2 | ISSUE 1
BRIDGING THE SCIENCES
NEWS + EVENTS 2
Headlines and milestones from the past year
Engineering researchersâ€™ progress and findings
RYAN ANDERSON 14 Q+A with Ryan Anderson, graduate student in mechanical engineering
JEFF WIENCROT 5
RETHINKING PROSTHETICS 10
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
EDITION Vol. 2, Issue 1 DEAN Marc Ingber COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST Erica Lefeave
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.
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
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
optogenetics. Finally, faculty in
The undergraduate bioengineering
the Department of Computer
program complements the MS and PhD
Science and Engineering are
programs in bioengineering, which
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
NEWS AND EVENTS
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
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 teamâ€™s
the worldâ€™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
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 www.tedxmilehigh.com.
NEWS AND EVENTS
Whites’ support benefits past, present and future generations at CU Denver
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
Jeff Wiencrot, BS electrical engineering 2013, mixes engineering and music in everyday life.
BRIDGING THE SCIENCES TO SAVE LIVES E
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,
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 ucdenver.edu/bioengineering.
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).
“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.”
CREATING A NEW CLASS OF SPINAL FUSION CAGE wo faculty are taking
distributions and the distribution of bone
does it work? Plasma is the fourth state
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
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
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
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 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. Weirâ€™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.
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
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
mechanism to add/remove proteins from
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 problem...so 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
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
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,
INAUGURAL CLASS OF BIOENGINEER UNDERGRADUATES
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
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
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 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 engineering.ucdenver.edu/ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 ucdenver.edu/commencement.
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. email@example.com 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 engineering.ucdenver.edu/ celebration for details this spring.
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ABOUT: Researchers in the college are developing new prosthetic technologies to improve amputeesâ€™ range of motion and sense of touch.
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