Waugh "does many things extraordinarily well"

Paul Lacelle, the former chair of biophysics, once told Richard Waugh, “if you ever think of about becoming a (department) chairman, you should take three months off and get some therapy.”

Thank goodness Waugh did not let that advice from his esteemed mentor deter him.

One of the great success stories of the University’s school of engineering is the growth of the Department of Biomedical Engineering under Waugh’s leadership. He has been its chairman since the department was established in 2000 and graduated 10 students. It is now the Hajim School’s largest department, with a total enrollment expected to top 450 undergraduate and graduate students this fall.

Researcher and mentor

His research lab is one of the leading facilities for investigating red blood cell mechanical properties and the stability of biological membranes. Long before “multidisciplinary collaboration” became the buzzword it is today, Waugh was collaborating with researchers on both the River Campus and the School of Medicine and Dentistry – and with other institutions. He is a team leader working with researchers at the University of Rochester, Cornell University, and the University of Pennsylvania to investigate white blood cell response to injured tissue. This project has attracted more than $20 million in federal funding since 2004.

He is co-PI of a project exploring a way to artificially generate human blood. Last year this project received an incubator award from the University of Rochester’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute because of its breakthrough potential to accelerate scientific progress and lead to additional funding.

“Rick is a great resource for our students,” Clark added. This past year Waugh supervised a senior design team that came up with a device to store and transport red blood cell units to patients requiring transfusion at the University’s  Medical Center. He mentors undergraduates in the Xerox Engineering Research Fellows Program; he also serves as an adviser for 20 to 25 of the department's undergraduates per year.

Honored by his peers

Waugh’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Last year he received the Biomedical Engineering Society Distinguished Service award for his extraordinary contributions to the national society, which Waugh served as president from 2010 to 2012. The year before he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his distinguished contributions to the study of cell and membrane mechanics and for leadership in biomedical engineering.

“Now, I’m sure there are times, especially when a BME lab or class overflows its available space, or some other problem lands in Rick's lap, that he wishes he had paid more attention to Paul Lacelle’s advice,” Clark noted. “But I have every confidence that Rick and his staff will successfully navigate the inevitable growing pains that come with success.”


“Because Rick understands that the best way to run a department is not to take three months off and get some therapy, but to surround yourself with the best people you can find, and then let them do what they do best without a lot of a second guessing.”

Clark picked Waugh to be his associate vice president for research last year. “I knew full well he would do a great job for me, and keep his department on track, and continue his groundbreaking research.”

“In other words, Rick does many things for our school and our university, and he does them extraordinarily well.”

“That’s why he’s getting this lifetime achievement award.”