Weekly Memo

Sept. 24, 2012

Dear members of the Hajim School community:

The calendar says it's fall, but there's a very spring-like sign of growth between Morey Hall and Wilson Commons these days. The first foundations are "sprouting" for the Ronald Rettner Hall for Media Arts and Innovation, which should be ready for students in the new audio and music engineering and digital media studies majors next fall. It will be interesting for all of us with a passion for engineering to watch this building rise before our eyes. The Eastman Kodak Colonnade between Lattimore and Morey halls offers an excellent vantage point for the sidewalk superintendents among us.

It’s always nice to see alumni who excelled here as students also doing well in their careers. For example, Rhima Coleman, a ’99 graduate in mechanical engineering and alumnus of Amy Lerner’s biomedical engineering lab, has recently been appointed assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. Her research will focus on two key areas of cartilage tissue regeneration: genetic reprogramming of cells, and cell-matrix interactions.

Speaking of biomedical engineering, Prof. Jim McGrath has just received some important grants to develop new applications for the super-thin, nanoporous silicon membranes that were developed here at Hajim. A nearly $600,000 National Science Foundation grant will partner McGrath's lab, SiMPore (the University-based startup that manufactures the membranes), RIT, and Integrated Nanotechnologies (INT), another local startup. They'll be using the membranes as filters in a portable INT device that can analyze DNA extracted from a drop of blood. This can be used to diagnose disease or detect pathogens, in the field, in a matter of minutes.  They'll then  miniaturize all of this onto a lab-on-a-chip (LOC). Another $300,000 from NSF will fund McGrath's ongoing research to modify the membranes for additional uses; a $100,000 grant continuation from the Coulter Foundation will fund McGrath's efforts to develop a blood dialysis device, using a silicon membrane, that would be small enough to wear on a belt. Imagine what a godsend that would be, if people could remain mobile and active while undergoing continuous dialysis, instead of sitting four hours a day, three days a week in dialysis centers!

These are exciting times, not just because of the mind-boggling advances coming out of our labs, but because of the exciting partnerships that are resulting between academia and industry.

Have a great week. And keep me posted!


Robert L. Clark
Professor and Dean