Professor Manu Platt of the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering was selected to receive the 2017 Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Diversity Award.
As the annual honoree, Platt was selected for his outstanding contributions to improving gender and racial diversity in his field.
As part of the award, he will have the opportunity to give a lecture offering his vision of the challenges and opportunities of greater diversity in biomedical engineering at the BMES Annual Meeting in Phoenix. His lecture will also be published in The Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
Platt is the Diversity Director for the NSF Center on Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems, and he is a co-founder and co-director of Project ENGAGES, a biotechnology and engineering research program for African-American high school students in Georgia Tech laboratories. He was also featured in the Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine in 2015 as an Emerging Scholar.
Platt’s research focuses on understanding how cells sense, respond, and remodel their immediate environments for repair and regeneration in health and disease, and translating this knowledge into addressing global health disparities.
BMES is an international society that aims to build the biomedical engineering community and support the professionals who develop and use engineering and technology to advance human health and well-being.
Each year, Georgia Tech sends a team of engineers to prove that they have designed the fastest, most environmentally-conscious car possible as part of the EcoCAR 3 competition. During the third year of the challenge, the College of Engineering’s team was awarded third place overall and second in the technical category.
Through this competition, sixteen universities compete to redesign, build, and drive a Chevrolet Camaro that has a reduced environmental impact while still retaining the car’s speed, iconic look, and high performance.
Georgia Tech’s sixty-person team, made up of master’s and bachelor’s degree students from mechanical, electrical, and chemical and biomolecular engineering majors, sent twelve representatives to the third stage of the competition.
According to the team’s profile, they “will be taking the car apart and putting it back together with new eco-friendly features in order to accomplish our goal of having a fully functional Hybrid Electric Camaro. All while ‘Rambling Wrecking’ the competition.”
During this year’s challenge, the team brought their prototype to Michigan for the first week-long stage, where the vehicle was subjected to safety and technical inspections that allowed it to qualify for the road test. They also participated in an autocross event, where they demonstrated the car’s ability to handle real-world driving situations.
Stage two of the competition was held in Washington, D.C. from May 21 to 25, where Tech’s team formally presented their prototype through presentations, demonstrations, and further testing.
Georgia Tech’s team was one of only four to complete an over-one-hundred-mile endurance test in order to measure efficiency and emissions. They were the only team to complete it on the first try. They also were awarded best mechanical presentation, best system modeling simulation and controls presentation, and best demonstration of advanced driver assistance systems.
Their various awards have them taking home $12,000 in prize money, which be put to use for next year’s round of the competition.
For the past three years, the team has been creeping up in its rankings; last year, they placed ninth overall, and in the first year they placed fifteenth.
The four-year-long EcoCAR 3 competition is a U.S. Department of Engineering and General Motors Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition. During the series, the students have come up with a plan for research and development, analysis, and validation of the vehicle design as they integrate powertrains and alternative fuels.
Competition challenges teams to design the fastest and most environmentally-conscious car
It will take years to determine just how much the people of Flint, Michigan were harmed from consuming water contaminated with dangerous levels of lead. And with millions of old lead pipes still used in cities across the U.S., what happened in Flint has many people asking, “Just how safe is my water?”
Angelique Johnson is working to answer that very question.
As a Grand Challenges scholar at Georgia Tech, Johnson is part of a team of seven undergraduate students developing an electrical sensor that people could install in their homes to test their water for the presence of lead and other heavy metals.
An affordable at-home sensor is important, Johnson explains, because of what might happen as water travels from a treatment plant to your home faucet. The water may test fine at the plant, but as it flows through the network of piping, it can pick up contaminants. That’s exactly what happened in Flint.
“An electrical sensor that automatically tested for lead in the water could help avoid a crisis like Flint,” says Johnson, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering “Researchers say they don’t have enough data about water in the home, so the sensors could aggregate data into a database. Then homeowners could access the data for the area. If there is a problem with the water, people could see it.”
Johnson is one of Georgia Tech’s first participants in the Grand Challenges Scholars Program launched last fall. The program offers undergraduates an opportunity to shape their education around tackling one of the 21st century’s biggest engineering challenges.
The National Academy of Engineering chose the Grand Challenges in 2008 as a framework for promoting innovation and discovery in the 21st century. The 14 challenges include goals like “Make Solar Engineer Economical,” “Engineer Better Medicines,” “Secure Cyberspace” and “Develop Carbon Sequestration Methods.” Johnson’s project falls under the challenge “Provide Access to Clean Water.”
Building on this list of challenges, NAE launched the scholar program to involve college students. The program helps students gain the perspective and skills to solve the grand challenges facing the world today. More than 120 engineering schools across the U.S. have committed to participating in the program — with the aim of graduating thousands of Grand Challenge Scholars over the next decade.
At Georgia Tech, the program is co-directed by the College of Engineering’s Dr. Wendy Newstetter and the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Dr. Joy Harris. Eleven students applied in the first semester, and the program is quickly growing in popularity. “The interest is there,” says Harris. “I think we are going to grow and scale very quickly. And I appreciate the level of resources that Georgia Tech has dedicated very early on.”
Harris says there are no limits to how many students can participate. Georgia Tech has set a goal to enroll between 125 and150 students in the program each year.
Sophomore Elizabeth Kappler, a biomedical engineering major and another Grand Challenges Scholar, is working to “Reverse-Engineer the Brain.” Kappler is particularly interested in improving the methods used to detect concussions in children. She’s pursuing her goal through one of Georgia Tech’s unique Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) teams, a collaborative research effort that brings together undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members across disciplines.
Kappler’s team, Concussion Connect, is led by Dr. Michelle LaPlaca, who partnered with colleagues at Emory University to develop a patented concussion assessment test, DETECT. The test, which won a research award from the NFL, is already being used by sports teams to assess players for concussions right on the sidelines of the game, getting an immediate diagnosis that’s essential for quick response and treatment.
Kappler and her VIP teammates are exploring how to modify DETECT so it could help children. They started by reviewing scholarly literature to gauge how a child’s brain functions differently than an adult’s and are using that data to recommend modifications to the adult version of DETECT.
Kappler’s interest in concussion research is personal: As a senior in high school, she suffered a concussion while playing soccer. At the time, her family lived abroad, and the differences in medical care meant Kappler was not properly diagnosed.
“As a result, I went back to play too soon and actually got a repeat concussion, which worsened the symptoms,” she says. Kappler’s concussion symptoms were typical — dizziness, nausea, headache — but because her original injury wasn’t managed correctly, the symptoms worsened, and she took longer to recover. If she’d been immediately diagnosed with DETECT, that “could have changed the entire situation.”
The experience fueled Kappler’s desire to develop better tools to assess and treat concussions. “Developing the pediatric DETECT system could keep a lot of kids from experiencing long-term effects through proper assessment of brain injuries,” she adds.
Hands-on research is just one hallmark of the Grand Challenges Scholars Program. The National Academy of Engineering outlined four additional “experiences” Grand Challenges Scholars must fulfill: entrepreneurship, service and social action, cross-cultural interaction and interdisciplinary learning. Each experience must relate to the core theme of the Grand Challenge chosen by the student.
But the program is extremely flexible, so requirements can be met in a number of ways. And Georgia Tech’s abundant resources offer students a wealth of options. For example, there are more than 100 ways to fulfill the cross-cultural aspect alone.
Newstetter and Harris help Grand Challenges Scholars capitalize on the opportunities. They mentor students on what kinds of activities are available and help them select options that best support their project’s central theme. “At the beginning, we sit down and map out a pathway with each student that makes it possible for them to assemble an impressive portfolio,” says Newstetter.
For entrepreneurship, Kappler plans to participate in 3-Day Startup, an intense, teamwork-oriented weekend workshop. For service, she hopes to volunteer in a clinic that specializes in traumatic brain injuries. Courses on topics like developmental and cognitive psychology will help Kappler build on her understanding of the brain —and these represent the interdisciplinary learning aspect of the program.
In addition to her work on the lead water sensor, Angelique Johnson is also finding interesting ways to fulfill the program’s requirements. For the service requirement, she plans to join Engineers Without Borders, a Georgia Tech program that performs engineering-based service projects. And if her team can develop a successful prototype of the electronic water sensor, they’d like to participate in the InVenture Prize — and generate support to commercialize and market their invention.
“There are so many options to fulfill this program,” Johnson says. “Since it’s a new program, they’re coming up with new ways to fulfill it every day.” Her team is also exploring their project’s potential close to home. “Since we live in Atlanta, we wanted to focus on the areas we know,” she says. So they tested different water sources from across Atlanta, and toured the Atlanta water treatment plant to learn about how the plant conducts water testing.
What excites Johnson and Kappler about the Grand Challenges Scholars Program is the opportunity to unite their academic and extra-curricular work around a single theme, enhancing the learning experience and strengthening portfolios and resumes.
“It’s is a touchstone for students because it’s a structure, but it’s a highly flexible structure,” Newstetter says. “With the Grand Challenges, you have this focal point. Industry is always looking for people who have a sustained engagement with something. And students see an opportunity to bring together all these things they’re doing, in a way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”
The Grand Challenges Scholars Program helps students shape their education around one big idea
ATLANTA--Susan Margulies, Ph.D., has been named the Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Injury Biomechanics. Her appointments are effective August 1.
Margulies is currently professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society, and Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
“Without a doubt, Susan is the very best person to lead the joint biomedical engineering department into the future,” said Gary S. May, dean of the College of Engineering. “She is an active researcher and highly regarded educator. Susan has the vision, scholarship, and experience in fields critical to the department that make her ideally suited and prepared to lead.”
As the new chair, Margulies will oversee a department that is consistently ranked as one of the nation's most prominent programs of its kind in both graduate and undergraduate education. Currently, U.S. News & World Report ranks the joint Georgia Tech/Emory biomedical engineering graduate program #3 in the United States and the undergraduate program #1. It is the largest BME department in the country, with 72 faculty at Georgia Tech and Emory and more than 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students.
"Dr. Margulies will be an outstanding addition and leader for our joint Department of Biomedical Engineering," says David S. Stephens, MD, interim dean, Emory University School of Medicine and vice president for research, Woodruff Health Sciences Center. "Throughout her career, she has distinguished herself as an educator, scientist, mentor, and a national and international leader in the biomedical sciences, and I look forward to working with her in our many shared initiatives."
The Coulter Department, which was launched in 1997, is a visionary partnership between a leading public engineering school and a highly respected private medical school. The department uses the latest engineering technologies, clinical insights and biological approaches to address unmet clinical challenges in pediatric bioengineering, immunoengineering, regenerative medicine, cardiovascular and neural engineering, imaging, and biomedical computing.
“I speak for all Wallace H. Coulter Department members in stating how delighted we are to welcome Susan Margulies as our incoming chair,” said Ross Ethier, interim chair, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Biomechanics and Mechanobiology. “Susan has a remarkable track record as a scholar, teacher, academic leader and role model. She brings a deep understanding of both engineering and medicine, and how they can work synergistically in the field of biomedical engineering for the benefit of patients and society. She will further strengthen the Emory-Georgia Tech relationship, and will sustain the strong tradition of excellence and innovation that have characterized the Coulter Department since its establishment.”
Margulies earned her B.S.E in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University and Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. After a postdoctoral fellowship and faculty appointment at Mayo Medical School, she joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. Her research program spans the micro-to-macro scales in two distinct subfields: traumatic brain injury in children and ventilator-induced lung injury. Margulies focuses on prevention, intervention and treatments. She has pioneered new methods for measuring functional effects of large or repeated tissue distortions; identified injury tolerances and response cascades, and translated these basic research discoveries to preclinical therapeutic trials to mitigate and prevent brain and lung injuries in children and adults.
Over the years, as principal investigator she has secured over $34 million in federal funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Transportation, and private foundations. Her recent engagement and negotiations with industry have led to $1.5 million in corporate research agreements. Her scholarship has been disseminated in over 350 papers, abstracts, and book chapters and numerous media features.
While directing a large, translational, interdisciplinary research program, she has taught more than fifteen undergraduate and graduate courses and has had a broad range of administrative roles at the departmental, school, and institutional levels. She has received honors for improving the lives of women faculty, and for excellence in teaching and mentoring. Margulies has created new programs to improve faculty and student diversity, access, engagement and professional development, as well as leading initiatives to enhance cross-campus research, training, and education, and engagement with industry and alumni.
“The Coulter BME Department is uniquely situated in two excellent institutions,” said Margulies. “As Chair of BME, my goal is to enrich the impact of BME on both campuses by enhancing interdisciplinary research and education; expanding access to educational opportunities in biomedical applications of engineering; creating synergies within the department; and working with faculty, student, staff and alumni communities to catalyze strategic research and translational initiatives with federal, corporate, and foundation partners.”
The College of Engineering at Georgia Tech is the largest and most diverse engineering school in the country. U.S. News ranks all Georgia Tech engineering graduate and undergraduate programs in the top 10 nationally. The College enrolls more than 13,000 students in eight schools. Georgia Tech is a leading research university committed to improving the human condition through advanced science and technology.
Emory University School of Medicine is one of the top 20 medical schools in NIH research funding. The School has more than 2,700 full- and part-time faculty and nearly 700 volunteer faculty. Emory University is a top-ranked private institution recognized internationally for its outstanding liberal arts colleges, graduate and professional schools, and one of the world's leading health care systems.