National Engineers Week

think like an engineer

In recognition of Engineers Week, February 17-23, explore scientific advances created by NIBIB-funded biomedical engineers. These collaborative efforts provide innovative solutions to global health challenges. NIBIB supports research across a wide spectrum of biomedical imaging and bioengineering topics. Feed your curiosity and think like an engineer.

Advances in Ultrasound 

Ultrasound has been around for 100 years; it has been used in diagnostic imaging for 50 years and for therapies in the clinic for 10 years or so. This is the next step, where we will see ultrasound become a tool to interact within the body at the micro-scale.                                                                                                                                                                                                   Randy King, Ph.D., Director of the NIBIB program in Ultrasound

Making good bacteria better, and easy to track, thanks to genetic engineering

Bacteria containing gas-filled protein nanostructures known as gas vesicles.

Wearable ultrasound patch penetrates the skin to measure blood pressure

wearable ultrasound blood pressure patch on a finger

Tissue Engineering 

Biomedical engineering is the application of scientific and engineering principles to medical problems. Bioengineers tend to approach health research challenges differently, because they come from highly diverse research backgrounds in the life and natural sciences.                                                                                                                                                       Šeila Selimović, Ph.D., Director of the NIBIB program in Tissue Engineering  

Early stimulation improves performance of bioengineered human heart cells

iPS-derived cardiomyocytes have formed heart tissue that closely mimics human heart functionality.

Biology, geometry unite to thwart common cardiovascular diseases

images of mice that grew new vascular networks

Imaging Technologies

To discover new treatments for diseases it is crucial to understand cellular and molecular processes. Microscopy continues to evolve, allowing us to visualize these complex biological phenomena faster and in more detail than ever before. Gentler imaging also prevents damage to cells, resulting in data that more accurately reflect the underlying biology.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Hari Shroff, Ph.D., Chief of NIBIB’s lab section on High Resolution Optical Imaging

Mirror image: Researchers create higher-quality pictures of biospecimens

schematic of microscope

Better together: Merged microscope offers unprecedented look at biological processes in living cells

microscope view of RAb11 protein

Light-based, 15-second scan aims to replace painful mammograms

microscope image of a health breast

Drug Delivery Technologies

Engineers are makers and doers who responsibly harnesses scientific understanding to improve the human condition. By developing new technologies for highly targeted drug delivery countless lives could be saved and the burden of healthcare costs could be dramatically reduced.                                                                                                                                            —David Rampulla, Ph.D., Director of the NIBIB Program in Biomaterials, in Delivery Systems and Devices for Drugs and Biologics, and in Synthetic Biology for Technology Development

Ingestible pill can be controlled wirelessly

electronic pill

Nanostraws deliver drugs to human cells safely and efficiently 

close up view of nanostraws

Point-of-Care Technologies

The goal of POC technology is to deliver quick results on a mobile platform, giving patients more options. A patient should be able to choose if he/she comes into a clinic, goes to a pharmacy, or takes a test at home for STD diagnosis; the bottom line is to encourage people to get tested.                                                                                                                                             Charlotte Gaydos, Ph.D., Director of the NIBIB-funded Johns Hopkins University Center for the Development of POC Tests for STDs      

New chlamydia test delivers results in about 30 minutes

students walking and a close up view of a STD test cartridge

Home monitor detects dangerous drop in white blood cells

close up of fingernail in a device

Researchers deploy smart technologies to detect blood pressure and arrhythmias

smart watch and smartphone



Over the years, the DEBUT Challenge has encouraged undergraduate biomedical engineering students to think creatively to solve real-world healthcare problems. The visionary approach and solutions created by these young scholars is inspiring to us as program managers and bodes well for the next generation of researchers.                                                 Zeynep Erim, Ph.D., Director of NIBIB Division of Interdisciplinary Training 

 Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge

DEBUT logo beside EEG for the brain


There is an endless supply of sensor data and things that we can try in the operating room. The simulator is my bench, my mouse. I can have different simulators, but it’s the data that is helping move this agenda and the science forward.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              —Carla Pugh, M.D./Ph.D., Director of the Standford University Technology Enabled Clinical Improvement Center

Sensors, motor tracking and data science: The quest to train MDs like elite athletes

headshot of Carla Pugh and surgeons working on a patient

Rehabilitation Engineering and Medical Devices

NIBIB’s researchers have established bold goals in rehabilitation engineering. Biomedical engineers integrate biology, electronics, and mechanics in their approach to transform mobility for individuals with physical impairments.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              —Jill Heemskerk, Ph.D., Deputy Director of NIBIB 

Neural-enabled prosthetic hand system restores sensation to first human subject

prosthetic hand grabbing grapes

Tiny generators turn body motion into weight control and wound-healing therapies

diagram of mouse with a close up view of the vagus nerve

Memory foam for vascular treatment receives FDA clearance

compressed and expanded view of polymer memory foam device

Artificial Intelligence

Engineering is learning and creating without borders; it is a tool for solving complex problems in the real world. There is really no boundary on what engineers can do. We are all surrounded by the creativity of engineers’ on a daily basis.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         — Behrouz Shabestari, Ph.D., Director of the NIBIB program in Optical Imaging and Spectroscopy

Improving the quality of medical imaging with artificial intelligence

blurry versus clear medical scan of the brain

Advances in cancer surgery: making tumors glow 

fluorescent green, glowing tumor between forceps during surgery