Bioengineering Research at the School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University

Bioengineering research has been an important focus of Purdue's School of Mechanical Engineering for many years. Historically, the focus has been problems in orthopaedics and biofluids, but today interest in bioengineering spans everything from the design of bioactive molecules to the development of haptic interfaces for robotic surgery applications. ME faculty have also pioneered novel areas of research including: projects that combine pharmacology and fluid mechanics; new techniques for detecting cancer, pathogens, and proteins; and the formulation of constitutive laws for human tissues such as the vocal cords and nerve fibers.

Bioengineering research is necessarily an interdisciplinary endeavor and students from a variety of backgrounds can be successful. Not surprisingly, ME faculty work closely with research groups in Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Center for Paralysis Research, Chemical Engineering, Basic Medical Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Food Sciences, Nutrition, Biology, and the IU School of Medicine.

Facilities and Resources
Within the Mechanical Engineering Building, Herrick Labs and Zucrow Labs, there are a range of equipment and expertise in biomechanical testing from the nanometer scale to the level of whole tissues, physiological measurements, thermal imaging, cell and tissue culture, computational modeling, and biomaterials characterization. It should be noted, however, that the strength of bioengineering research at Purdue lies in the close collaboration between groups on campus and the easy access that faculty and students have to a vast array of world class researchers and measurement systems.

Experimental Facilities for Bioengineering Research within Mechanical Engineering:

  • Atomic Force Microscopy (dry and wet sample preparations)
  • High resolution-low force testing systems for soft tissues
  • High force Instron and MTS load frames
  • Multi-axis spine and knee simulator
  • Wear testing system for artificial disc replacements
  • Surgical robotics
  • Micro-indentation systems
  • Cell culture facilities
  • Confocal microscopy-based system for measuring cell metabolism
  • Fluorescence imaging microscopes
  • Spectrophotometer, Spectrofluorometer
  • Traditional and FTIR-based glucose measurement systems
  • Micro-PIV
  • FLUENT, Comsol, ABAQUS, and additional software packages for the modeling of tissues, fluid-structure interactions, and

In recent years Purdue has sponsored an unprecedented expansion of equipment and facilities for the study of biological phenomena. Bindley Biosciences Center (BBC) combines life sciences and engineering research to cultivate and support innovative, interdisciplinary research. The BBC provides an infrastructure for the application of analytical methods, precision measurement technologies, and high throughput approaches to biological systems. Within the BBC, there are a number of core facilities available to researchers across the campus. The Biomolecular Technologies Research Core provides resources for genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and ionomics. The Computational Life Sciences Core has a number of foci including the development of standards for data transfer, management and analysis algorithms, and mathematical and statistical modeling of complex biological systems. The Cytomics and Imaging Core incorporates some of the world’s most advanced cell analysis, separation and imaging equipment including multi-spectral imaging development and ultra-high speed sorting with rare event capability.

In collaboration with the Birck Nanotechnology Center, the Bindley BioNanotechnology Core (BNC) provides expertise and equipment capabilities in nanochemistry, biopolymer synthesis, biophysical analytical tools including next-generation wet surface-compatible AFM. In addition, the BNC provides equipment for nano- and micro-fabrication of BioMEMs, biomedical microdevices, microfluidics and the like. Characterization equipment includes SEM, TEM, AFM, and FIB and facilities exist for mechanical and electrical testing of biologically-inspired materials and devices.

Bioengineering researchers in ME also enjoy collaborations with faculty in the School of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Department of Food Sciences, and the Department of Nutrition. Through these endeavors, it is possible to access a variety of research facilities including the Clinical Research Laboratory, Purdue University Flow Cytometry Laboratories, Core Laboratory for Image Analysis and Multidimensional Applications (CRISTAL), Micro-FTIR, DXA scanners, and Micro-CT.

Past Projects and Ongoing Research
Biophysics and the Design of Biomolecules
Biophysics, cell mechanics, and cell metabolism. (Nauman)
Shape analysis applied to proteomics and drug design (Ramani)

Biomechanics, Human Injury, and Orthopaedic Implant Design and Characterization
Human injury, especially sports injuries, spinal cord injuries, gunshot wounds and bruising due to blunt trauma, and amusement park rides. (Nauman)
The mechanics of playing the piano. (Hillberry)
Spine Mechanics and orthopaedic implant development. (Hillberry, Nauman)

Cell and Tissue Engineering
The mechanical behavior of biological materials and their compatibility as tissue graft material.
The remodeling of patellar tendons augmented with small intestinal submucosa (SIS). (Kokini)
The rate of remodeling of Achilles’ tendons in the presence of SIS under varying exercise regimes. (Kokini)
The biomechanics of cell-extracellular matrix interactions. (Nauman, Kokini)
Adult stem cell-based therapies for bone defects, osteoporosis, ligament and cartilage damage, adipose tissue augmentation, spinal cord injuries, glaucomatous degeneration, and head injuries. (Nauman, Kokini)
Tissue engineered models of osteoporosis and glaucoma. (Nauman)

Tissue Mechanics and Fluid-Structure Interactions
Fluid flow in porous media. (Nauman)
Breast cancer identification and treatment. (Gore, Nauman)
Fluid-structure interactions in blood vessels. (Raman, Bajaj, Nauman)

Healthcare Engineering
Medical informatics. (Kim)
Efficacy of antiresorptive agents in the prevention of osteoporosis using patient databases (Nauman)

Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DXA) provides a valuable tool for the determination
of adaptive responses in bone and can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of
antiresorptive treatments such as bisophosphonate or estrogen therapy.

Biomedical Imaging and Cancer Detection
Enhanced detection of skin and breast cancer using thermal imaging. (Gore, Nauman)
Coordination of multiple biomedical imaging modalities with robotic surgery applications. (Peine)

Robotic Surgery
Design of haptic interfaces and feedback systems for robotic surgery applications. (Peine)

Effects of fluid shear stress on virulence of Salmonella (Nauman)