Your research interests blend theory and fundamental experiments. How has being a member of MCIRCC helped in this integration? What are your greatest challenges?
I am a nonlinear dynamicist at heart. I love all things that move and create complex dynamics. Such complex phenomena often involve systems that go beyond a single discipline—for example, systems that bring together humans with engineered devices. The resulting dynamics are fascinating and of paramount importance to our society. In fact, all grand societal challenges we face involve the dynamics of humans and complex systems.
In that context, the key words in my opinion in MCIRCC are “integrative” and “care”. Integration is essential because we live in a technological era where the complexity of the engineered systems that surround and assist us is tremendous. Care is essential because it highlights the importance and urgency of combining engineering with life sciences, and with human and social behavior. MCIRCC enables the convergence of people and disciplines needed to create the knowledge that will transform critical care, as well as many aspects of engineering.
So, to your first question, how did MCIRCC help me? It provided the context, the contacts, and the intellectual environment to discover new nonlinear dynamics phenomena and their application for the benefit of patients. To your second question, I would say, that limited time is the most critical challenge. There are so many things we could do, and we should do very urgently … but there is so little time.
Can you tell us about some of your most recent research and how it relates to critical care?
My most recent work has two connections to critical care. First, I am working together with Dr. Kevin Ward and Mr. Himanshu Saxena on bringing to the market a device for the treatment of critical care patients. This device uses vibrations—a topic near and dear to my heart—to address issues related to post-intensive care syndrome (PICS). In general, this device harnesses the cocktail of effects that vibrations have on the human body to benefit patients that have to be immobilized long periods of time.
Second, I am working on a larger team that includes Dr. Benjamin Bassin, Dr. Kevin Ward, and Prof. Albert Shih on creating the next generation hospital bed. This project will integrate new technologies and treatment capabilities—such as the new vibration therapy device as well as other technologies developed in MCIRRC—combined with intelligence to the one device we all use when spending time in a hospital ... the bed! That is why I believe this project has a large potential to transform the delivery of care.
Where do you think mechanical engineering and medicine will be in five or ten years?
I am extremely energized by the future. I see a tremendous potential of integration of life sciences with engineering and with mechanical engineering in particular. There are huge gaps in our understanding of mechanical processes and dynamics from the nano-scale, intracellular processes to the largest scale of global health care systems.
Leonardo da Vinci is among the first who started this integration during the renaissance period. He practiced both engineering and medicine himself ... probably because he saw the tremendous benefits and synergies they have. We are now re-discovering why he did that so many years ago.
We are now forming a generation of researchers who have grown in this new integrative perspective on engineering and medicine, and they will no doubt continue in this effort. That is why in 5 or 10 years I have high hopes that we will see a seamless integration of these disciplines, with more transparent boundaries. Our grand societal challenges demand this convergence. We are starting with research, in centers like MCIRCC. The next level of integration will be in degrees and in curricula.
Summer is (almost) finally here! Do you have any favorite warm weather activities you are looking forward to?
Favorite summer activity … Oh my, too many to mention, not enough time to enjoy them all ... Traveling, biking, gardening …