Engineering for Health, Medicine & Biological Sciences

Our Biomedical Approach


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Enhancing population health, improving quality and decreasing costs of healthcare are among the highest priorities domestically and internationally. We are facing the challenges of population aging; biological, psychological, and cultural individual differences; fragmented, inefficient, unsafe health services delivery; and increasing complexity of clinical medicine and health technologies. On the other hand, there are emergent and promising advances in systems solutions, health informatics, intelligent sensors and devices, and networked cyber-physical and social systems that are capable of supporting organizations and societies in achieving effective clinical medicine, affordable healthcare, and patient-centered care delivery goals.

Until recently, the favored approach in biological and medical research has been to reduce life into smaller components and to study how these parts function in isolation in health and disease. The new challenges in biomedicine that lie ahead center around how all these components are connected tscreen-shot-2016-12-09-at-11-31-01-amogether and how they interact with one another to give rise to the biological function that can be observed at a macroscopic level. Increasingly, fundamental advances in understanding of basic biology and the translation of that understanding to impact society are driven not only by the lab bench, but by extracting knowledge from large, diverse and interconnected data (as in the Viterbi Big Data Science and Technology initiative).

Engineering plays a pivotal and enabling role in advancing biomedical research by providing the methodologies and technologies for quantitative understanding and controlling the complex dynamics of biological systems at multiple scales of time and space. This research area will address the following questions:

How do we unravel the mechanisms of perception, learning, memory, intelligence, control and even consciousness, by decoding brain activity with improved and increasingly less intrusive technologies, along with state-of-the-art computational strategies to deal with massive amounts of time-varying data? How can we engineer replacement parts to restore neural or muscle function, and effectively manage the multi-modal interactions at the interfaces between implant and biological tissue?

What technologies can we develop that would enable noninvasive, cost-effective, andscreen-shot-2016-12-09-at-11-32-27-am accurate dynamic sensing and imaging of parts of the body and brain that have been damaged by disease or injury, and what are the most robust and cost-effective strategies that can be employed to correct abnormalities and restore function? How can we engineer replacement tissues and organs that possess complex functions and effectively manage the multi-modality interactions at abiotic-biotic interfaces?

How can we best combine experimental and computational modeling approaches, to understand complex cellular-molecular systems and develop and apply quantitative design principles at the cellular and sub-cellular levels to design more effective therapeutics in developmental morphogenesis, genetic regulatory networks, metabolomics pathways, inter-cellular and cellular-extracellular-matrix interactions, and stem-cell and regenerative-medicine systems, in order reengineer these systems in pathological conditions?

How do we collaborate multi-disciplinary talents and marshal advanced informatics, robotics, biomedical, and operational and systems research to engineer better and safer healthcare system, to deliver personalized medicine, and to promote a healthy population? The HTE@USC program is one concrete step in that direction.