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MedE 10th
MedE Symposium poster

MedE Symposium

Celebrating the 10 Year Anniversary of the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering

March 7, 2024

A celebratory symposium was held on March 7, 2024 to recognize the 10-year Anniversary of the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering (MedE). A reception/poster session kicked off the symposium where several of the MedE Alumni along with MedE faculty, postdocs, students, and staff attended.

MedE's Executive Officer, Professor Lihong Wang, opened the talks with a brief introduction followed by talks from MedE Alumni Colin Cook (PhD '18), Julian Sempionatto Moreto (former MedE postdoctoral researcher), Lei Li (PhD '19), and Li Lin (PhD '20), who shared their insights on how their experience at Caltech fostered their academic growth, followed by a presentation of their research endeavors.

Special guest speaker, Noble laureate Dr. Steven Chu (Stanford), closed out the symposium with his talk on "The dynein molecular motor, thermal fluctuations, and non-thermal equilibrium statistical physics."


"As we mark Cherng MedE's 10th anniversary, we look forward to furthering the legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship and continuing to support the next generation of leaders exploring new frontiers in healthcare." - Harry Atwater, Otis Booth Leadership Chair, Division of Engineering and Applied Science; Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science; Director, Liquid Sunlight Alliance

The People Behind the Cherng Department of Medical Engineering

Andrew and Peggy Cherng's gift to endow Caltech's medical engineering program is congruent with the couple's belief in "paying it forward" to improve the quality of life for people in their community and around the globe. As co-chairs and co-CEOs of Panda Restaurant Group, the Cherngs take corporate responsibility very seriously.

Professor Yu-Chong Tai's leadership has been a driving force behind the success of the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering (MedE), and he served as the first Leadership Chair and Executive Officer of MedE. Continuing with the growth of the MedE Department is Professor Lihong Wang, MedE's first named Faculty and the current Leadership Chair and Executive Officer.

Symposium Program

1:30-3:00 pm MedE Alumni

Colin Cook, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, City of Hope National Medical Center; Technical Founder and Consultant to XDemics Corp.
CDMO 2.0: Making Tomorrow's Cell and Gene Therapies

Lei Li, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, ECE, Rice University.
New Generation Photoacoustic Imaging: From Benchtop Wholebody Imagers to Wearable Sensors

Julianne Sempionatto Moreto, Ph.D., Faculty, Digital Health Center at Rice University
Wearable Electrochemical Sensors for Non-invasive Health Monitoring.

Li Lin, Ph.D., Research Fellow at Zhejiang University; Adjunct Professor at the First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine
Listening to Light: Growth with Photoacoustic Imaging
3:15-4:15 pm Professor Steven Chu, Professor of Physics, Molecular and Cellular Physiology, and Energy Science and Engineering at Stanford University
The dynein molecular motor, thermal fluctuations, and non-thermal equilibrium statistical physics.

The dynein molecular motor, thermal fluctuations, and non-thermal equilibrium statistical physics. The transport of molecular cargos in neuronal cells is analyzed in the context of new developments in statistical physics. Our development of very bright optical probes enabled the long-term single tracking of molecular cargos. Our probes allowed individual molecular steps to be resolved at cellular ATP concentrations (three orders of magnitude higher than the in vitro studies), and led to a new, detailed quantitatively falsifiable chemo-mechanical model where two ATP molecules are hydrolyzed sequentially. A model of how this motor cleverly uses thermal fluctuations to produce move molecular cargos will be discusses. Finally, this motor is shown to operate with an "effective temperature" Teff as high as Tcell = 30 x 310 K, and an intuitive understanding of meaning of Teff will be given.

Biography: Steven Chu is Professor of Physics, Molecular and Cellular Physiology, and Energy Science and Engineering at Stanford University. He received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for laser cooling and trapping of atoms. Other contributions include the first optical tweezers manipulation of biomolecules, precision atom interferometry based on optical pulses of light, and single molecule FRET of biomolecules tethered to surfaces. He is now developing and applying new methods in molecular biology and medical imaging, materials science, and batteries. Previously he was U.S. Secretary of Energy, where he began ARPA-E, the Energy Innovation Hubs, and was tasked by President Obama to help BP stop the Macondo Oil spill. Previously, he was director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford, and help initiate Bio-X, that linked the physical and biological sciences with engineering and medicine. Before Stanford, he was a department head at Bell Laboratories. He was past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Senior Advisor to the Directors of the NIH and the NNSA. He received an A.B. degree in mathematics and a B.S. degree in physics from the University of Rochester, a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, has 35 honorary degrees, and is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and 8 foreign academies.

CDMO 2.0: Making Tomorrow's Cell and Gene Therapies. Cell and viral therapies represent the next wave of therapeutics with the promise of reversing aging, killing cancers, and correcting genetic defects. Unfortunately, these biologics are orders of magnitude more complex than previous generations and the current manufacturing paradigm has been unable to keep up, leading to slow development, high costs, and scarce availability. New production strategies will be key to accelerating and democratizing medicines like AAV, oncolytics, and stems cells. I present a new class of "biomimetic" bioreactor and corresponding bioprocesses that have been engineered to simulate the growth environment that cells and viruses experience natively. I'll share how this approach can meaningfully improve yields, quality, and production economics. A transition from scarcity to abundance will encourage researchers to take the moonshots that result in blockbuster drugs, not incremental medicines. Developing bioproduction strategies to accelerate the development of complex biologics like AAV, oncolytics, stems cells, and beyond.

Biography: Colin Cook, PhD is a graduate of the inaugural MedE class where he was awarded the Rosen Bioengineering Distinguished Scholar Award, Genentech Graduate Fellowship, and Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship. He is an interdisciplinary inventor, entrepreneur, and mentor passionate about deep tech. His phototherapeutic contact lens concept to treat diabetic retinopathy was reported by General Electric as one of "The 5 Coolest Things On Earth This Week" and featured on CBS News. He was awarded the prestigious Demetriades-Tsafka-Kokkalis Prize in Entrepreneurship while at Caltech. His invention of the high-density cell respirator bioreactor received Phase I/II Fast-Track funding from the NIH to produce low cost AAV vector for rare diseases and oncolytics. This invention and corresponding processes he developed are the foundational technology behind XDemics Corporation, of which he is the technical founder. Dr Cook is leading efforts to commercialize this bioproduction platform through a "CDMO 2.0" concept to accelerate the development of next-generation medicines. Academically, Dr Cook serves as staff scientist at the City of Hope National Medical Center where he works on bioprocess intensification.

New Generation Photoacoustic Imaging: From Benchtop Wholebody Imagers to Wearable Sensors. This talk will cover the recent development of photoaocustic imaging technology including a bentchop imager, termed single-impulse panoramic photoacoustic computed tomography (SIP-PACT), and its preclinical applicatioins. SIP-PACT has also been scaled up for breast cancer diagnosis with improved sensitivity and specificity. In addition, to shape the benchtop PACT systems toward portable and wearable devices with low cost without compromising the imaging performance, we recently have developed photoacoustic topography through an ergodic relay, a high-throughput imaging system with significantly reduced system size, complexity, and cost, enabling wearable applications. As a rapidly evolving imaging technique, photoacoustic imaging promises preclinical applications and clinical translation.

Biography: Dr. Lei Li is an assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Bioengineering at Rice University. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Department of Electrical Engineering at California Institute of Technology in 2019. He received his MS at Washington University in St. Louis in 2016. His research focuses on developing next-generation medical imaging technology for understanding the brain better, diagnosing early-stage cancer, and wearable monitoring of human vital signs. He was selected as a TED fellow in 2021 and a rising star in Engineering in Health by Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University (2021). He received the Charles and Ellen Wilts Prize from Caltech in 2020 and was selected as one of the Innovators Under 35 by MIT Technology Review in 2019. He is also a two-time winner of the Seno Medical Best Paper Award granted by SPIE (2017 and 2020, San Francisco).

Wearable Electrochemical Sensors for Non-invasive Health Monitoring. Nowadays, wearable devices are limited to monitoring physical parameters such as motion, temperature, heart rate, steps, etc., while important (bio)chemical information, such as metabolites (glucose, lactate, alcohol) and electrolytes (sodium, potassium) levels can only be accessed via blood analysis. Electrochemical wearable biosensors are promising candidates to bridge the technology gap for wearable devices toward comprehensive monitoring of important, and medically relevant, biological changes in the human body. In this talk, the development and application of non-invasive sweat based wearable devices will be discussed in parallel with the challenges and opportunities involved in building a successful electrochemical wearable sweat sensor.

Biography: Dr. Juliane Sempionatto has expertise in developing wearable electrochemical sensors to monitor medical relevant biomarkers in sweat, saliva, tears, and interstitial fluid. Her research interests include soft and stretchable electronics, high-performance electrochemical biosensors, and biofuel cells. Dr. Sempionatto was a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech in Prof Wei Gao's group. She received her Ph.D. in Nanoengineering at UCSD, working with Prof Joseph Wang, and on April 1st she will start as an assistant Professor at Rice University, in Houston-TX. She is the recipient of the prestigious Siebel Scholar award (class of 2021), IUPAC young chemist award (2022), MIT35under35 Latin America (2022) and others.

Listening to Light: Growth with Photoacoustic Imaging. This presentation will provide an overview of my research conducted during my Ph.D. and postdoctoral studies at Caltech, with a particular focus on the incremental progress achieved in translating photoacoustic imaging from the bench to bedside. Beyond the technological development, I look forward to sharing insights into the cognitive intersections between technical research and clinical applications that I have gained, starting from my time at Caltech Optical Imaging Laboratory.

Biography: Li Lin earned his PhD degree from Caltech in 2019 under the guidance of Professor Lihong V. Wang and subsequently pursued postdoctoral research within the same laboratory. Since 2022, he has been actively engaged in his role as a principal investigator at Zhejiang University. Li Lin's contributions have not only expanded the applications of photoacoustic imaging across multiple research scenarios but have also played a crucial role in enhancing the technical performance for clinical translation. Website link: