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Biomedical Engineering

lab-on-a-chip, single-cell characterisation, micro-electrode arrays for neural implants, scaffolds for tissue engineering, implantable devices such as stents wireless cardiac monitoring using artery-implanted stents, MEMS devices for navigated surgery, hearing-aid prosthesis, MEMS ultrasound imaging, bio-photonics, DNA sequencing, targeted drug delivery.

Faculty involved:

Research Topics include:


Biophotonics is the use of light (photons) to study biological material. Light interacts with living organisms and organic material, to provide useful information, such as early cancer detection, glucose monitoring for diabetes patients. Techniques include microscopy, imaging, and absorption spectroscopy.


We are developing sensor technologies to measure quantities with relevance for the biomedical field. These technologies enable either monitoring or characterization of biomedical subjects and processes, including in-vivo glucose monitoring and on-chip cell characterization.

Biological imaging

Optical imaging provides a noninvasive way to visualize cellular and tissue structures, observe their functions, and potentially detect dysplasia and cancer. We are using two cutting-edge techniques capable of non-invasive, high-resolution imaging in thick, scattering biological tissues: Multiphoton Microscopy (MPM) and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). We are developing a multi-modality microscopy system integrating MPM and OCT on a single platform.


An engineered biomolecular interface between implantable biomedical microdevices and the surrounding tissue is one of the key issues for long-term implant functionality. Biodegradable polymer or hydrogel coatings can be used for local drug delivery, in which the release of an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory agent, neural growth factor, or other bioactive molecule will mitigate tissue reaction to the implanted device.

Drug delivery

We are working on advanced drug delivery modalities. These include the development of drug delivery vehicles and targeted and timed drug deployment strategies. The goals of this research is to confine medication to target areas in order to reduce side effects of the treatment.

Implantable devices

Implantable biomedical microdevices will have many therapeutic applications. Among the most successful examples are cochlear implants and deep-brain stimulators. Current efforts include targeted drug delivery systems, visual prostheses, electrodes for nerve regeneration, and microelectrodes for neural recording and stimulation. Implantable diagnostic devices may also feature contactless powering and RF telemetry for disease monitoring.

Lab on a chip, micro total analysis systems

The miniaturization and integration of traditional benchtop assays onto microscale “lab on a chip” platforms promise advantages in cost-efficiency, lower reagent consumption, and faster analysis times. Microfluidic systems allow manipulation and control of individual biological elements (cells, proteins, and other biomolecules) and their environment, and their application in cell culture and characterization will contribute to the development of new diagnostics and therapies.

Research Projects include:

Development of an Artificial Mechanical Skin Model for Microneedle Insertion Profiling
While silicon microneedles (see picture) are effective for drug delivery, the associated fabrication process is rather expensive. We are developing new manufacturing processes for batch fabrication of inexpensive microneedles. These devices will be designed for drug delivery and biosensing.
We develop a new mechanism for changing the architecture of microfluidic channels during device operation. Two co-streaming fluids are separated through a temporal wall using targeted gel formation inside a microfluidic channel. We derive explanations for this mechanism including scaling arguments for the wall thickness.
This research project aims to develop an implantable, biocompatible, optical glucose monitor, which would have a tremendous health-care benefit, providing an improved glucose-monitoring tool for diabetics. It is based on semiconductor laser sources (VCSELs) at the ideal wavelength for optical glucose sensing.
A technology for 3D printing of biological tissue constructs that will better mimic the human physiology and expedite the drug discovery process. The first stage of this work is to develop a disposable and bio-compatible droplet-on-demand (DOD) system.
The countless number of applications urged a demand for high performance micro-accelerometers, which in turn continue to gain momentum. Within that framework, one must justify the need for an approach defined by a system level performance in closed loop integration, by understanding the current performance limitations in the state-of-the-art micro-accelerometers, in research, on the market, and when employed with other electrical components.
Gyroscopes are used to sense angular rate and when used along with accelerometers can be used as effective navigation sensors. Due to their tiny size(1cmx1cm)die and high sensitivity they could be used in minimally invasive surgery.
Modal Analysis
The objective of this project is to design and construct a confocal imaging engine using MOEMS technology and to couple this with Raman Spectroscopy system in order to form a handheld device with dual complementary capabilities: cellular-level resolved confocal skin imaging combined with accurate and precise Raman spectroscopy of specific subsurface skin microstructures in vivo.
This project aims to design a photoacoustic imaging system for prostate cancer study. Images will be acquired by using a laser to excite acoustic waves from tissues and an ultrasound transducer array to detect the acoustic waves. The photoacoustic imaging will be combined with ultrasound imaging to study prostate cancer.
Contractile polymers are applied to the tips of neuro-vascular catheters in order to help them navigate through the complex blood vessels found in the brain.
Our research group is developing a variety of sensing devices fabricated using inkjet printing. We are exploring physical and chemical sensing technology for applications in air quality monitoring, structural health monitoring, breath analysis, and other important applications.
By integrating multiple molecular biology assay steps on a single microfluidic platform, we aim to detect the activity of telomerase, an enzyme upregulated in prostate cancer cells. This will hopefully provide detection of prostate cancer than currently possible, and demonstrate better specificity for cancer than prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests.
This project aims to develop micro-endoscopes for in vivo intra-luminal tissue imaging. The design will use state-of-the-art techniques such as photonic crystal fibers, micro-optics, and MEMS scanners. The micro-endoscopes will enable high resolution, multimodality imaging of subsurface structures and compositions of internal organs.
This project aims to develop a multimodality optical imaging system by integrating multiphoton microscopy (MPM) with optical coherence tomography (OCT). MPM is sensitive to cells and extracellular matrix, and OCT to structural interfaces and tissue layers. The system will acquire structural and functional imaging of tissues simultaneously.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) utilizes techniques such as interferometry and coherence gating to obtain high-resolution tissue images. We develop OCT systems for biomedical and industrial applications.
Through collaboration with the BC Cancer Research Center, our optical imaging systems and endomicroscopes will be applied to study lung and skin cancers. In vivo optical imaging will help doctors to detect cancer in its early stage.
Multiphoton microscopy (MPM) is a non-invasive, high-resolution imaging method for looking at thick biological tissues. We use a femtosecond laser to develop MPM systems which can acquire two-photon excited fluorescence (TPEF) and second harmonic generation (SHG) simultaneously. The MPM system is used to image cells and extracellular matrix in turbid tissues.
A significant challenge in research on nanostructures is the lack of sufficient control over the fabrication processes. Therefore, an important aspect of our research is the study of nanostructure fabrication processes with the goal of achieving higher levels of control and reproducibility.
Due to the large surface-to-volume ratio of nanostructures, they are excellent candidates for ultra-high-sensitivity detection of chemicals and biological molecules. Our objective is the sensitive detection of RNA using such structures, with the ultimate goal of single-RNA detection.
We use techniques ranging from classical, continuum modeling, to molecular dynamics, to quantum mechanical simulations using the density functional theory and first-principles techniques such as the Hartree-Fock method. We investigate the mechanical properties, electronic structure, transport characteristics and optical properties of nanodevices.
The goal of this project is to design and construct a portable and cost effective magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) instrument that is capable of resolving features at microscale to image flow fields of complex fluids in capillary tubes.
Schematics of MRI for Flow Visualization Instrument
We are studying the properties of carbon nanotube (CNT) biosensors using numerical simulation. The research is focusing on the electronic transport through CNTs that are exposed to various amino acids and short peptides. Using a combination of molecular dynamics, density functional theory, and quantum transport calculations we are able to predict how the adsorption of these peptides affects the transport through the tubes.
CMUT arrays promise a new generation of ultrasound imaging systems, with applications in 3D and 4D (real-time 3D) non-invasive imaging or high-frequency imaging (ultrasound biomicroscopy). The project targets the development of a portable CMUT-based ultrasound imaging system, to be used for breast cancer detection and monitoring.
Electrokinetic methods for isolation, concentration, and purification of pathogenic bacteria from complex media. Fabrication of integrated microfluidics for front-end purification followed by genetic and immunological characterization.
DEP setup
Compared to other patterning techniques, inkjet printing provides a very versatile and low cost microfabrication capability that can be used to implement organic electronic devices including printable sensors, transistors, LEDs, and photovoltaics. Inkjet technology can be used to pattern a variety of liquids including polymers, proteins, and various solvents. Inkjet patterns can be made on a variety of substrates and in 3D.
Inkjet patterning of mammalian cells
Reversible cell trapping in microfluidic channels using hydrogels
We are developing integrated microfluidic systems for the rapid and high-efficiency selection of nucleic acid aptamers.
A magnetically actuated MEMS scanner with a microfabricated ferromagnetic nickel platform and thermosetting polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microlens is demonstrated. The device is driven by an external AC magnetic field, eliminating chip circuitry and thermal deformation from joule heating. The resonant frequency of 215.2 Hz and scanning angle of 23 of the scanner have been demonstrated.
Protein adsorption at the biomaterial-tissue interface is the first and critical event that initializes a cascade of host responses, including platelet activation, blood coagulation, and complement activation.1 Many approaches have been used to prevent such non-specific biological interactions.This research is investigating an engineering surface that uses micromechanical vibration to minimize protein adsorption.
Biocompatible coatings for implantable polymer-based multielectrode arrays