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The Next Generation of Inventors: The Case for Combining Medical Education and Engineering Education

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

4:00 PM-5:30 PM

BIOMED Seminar

The Next Generation of Inventors: The Case for Combining Medical Education and Engineering Education at Microscopic and Macroscopic Scales

Sujata K. Bhatia, MD, PhD, PE
Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Director of Biomedicine Graduate Programs
Drexel University College of Medicine

The COVID-19 pandemic, layered upon the existing opioid epidemic and the global dual burden of chronic and infectious disease, has highlighted the need for courageous and creative innovators who are cognizant of the societal impact of innovation. In this talk, I will describe my work in interdisciplinary engineering education and novel training programs, including (1) an intensive course on Sustainable Materials for Medical Applications, combining agriculture, medicine, and engineering; (2) an original first-year Honors colloquium on the Grand Challenges for Innovation, combining philosophy, ethics, and engineering; (3) a new course for undergraduate and graduate students on Acceptance and Resistance to Innovation, combining entrepreneurship, economics, and engineering; and (4) a university-wide seminar for undergraduate and graduate students on Contemplation and Technological Change, combining sociology, psychology, and engineering. Each of these programs align with the Grand Challenges for Engineering as set forth by the National Academy of Engineering, as well as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

I will then describe the pressing need for combining medicine with engineering at both the microscopic and macroscopic levels. At the microscopic scale, new training programs in immune engineering are necessary for vaccines, immunotherapies, cell therapies, and gene therapies. At the macroscopic scale, new training programs in pandemic preparedness are necessary for resilient infrastructure, and new training programs in pharmaceutical manufacturing are necessary to address opioid addiction.  

Over sixty years ago, President John F. Kennedy noted, “There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race.” These words remain relevant during our current global pandemic. It is our responsibility to create not only inventions, but also a new generation of inventors, who will write the next generation of engineering and medical textbooks. Our society depends on it.  

Sujata K. Bhatia, MD, PhD, PE, is a physician, bioengineer, and professionally licensed chemical engineer. She is a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Director of Biomedicine Graduate Prograsm at Drexel University College of Medicine. She received her undergraduate degrees in chemical engineering, biology, and biochemistry from the University of Delaware in 1999, and she received her MD/PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. Her experience spans industry and academia. From 2003 to 2011, she worked for the DuPont company, on the preclinical and clinical development of tissue adhesives for wound closure, microspheres for tumor treatment, and omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular health. From 2011 to 2016, Dr. Bhatia was a Lecturer and Assistant Director for Undergraduate Studies in Biomedical Engineering at Harvard University. From 2016 to 2021, she was a full Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. She continues to be an affiliated faculty member for the Harvard Summer School and the Harvard Extension School. She has served on panels and committees for the National Academy of Engineering, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Institute of Medicine, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society for Engineering Education, United States Department of Health and Human Services, United States Department of State, and United States Department of Defense.

Dr. Bhatia has been an invited keynote speaker for the National Science Olympiad and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. She has served as an international lecturer and panelist for scientific organizations in Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Chile, Ireland, and Denmark. She was chosen by the National Academy of Engineering for U.S. Frontiers of Engineering in 2005; Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering in 2006; a co-organizer of Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering in 2007; and the Keck Futures Initiative and U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Education in 2013.  

At Harvard College, Dr. Bhatia was awarded the John R. Marquand Award for Exceptional Advising and Counseling of Harvard Students in 2012; the Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Advising and Mentoring in 2013; and the Star Prize for Excellence in Advising in 2013. In 2014, she was chosen by the American Society for Engineering Education for the "20 Under 40" list of top twenty engineering educators in the nation under the age of 40. Dr. Bhatia was voted as a Harvard Yearbook Favorite Professor for three consecutive years in 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2019, she was the invited keynote speaker for the Bioengineering Graduate Research Symposium at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2021, she was an invited speaker for the EU Chapter of the Grand Challenges Scholars Program for the National Academy of Engineering.

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