Public Release: 

IGERT fellows to design biodevices using flexible electronics

Cornell University

Growing interest in using flexible electronics for next-generation biomedical devices has prompted the creation of a new graduate student research program at Cornell, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Cornell's Nanobiotechnology Center (NBTC) has received $3.2 million over five years from NSF's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. Recruited IGERT fellows will work in teams to design and test biodevices -- from biologically compliant neural implants to wireless drug delivery -- using flexible electronics.

Called the FlexEBio research grant, the program will focus on: biosensors; the material-biology interface; and flexible implantable electronics for medical monitoring, diagnostics and therapeutics.

The broad research area of flexible electronics has been developing over the past decade, said Christopher Ober, the F.N. Bard Professor of Materials Engineering and principal investigator. Such efforts have to date produced flexible displays and flat-panel lighting, as well as circuitry printed onto flat, plastic substrates -- using methods similar to how an inkjet printer prints on paper.

Scientists have begun to combine potentially low-cost printing methods with biomedical applications, which is where Cornell's new IGERT fellows will do their research.

"Over the next decade, I think Cornell has the opportunity to have an enormous impact in the biomedical area of flexible electronics, and this work will spill into other areas as well," Ober said.

Over the next five years, the IGERT funding will bring a total of between 30 and 40 fellows to Cornell, as well as to program partners SUNY Binghamton and the University of Albany/Wadsworth Center. Each IGERT fellow will work on team research projects, which will be based at one of these core institutions. Existing partnerships with Lincoln University, Howard University and Clark Atlanta University will allow students at these institutions to participate in the Cornell-based team research efforts, called Team Focus Projects.

These student project teams will design sensors and other biodevices that incorporate the most recent advances in biocompatible materials and flexible electronics, explained Graham Kerslick, associate director of the NBTC. Some of the students also will work in labs overseas at such partner institutions as Seoul National University in Korea and Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

IGERT fellows will take courses in areas where materials science, biology and other applications converge, and students from other institutions will participate in the courses through such distance-learning technologies as videoconferencing.

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