Explore Bioengineering

Cornell Engineering is combining the principles of biology with the tools of engineering to create new methods of mimicking and manipulating biological systems, both for medical and non-medical purposes. Researchers working in this area are engineering food, pharmaceuticals, energy, electronics and innovative new materials, including organoids, vaccines, biofuels, drug delivery systems such as nanoparticles to target cancer cells, body-on-a-chip microfluidic devices, and injectable gels made of living cells for 3D printing.

Bioengineering Research Draws Cornell Engineers from All Disciplines

Poets and songwriters have called the heart a wheel, a fist, a soldier, a flower, a compass, a drum, a Wiffle Ball, a lonely hunter and a drunken idiot, to name just a few of the metaphorical comparisons that organ has been subjected to over the years. With apologies to writers everywhere, the heart is none of these things. It certainly may share some qualities with each of the listed items, (though one would be hard-pressed to explain how the heart is like a Wiffle Ball), but, in the end, the heart is one thing: It is a pump.

This is a functional truth. Millions of years of evolution have crafted a very efficient biological pump that, in humans, will beat approximately two billion times in the average lifespan. As unromantic as it may sound, acknowledging that the heart is a pump opens up all sorts of possibilities for treating the number one cause of death in the United States—heart disease. Cornell electrical engineer Wilson Greatbatch ’50 took this functional approach to the heart and it led him to invent the first implantable cardiac pacemaker in 1960. His invention continues to save millions of lives each year.

This focus on the mechanical and electrical nature of the heart is emblematic of the approach to biology and biological systems you will find throughout the many schools and departments of Cornell Engineering. The most obvious connection between engineering and biology is seen in Cornell’s Nancy E. and Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering. But the connection really just begins there. Cornell Engineering offers 14 undergraduate engineering majors across a wide array of fields. And in each of the schools and departments there are tenured faculty whose work overlaps with that of biologists in some way. Read full story

Recent Research

Picture of Ben Cosgrove.

Muscle stem cells compiled in ‘atlas’

A team of Cornell researchers led by Ben Cosgrove, assistant professor in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, used a new cellular profiling technology to probe and catalog the activity of almost every kind of cell involved in muscle repair. They compiled their findings into a “cell atlas” of muscle regeneration that is one of the largest datasets of its kind.

Photo of Matt DeLisa

Engineered bacteria churn out cancer biomarkers

DeLisa’s lab has created these very tools by commandeering simple, single-celled microorganisms – namely E. coli bacteria – and engineering them to explore the complex process of glycosylation and the functional role that protein-linked glycans play in health and disease. 

Featured Researchers

Professor David A. Putnam

David A. Putnam

Putnam Group Website

Expertise: Using organic polymer chemistry and micro/molecular biology, build biomaterial from first principles and apply them to human health.

Professor Nozomi Nishimura

Nozomi Nishimura

Nishimura Lab Website

Expertise: Vasculture, immune, inflammatory systems and cells native to a tissue interact in disease states.

Professor Yi Wang

Yi Wang

Yi Wang Lab (Cornell MRI) Website

Expertise: Applying and developing data science, machine learning, optimization, physics, and statistical inference techniques for medical imaging and analysis.

Study could inform debate over arthritis treatment regulation

The debate over how one of the most popular osteoarthritis treatments should be federally regulated could change, thanks to a Cornell study providing a better understanding of the science behind hyaluronic acid (HA) injections. (Click here for full story)