Graduate Seminar Series

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Seminars are open to all MU and MCW BME students, as well as a limited number of non-student guests. To request an invitation to any or all upcoming seminars, contact Dr. Tanya Onushko.  

Upcoming Speakers | Seminar Archive

The MU-MCW Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering Fall ‘21 Graduate Seminar Series welcomes Biomedical Engineers from across the United States whose work exemplifies innovation in this diverse and critical field. With a range of interests spanning computational modeling, imaging, regenerative medicine, and more, seminars promise to present compelling new strategies to approaching some of the world’s most pressing medical opportunities.


Unless otherwise posted, all seminars will be held on Fridays from noon to 1 p.m. Some seminars may invite in-person attendees, and all seminars will be streamed virtually through Zoom. 


Fall '21 Speakers


Regine Choe, Ph.D.  September 03, 2021

Dr. Choe's research is focused on the development of diffuse optical methods for the clinical application of breast cancer diagnosis and therapy monitoring.

Learn more about Dr. Choe



Non-invasive Hemodynamic Monitoring of Bone, Brain and Breast Using Diffuse Optics

Diffuse optical tomography (DOT) and diffuse correlation tomography (DCT) are non-invasive three-dimensional hemodynamic imaging techniques that can probe deep tissue using light sources in the near-infrared spectral window (650–950 nm). By modeling the photon propagation in tissue, one can quantify oxygenated hemoglobin, deoxygenated hemoglobin, water and lipid concentrations with DOT, and blood flow with DCT. These intrinsic physiological parameters have great potential to assess therapeutic efficacy of various treatments. In addition, the use of non-ionizing radiation and technologically simple, fast, inexpensive instrumentation makes diffuse optical and correlation tomography attractive for translational research.


Jim Hokanson, Ph.D.  September 17, 2021

Dr. Hokanson's research interests include urologic function/dysfunction, electrical stimulation/neuromodulation therapies, signal processing and machine learning, clinical diagnostics, autonomic nervous system and organ physiology, and neural engineering.

Learn more about Dr. Hokanson



Improving Incontinence Therapy Outcomes with Electrical Stimulation and Improved Diagnostics

Urinary incontinence is prevalent (estimated to impact over 40% of women over 40), has a high cost-burden, and negatively impacts quality of life. Most therapies for treating urgency urinary incontinence fail to make patients dry. One study demonstrated that upwards of 90% of patients fail to respond to drug therapy and another demonstrated that less than 20% of drug-refractory patients become completely dry after Botox or sacral neuromodulation therapies. In my talk I’ll highlight experimental work aimed at improving incontinence therapy using electrical stimulation, as well as statistical modeling aimed at improving diagnosis and therapy selection. With both sets of examples I’ll demonstrate how important science often happens along the journey rather than, or in addition to, getting to the destination. Implications for translating electrical stimulation studies from animals to people will also be discussed.


Mark Pierce, Ph.D.  September 24, 2021

Dr. Pierce's lab develops novel optical imaging systems for applications ranging from basic biomedical research studies to clinical patient care. His lab also collaborates extensively with clinical partners in surgery, radiation oncology, pathology, and image analysis.

Learn more about Dr. Pierce



Short-wave Infrared Optical Imaging in Small Animal Models of Cancer 

Short-wave infrared (SWIR) light has several advantages for biomedical optical imaging applications.  SWIR light (900–1700 nm wavelengths) scatters less within tissue than near-infrared or visible light, resulting in sharper images.  Tissue autofluorescence is negligible in the SWIR region, minimizing background light and improving contrast.  Our lab is developing rare-earth doped nanocomposites as imaging contrast agents which generate light at SWIR wavelengths.  Encapsulation within an albumin shell renders these nanocomposites biocompatible, while also providing binding sites for molecular targeting ligands.  We have used these nanocomposites to label tumors in small animal models of breast and ovarian cancer, toward potential applications in pre-clinical drug screening, tracking of micrometastatic lesions, and image guided surgery.  This presentation will discuss challenges and opportunities in imaging these SWIR-emitting nanocomposites across macro and microscopic spatial scales. 


Bin Jiang, Ph.D.  October 01, 2021

Dr. Jiang is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and surgery. Their research interests include vascular regeneration, stem cells, biomaterials, and tissue engineering.

Learn more about Dr. Jiang



Autologous Vascular Regeneration for Peripheral Artery Disease with Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

The clinical translation of stem cell-based therapies for the treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD) is currently hindered by the lack of a defined cell source, sub-optimal delivery strategies, and unknown fate of administered cells. The advent of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) offers an exceptional opportunity for regenerating functional tissues for various diseases, including PAD. Nuclear imaging techniques together with reporter gene transgenic expression provide a highly sensitive, non-invasive tool to monitor the fate of viable transplanted cells in vivo. Furthermore, advanced functional biomaterial scaffolds that can deliver stem cells to the targeted tissues/organs and promote stem cell survival, differentiation and integration to host tissues may potentially transform the clinical outcome of stem-cell based regenerative therapies. In this seminar, I will cover our recent efforts in (1) generating autologous iPSC derived vascular endothelial cells (iPSC-ECs) as an autologous cell source for PAD patient vascular regeneration, (2) demonstrating non-invasive cell tracking in vivo using a clinical applicable non-invasive imaging technique, and (3) promoting long-term cell survival with advanced biomaterial design.  The hypotheses are: (1) the survival and biodistribution of iPSC-ECs expressing human sodium iodide symporter (hNIS) can be tracked non-invasively in vivo via Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography /Computed Tomography (SPECT/CT) without affecting EC functions; and (2) an antioxidant cell engraftment niche that promotes cell adhesion and spreading of iPSC-ECs, and supports vascular regeneration will reduce oxidative cell damage, improve cell engraftment and survival rate, and support limb revascularization. This study is essential to help establish optimized cell manufacturing protocols, develop cell preservation agents for limb revascularization, and develop cell tracking procedures to offer additional treatment options for PAD patients.


Alister Bates, Ph.D.  October 08, 2021

Dr. Bates' research focuses on human airways and how they change with various disease conditions, specifically airway behavior in children with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and premature babies born with tracheomalacia (TM) and congenital abnormalities. 

Learn more about Dr. Bates



Understanding Airway Movement Through CFD Simulations of Respiratory Airflow Based on Cine MRI 

Several respiratory diseases are caused by collapse and obstruction of the airway. In obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), this collapse occurs behind the tongue or soft palate, or in the larynx. In tracheomalacia, the trachea collapses. This talk will focus on both conditions; OSA in pediatric patients and tracheomalacia in neonates who are born prematurely. CFD simulations of respiratory airflow calculate many metrics that are clinically useful in understanding these conditions such as localized resistance, work of breathing, and pressure differences. However, to calculate these parameters in a moving airway, the airway motion must be realistically included in the simulation’s boundary conditions. One way to do this is to image airway motion using cine MRI, which provides a 3D airway image several times per second. The motion between each image can then be calculated via image registration and applied as a moving boundary condition. 

In OSA, CFD simulations with prescribed wall motion can be used to assess airway muscle tone and function by comparing how the airway wall moves with the aerodynamic pressures acting on the wall. Where the wall moves in a manner that cannot be explained by the pressure acting on it, muscular activity is the most likely cause of that motion. Given that the upper airway is made of highly dynamic structures such as the tongue, soft palate, and epiglottis, mapping muscular activity is an important consideration in understanding airway collapse in OSA. 

In neonates who are born prematurely, patients suffer abnormalities of both the lung parenchyma and the airway, in the form of tracheomalacia. Moving wall respiratory CFD simulations, allow the effect of the tracheomalacia to be calculated separately from the lung parenchymal issues which leads to individualized treatment plans to be designed for each baby. 


Daniel Beard, Ph.D.  October 15, 2021

Dr. Beard is a Professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and holds affiliate appointments in Biomedical Engineering and Emergency Medicine. His laboratory is focused on systems engineering approaches to understanding the biophysical and biochemical operation of physiological systems. 

Learn more about Dr. Beard



Metabolic and Mechanical Determinants of Reserve  Cardiac Power Output (What Determines Exercise Capacity?)

Changes in the myocardial energetics associated with aging and heart failure—reductions in creatine phosphate/ATP ratio, total creatine, and ATP—mirror changes observed in failing hearts compared to healthy controls. Similarly, both aging and heart failure are associated with significant reductions in cardiac performance and maximal left ventricular cardiac power output compared with young healthy individuals. Based on these observations, we hypothesize that reductions in the concentrations of cytoplasmic adenine nucleotide, creatine, and phosphate pools that occur with aging and age-associated disease impair the myocardial capacity to synthesize ATP at physiological free energy levels and that the resulting changes to myocardial energetic status impair the mechanical pumping ability of the heart. To test these hypotheses, to determine the potential impact of reductions in key myocardial metabolite pools in causing metabolic/energetic and cardiac mechanical dysfunction, we analyzed data on myocardial mechanics and energetics during voluntary exercise using a multiscale model of cardiac metabolism and mechanics.  Model simulations support the hypotheses and  provide a novel theoretical/computational framework for further probing complex relationships between the energetics and performance of the heart with aging.


David Cormode, Ph.D.  October 29, 2021

Dr. Cormode's research focuses on the development of novel and multifunctional nanoparticle contrast agents for medical imaging applications. A current major focus is the development of gold and bismuth nanoparticles as contrast agents for computed tomography (CT). 

Learn more about Dr. Cormode



Inorganic Nanoparticles for Multi-energy X-ray Imaging and Therapeutics  

X-ray based imaging has been used in medicine for the past 120 years. Despite the age of this technology, we are in an era of rapid innovation in x-ray imaging methods. In particular, multi-energy x-ray imaging (such as dual energy mammography) is becoming widely available to patients, and is providing benefits such as more accurate cancer detection. These new imaging technologies require novel contrast agents that are specifically aligned to them, to allow high contrast generation. The development of such novel contrast agents will be described. For example, silver-based nanoparticles that provide improved contrast in dual energy mammography and are highly biocompatible will be discussed. Specific and multiplexed detection of contrast agents such as gold nanoparticles with spectral photon-counting computed tomography will be presented. These agents are designed for clinical translation and so their biodegradation and excretion will be discussed. Applications of these agents/systems for tumor detection, vascular imaging and cell tracking will be described. Moreover, the use of these nanoparticles as anti-cancer and anti-biofilm agents will be reported. 


Christopher Pawela, Ph.D.  November 05, 2021

Dr. Pawela was awarded a Ph.D. in Biophysics from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 2008. He joined the MCW faculty immediately upon graduation with research interests that include brain connectivity and neural plasticity.

Learn more about Dr. Pawela



Neuroaugmentation in the Context of Peripheral Nerve Injury and Repair

Extremity injuries involving peripheral nerve damage are a significant medical risk for the modern warfighter. Nerve damage can result from blunt, penetrating, or compression injuries caused by explosions, projectiles, vehicular accidents, or other duty related events. Current treatment of peripheral nerve injuries by direct end-to-end microsurgical repair and nerve grafts/conduits is typically followed by incomplete recovery of sensorimotor function, abnormal phantom sensations, neuropathic pain, and muscle atrophy that often lead to permanent disability in veterans. Minimal advancement of treatment has been achieved in the last 30 years. To address this need, our novel treatment approach provides continuous electrical stimulation to the injured peripheral nerve immediately after nerve repair surgery through a bipolar nerve cuff electrode placed proximal to the repair site. This is based on our central hypothesis that the loss of normal sensory input to the central nervous system (CNS) leads to disordered neuroplasticity, and that surrogate activity provided by electrical stimulation of the injured nerve proximal to the injury can prevent the loss of connectivity between the CNS and the peripheral nervous system that otherwise leads to dysfunction. Our methodology is technologically similar to spinal cord stimulators (1968) and cardiac pacemakers (1958) which have been used clinically for over 50 years. In this seminar, data will be presented from pilot studies performed in an animal model that replicates many key features of clinical injury and rehabilitation. We have successfully applied our treatment approach in a rodent model following complete median nerve transection and repair. Our pilot studies, which were funded by a completed VA SPiRE grant, demonstrate a significant improvement in functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) measured brain response to median nerve stimulation, as well as skilled limb reaching performance as quantified by an automated behavioral device. Early pilot data also points to improvement in peripheral nerve regeneration after our treatment is applied, as measured by nerve conduction studies. Finally, we will discuss the optimization of treatment effectiveness of our novel methodology and future studies introducing impediments to regeneration that reflect clinical circumstances, such as interposed nerve grafts or conduits. The impact of various electrical stimulation patterns in neuroaugmentation will be discussed. Our goal is to first develop foundational work in animal models and proceed to eventual clinical translation for enhancing rehabilitation of injured veterans.


Harkamaljot "Rocky" S. Kandail, Ph.D.  November 12, 2021

Dr. Kandail is interested in Computer-Aided (Biomedical) Engineering with particular emphasis on the amalgamation of clinical imaging techniques such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging with computational cardiovascular biomechanics. He works to elucidate the role structural deformations and haemodynamics play in cardiovascular disease development and progression, along with designing novel biomedical devices to treat such diseases. Current approaches include computational fluid and solid mechanics along with fluid-structure interactions.

Learn more about Dr. Kandail



Fluid-Structure Interaction Simulations for Paediatric Heart Valves: Challenges, Solutions and Applications

Fluid-Structure Interaction (FSI) simulations are becoming increasingly popular with biomedical engineers to design bioprosthetic paediatric heart valves and with doctors to non-invasively assess the hemodynamic efficiency of the heart valves. However, given the dynamic nature of valve kinematics, many numerical challenges still hinder the complete and adequate translation of these FSI simulations from the lab to the clinic. The first aim of this talk is to summarise key numerical difficulties faced by researchers when developing FSI models for paediatric heart valves, such as extreme mesh deformation of the fluid domain that is associated with sudden opening and closing of the heart valves, resolving contact between the valve leaflets, and ensuring that the FSI simulations are physiologically and clinically realistic. The second aim of this talk is to share some novel and practical solutions to the challenges mentioned above. The third and final aim of this talk is to share a real-life application of this methodology to showcase how FSI simulations can be used to design radical monocusp valves for kids with the Tetralogy of Fallot.    

Lauren Sergio, Ph.D.  November 19, 2021

Dr. Sergio uses behavioral and brain imaging techniques to examine the effects of age, sex, neurological disease, head injury, and experience (elite versus non-elite  athletes) on the brain’s control of complex movement. Dr. Sergio works with a wide range of adult populations, including elite-level athletes and individuals affected by dementia.

Learn more about Dr. Sergio



The Wounded Brain: Assessing Function Pre-dementia and Post-concussion

Two prominent health issues facing individuals today are 1) the impact of dementing illness on the elderly and 2) the impact of concussion on young athletes and workers. Whether caused by trauma or degenerative disease, the effect of mild brain insult on one’s functional abilities is not well understood. I will review my group's research to date which shows that "cognitive-motor integration", or tasks which rely on rules to plan a movement (such as "push the computer mouse forward to move the cursor up"), is impaired both in the early stages of dementia (and even those with no symptoms but simply at risk for dementia), and after sustaining a concussion. I will also discuss the development of a clinical cognitive-motor assessment tool to detect dementia in its early stages, and to assess brain function following concussion. Finally, I will discuss my research into preserving brain health using cognitive-motor integration. 



Seminar Archive

For your convenience, the Department of Biomedical Engineering provides a complete seminar archive, dating back to 2016, when the Joint Department was formed between Marquette University and the Medical College of Wisconsin.  

View Seminar Archive