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The National Science Foundation has awarded a $138,000 grant to Yih-Choung Yu, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, that enhances research and classroom learning opportunities for students in the biomedical laboratory he has established in Acopian Engineering Center. It will further his cutting-edge research in biomedicine and enable students to receive technical training rarely available for undergraduates.

The primary purposes of the grant are to provide faculty and students, particularly in the electrical and computer engineering department, access to high-end instrumentation equipment to conduct research projects and for research training in signal processing, control, and bioengineering.

Yu has conducted research with several Lafayette students in modeling the human cardiovascular system and developing optimal ventricular-assist (heart) devices. More will participate in these areas and others through independent studies, yearlong honors theses, and EXCEL Scholars collaborations with Yu and other professors.

Previously, Yu received a grant from the Lindback Foundation, which he and three students used to develop a mock circulatory system for research to improve testing procedures for ventricular-assist devices and enhance cardiovascular physiology instruction. The loop simulates key blood pressures and flows in the systemic circulation of the human cardiovascular system. The NSF grant funds the continued enhancement of the mock circulatory loop as well as development and testing of a controller for ventricular-assist devices.

These devices have been used as bridge-to-transplant or bridge-to-recovery devices for heart failure patients. Researchers usually rely on animal testing to understand the interaction between the cardiovascular system and the devices. Yu has worked to minimize the use of animals for heart-assist device testing, which is expensive and often inaccurate.

Bioengineering is a rapidly emerging, multidisciplinary field in which hands-on experiences are extremely important, says Yu. Thanks to the grant, students pursuing a minor in bioengineering will have more opportunities for work involving fluid mechanics, cardiovascular physiology, electromechanical devices, instrumentation, signal processing, automatic control, and computer programming.

“Lafayette’s pedagogic emphasis encourages students to work closely with faculty on shared research interests,” says Yu. “Acquisition of this equipment will enable me to make the mock circulatory system development project successful. Upon completion, Lafayette College will be a unique undergraduate institution that provides research opportunities in cardiovascular engineering and ventricular-assist device development, thereby providing technical training rarely found at the undergraduate level.”

In addition to research outside the classroom, the continued development of the mock circulatory system will offer hands-on experiences for students in electrical and computer engineering courses such as Automatic Control, Modeling and Simulation of Biomedical Systems, Bioinstrumentation, and Biomedical Signal Processing.

Yu and Farhan Ahmed ’05 (Utter Pradesh, India) collaborated with James Antaki, owner of Antakamatics, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based company that hopes to manufacture the improved artificial heart testing system. He calls the professor a caring and helpful mentor.

“He gave me space and freedom,” he says. “I experimented and learned in my own way, but I went to him for guidance if I was stuck.”

Matthew Loh ’04 (Singapore) helped design the mock circulatory system with Yu and presented his research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research; the Northeast Bioengineering Conference, which published the research paper in its proceedings; and at a session sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society. In addition, Yu presented their research at the American Control Conference, which gave him its Best Technical Presenter Award and published the paper in its proceedings.

Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I-AA Football All-Star Team member Christopher Royle ’03 (Stockton, N.J.), who helped build the mock circulatory system, notes that “with the college’s resources and Dr. Yu’s experience, the atmosphere [at Lafayette] is conducive to this type of research.”

Other electrical and computer engineering students who have collaborated with Yu on the research program include Joshua Porter ’06 (Pittstown, N.J.), Simon Mushi ’06 (Gaborone, Botswana), and Pujitha Weerakoon ’04 (Kandy, Sri Lanka), who earned third place for his oral presentation in the undergraduate division at the Northeast Bioengineering Conference.

“The ability to pursue research at the undergraduate level has been an influential factor for many Lafayette students who continue their studies in graduate schools throughout the country,” says Yu. “This equipment provides research facilities that will enable students to experience the underlying scientific and technical principles in biomedical research and carry those skills onto graduate studies. The impact of the acquisition of this equipment on Lafayette’s electrical and computer engineering department is dramatic, significantly enhancing the bioengineering research potential of the students and faculty and, with the integration of the equipment into various courses, expanding the research training of our students.”

Also benefiting are other engineering and natural science departments on campus with students working in biomedical studies, he adds.

Yu has authored more than 20 articles published in journals and conference proceedings in his field. He has presented his research at conferences throughout the United States and abroad, including the 39th Control and Decision Conference in Sydney, Australia; the 14th annual International Federation of Automatic Control World Conference in Beijing, China; the International Federation of Automatic Control 15th World Congress in Barcelona, Spain; the 5th IEEE Mediterranean Conference on Control and Systems in Paphos, Cyprus; and the Waseda International Congress of Modeling and Simulation Technology for Artificial Organs in Tokyo, Japan. He was a session co-chair at the 13th IFAC World Congress in San Francisco, Calif, where he won the Travelship Award.

He holds a U.S. patent for a non-invasive flow indicator for a rotary blood pump and an international patent for a method and system for closed chest blood support. He has been listed in Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, Who’s Who of Americans, and International Who’s Who of Professionals. He serves as a technical committee member on biomedical engineering in the International Association of Science and Technology for Developmentand belongs to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Biomedical Engineering Society. He is a former reviewer for the American Society of Artificial Internal Organs Journal.

Yu earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, a master’s from Binghamton University, and a bachelor’s from Chinese Culture University in Taipei, Taiwan. Before joining the Lafayette faculty in 2001, he was a visiting research associate, graduate student researcher, and teaching assistant in the Artificial Heart Program at University of Pittsburgh. He previously was an instructor at Fu-Hsing Technical High School in Taipei, Taiwan. In addition, Yu has worked as a research manager and project engineer at Cardiac Assist Technologies, Inc. in Pittsburgh.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty-two students were accepted to present their work at last year’s annual conference.

Categorized in: Academic News