Department of Bio Engineering

Head of Department: Prof. Paolo B. Pascolo (e-mail)

Biomedical engineering is the application of the principles of physics, chemistry and engineering to the study of living systems. It often involves the evaluation of physical and chemical properties of materials, measurement and analysis of kinetic, kinematic, electric and magnetic quantities, as well as the development and/or use of modelling and simulation. Its main applications encompass, among others, medicine, physical and occupational therapy, engineering, kinesiology, and the arts.
More in details, biomedical engineering consists in the application of engineering principles to biological systems in general and to living organism and to humans in particular. Its goals are several and include:
• to provide a better understanding of how human and living organisms function and interact with their environment, both when healthy and when affected by diseases;
• to create and improve diagnostic, therapeutic and assistive medical devices, including but not limited to prostheses, artificial limbs, implants (from dental to cardiovascular, from orthopaedic to neurological), and assistive devices (from wheelchairs to hearing aids, from incubators to heart-lung machines);
• to improve performance, especially when related to sport, to help coaches and trainers to select the best training routine for their athletes, based on endurance or power, and to ensure that the training exercises are done in the correct way as well with the desired benefits;
• to reduce health risks and improve quality of life and safety, from fall prevention to occupational therapy, from work place safety to road safety both from a device point of view (making them intrinsically safer for the operator with active and passive safety systems) and from a operator/occupant point of view (making sure they are “fit for duty”).
To realize its potential it requires the active collaboration not just of individuals from the academic and scientific communities, but from all walks of life, including the public. In fact, a biomedical researcher must be willing to be “flexible” and to be knowledgeable not only in classical engineering topics from all branches of engineering (in particular mechanical, electrical, electronics, and nuclear engineering), but also in subjects typically associated with medicine and other fields. But this is also what makes biomedical engineering a very challenging yet rewarding, highly interdisciplinary field of study: it forces the researcher to expand his or her field of interest, in a continuous learning process.
The mission of the biomedical engineering department is to foster the exchange of information and ideas and to provide educational opportunities in all areas of biomedical engineering through seminars, conferences, technical and scientific publications and online activities.
Current and recent activities:
• automotive and road safety not only in terms of the interactions of between vehicle and its occupants but also between the occupants and the environment as well as between the vehicle and pedestrians, motorcyclists and guar-rail impacts (the Dept. Director have received in 2012 a medal from the President of Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano);
• Analysis of the biomechanical behavior of the hand-arm system and syncing it to the opening of the mouth of children with autism (published on JEEK, 2012)
• Posturography studies in order to evaluate the neurological control and the ability to adapt to conditions of equilibrium perturbed (published 2 paper on Biomed. Sci Instr., 2012)
• Analysis of the biomechanical behavior of the hand-arm system and its synchronization with the neuronal activity in with surface microelectrode on brain-cortex in order to verify the reliability of the theory of the mirror neuron system MNS (a “reader” comment on Nature, 2012 and a invited correspondence (in progress))
• the investigation of the vestibular system as part of the control systems humans use to maintain equilibrium, and its interactions with the rest of the control and actuator systems (the nervous and musculo-skeletal systems);
• the mechanics of the hip joint, including modelling of algic phenomena and hip prosteses;
• the psychophysical effects on of alcohol, sleep deprivation, over-the-counter and prescription medications, legal and illegal drugs and their impairment effects on daily activities;
• whiplash modelling;
• development of instrumentations and methodologies to assist in the aforementioned fields of research.