Mr. Hansen Bow, a doctoral student in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has been awarded the Helen Carr Peake Research Assistantship for September 2009 through August 2010. Mr. Bow’s doctoral research is being done in the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) under the supervision of Prof. Jongyoon Han. Mr. Theodore Moallem and Mr. Christopher Rohde have won Helen Carr Peake Research Prizes for 2009. Mr. Moallem, who is a doctoral student in the Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology Program in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, is working under the joint supervision of Prof. Louis Braida, Dr. Charlotte Reed, and Mr. Nathaniel Durlach in RLE. Mr. Rohde is a doctoral student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science whose research is being supervised by Prof. Mehmet Fatih Yanik in RLE.

Mr. Bow’s doctoral research — which is about developing microfluidic devices to fractionate cells efficiently and accurately — was motivated by his experience in the Graduate Education in Medical Sciences (GEMS) program within the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST). In particular, Mr. Bow is pursuing the goal of high-throughput, rare cell sorting based on the mechanical flexibility of cells. In biology and diagnostics, sorting and collecting rare cells contained in large cell populations is an important technological challenge. Moreover, there are many diseases, including malaria and cancer, which are known to change the mechanical flexibility of cells. So far, Mr. Bow has designed and fabricated his device, and performed successful proof-of-principle experiments using glutaraldehyde-treated red blood cells. This work was presented at the MicroTAS 2008 meeting. Mr. Bow is presently working with Dean Subra Suresh at MIT and Prof. C. T. Lim at the National University of Singapore on using his device for sorting malaria-infected red blood cells.

Mr. Moallem’s doctoral research is concerned with the development of tactual speech-communication aids for the deaf and deaf/blind. It is based on the use of the tactual sensory system as a substitute for hearing, and involves the development of strategies for encoding acoustic signals for display to the skin. His experiments have established that deaf individuals are capable of taking advantage of temporally-derived speech cues that are the basis of a tactual aid for lip reading. More generally, Mr. Moallem is deeply committed to applying technology to solve problems faced by persons with sensory disabilities, including and especially such persons living in underdeveloped nations. Thus, he has developed a Braille pencil, a lightweight device using inexpensive materials that allows the user to produce Braille in the same left-to-right direction that it is read. He has also invented a Braille labeler, which enables the user to produce Braille dot patterns with a single template using Scotch tape that can be conveniently applied to the surface of objects that are to be labeled.

Mr. Rohde’s doctoral research is aimed at developing technologies for high-throughput neurobiology and neuroscience. He has developed the world’s first on-chip, high-throughput, whole-animal screening technology. It is a microfluidic technology that can dramatically accelerate — by two or three orders of magnitude — current genome-wide assays and drug screens on small animals like C. elegans. He has also developed microfluidic technology to immobilize physiologically active animals of this class without anesthesia. Using his chips in conjunction with femtosecond laser nanosurgery, Mr. Rohde has performed the first in vivo chemical screen to identify compounds that enhance neural regeneration after injury. He has recently identified several drug candidates that significantly enhance neural regeneration in C. elegans without toxicity. Mr. Rohde’s research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and in Lab on a Chip.

The Helen Carr Peake Fund, which supports these awards, was established to honor the late wife of Professor William T. Peake. The selection of Mr. Bow was done by a committee consisting of Professor Dennis M. Freeman (MIT/RLE), Professor Jeffrey H. Shapiro (MIT, Director RLE), Professor M. Charles Liberman (Harvard, Director EPL), Professor William T. Peake (MIT/RLE/EPL) and Professor John L. Wyatt (MIT/RLE).

Related Links:

Helen Carr Peake Fund

Eaton-Peabody Laboratory (EPL)

RLE Micro / Nanofluidic BioMEMS Group

RLE Sensory Communication Group

RLE BioPhotonics, BioScreening and NanoManipulation Group

Harvard-MIT Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience Technology (SHBT)

Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology