Prof. Shepard Heads New Multi-Disciplinary IGERT

July 28, 2008

Electrical Engineering Professor Kenneth Shepard is the principal investigator on a new $3 million grant, part of NSF’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program.  This IGERT grant will train doctoral students in the application of advanced optical techniques to better understand biological systems.  The goals of this multidisciplinary program recognize that progress in biology and medicine relies increasingly on methods, approaches, and strategies from the physical sciences and engineering. This new IGERT program at Columbia will be known as the Center for Optical Techniques for Actuation, Sensing and Imaging of Biological Systems.
The faculty team includes 19 Columbia faculty members representing nine departments in six Columbia University schools.  The Columbia team is joined by Swapan Gayen, professor of physics at CUNY.  Faculty participants are experts in one of three technical focus areas—optics, photonics and sensor electronics; biomolecular detection and cellular-level analysis; and applications to medicine and public health.  Faculty will team to advise students across traditional departmental lines, creating a unique advising environment for Ph. D. students supported by the Center.

“We are excited by this support from the National Science Foundation,” says Professor Shepard. “It recognizes the unique multidisciplinary environment that exists at Columbia in which faculty across schools and departments actively and regularly collaborate to address new multidisciplinary research problems.  We now have additional resources to support these efforts and train a new generation of graduate students.”

SEAS co-principal investigators are Tony Heinz, David M. Rickey Professor of Optical Communications in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Professor of Physics; Andreas Hielscher, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering; and Jingyue Ju, Professor of Chemical Engineering. Rafael Yuste, Professor of Biological Sciences, is also a co-PI.