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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

UCSD Bioengineering Professor Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

San Diego, CA, February 11, 2005 -- Geert Schmid-Schönbein, a professor of bioengineering and an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Schmid-Schönbein is an expert on experimental and mathematical tools used to identify mechanism of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and shock.

 Geert holding his glasses
 Geert Schmid-Schönbein
Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature” and to the “pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.”

The academy named Schmid-Schönbein and 73 new members on February 11, which brings the total number of academy members at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering to 14 and the U.S. membership to 2,195.

"We're extremely excited about Geert's election to the Academy," said Shu Chien, chairman of UCSD's Department of Bioengineering. "It is a well-deserved recognition for all the marvelous contributions in bioengineering research and education Geert has made not only in our department but also for the discipline of bioengineering as a whole. His election to the NAE is a great honor for him, and he also brings honor to the department, the school and the university."

Schmid-Schönbein has contributed to the understanding of diseases and health conditions in which one of the body’s chief defense mechanisms – inflammation – escalates to the point of causing severe harm, even death. “We are working on ways to attenuate the inflammation that is seen in many human diseases, and as a way to address prevention we are searching for an understanding of trigger mechanisms that initiate inflammation in the first place,” said Schmid-Schönbein. “We believe that bioengineers should be engaged in the search for that understanding.”

Schmid-Schönbein was born in 1948 in Baden Wurttemberg, Germany, became a U.S. citizen, and received a Ph.D. in bioengineering from UCSD in 1976. After a three-year post-doctoral fellowship at Columbia University, Schmid-Schönbein returned to UCSD in 1979 as an assistant professor. Some of his early research discoveries involved the behavior of infection-fighting white blood cells. Using engineering techniques, he made the first determination of the force with which white blood cells adhere to the walls of blood vessels as part of the initial process of inflammation. Later, he concluded that the survival of an acutely ill patient can hinge on the degree to which white blood cells are activated. Recently his group discovered a mechanism that leads to activation of white blood cells, which is due to digestive enzymes and may cause cardiovascular disease.

Schmid-Schönbein collaborates with medical doctors on a variety of clinical studies, and he has helped organize international symposia on topics at the intersection of medicine and engineering. “Throughout his career, Geert has gone above and beyond what could be expected to be an active participant in NIH (National Institutes of Health) advisory groups that establish research priorities,” said John T. Watson, a professor of bioengineering and a former director of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, a unit of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “Society at large has benefited from his skills as a researcher and his commitment to the public welfare.”

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