UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering University of California San Diego
Pulse Subscribe | Archive | Survey

Multi-disciplinary Research Initiatives

As I shared with you in the last newsletter, the leadership of the Jacobs School has been working together to refocus our vision and plans for the next decade in response to the great engineering challenges that lie ahead. Evolving from our vision are several initiatives in which only a true multi-disciplinary effort will advance the science of the field. I would like to share with you a summary of some of the highlights from our recent faculty retreat, including our discussion on the focus areas of quantitative systems biology, biomedical devices, and information systems engineering. These initiatives offer exciting possibilities for fundamental research advances and build on the strengths of the Jacobs School, UCSD and our industry partners.

The sequencing of the human genome is spawning a new field dedicated to understanding living systems as a whole in a quantitative perspective driven by technology. Systems biology not only has the potential to revolutionize drug development, but could also help advance medical care through personalized diagnosis and treatment based on an individual's genetic make-up. Driven by unparalleled faculty depth and expertise in bioinformatics, bioengineering, and biology, a campus-wide initiative in systems biology, bioinformatics and bioengineering was started last year. Here, not just the UCSD campus, but also surrounding research institutes such as Salk, Burnham, and The Scripps Research Institute, make San Diego a unique home for multi-disciplinary research and discoveries in this evolving field. Systems Biology builds on the leadership of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) in data storage and management. Likewise the Jacobs School's Departments of Bioengineering and Computer Science and Engineering have already built what is arguably the strongest bioinformatics and systems biology faculty group in the country.

UCSD is a recognized leader in telecommunications and information science and technology, fully supported by industry through their commitment to Cal-(IT)2. SDSC is a leading player in the National Science Foundation's Cyberinfrastructure initiative. In addition to full participation in Cal-(IT)² and SDSC, the Jacobs School continues its leadership in the Center for Wireless Communications and the Center for Magnetic Recording Research. The School is also launching a new initiative in networked systems which will focus on robust, secure, open, and manageable networked systems. We must now leverage these many strengths to become the leader in the design and engineering of large-scale information systems and networks.

The health sciences rely more and more on engineering to make advances through new materials, devices, and processes. In particular, engineering contributions to advance medicine are rapidly increasing not just in bioengineering, but also in electrical engineering with BIOMEMs and organic circuits, in computer science with embedded micro systems, and in mechanical engineering with systems control and nano-positioning of probes and biomedical imaging devices. Extensive interactions are ongoing between the Jacobs School, School of Medicine, the physical sciences, and the biological sciences in these areas, driven and supported by advances in sensors and sensor networks, visualization and data management. Strategic resource allocations and co-location of cross-disciplinary research teams can establish UCSD as true leader in medical innovations. The fact that we can develop smaller, smarter, and cheaper sensors and actuators, and that we can remotely and wirelessly monitor and control their function and interaction, will lead to new ways of monitoring, diagnosing, and treating patients. Significant advances are currently made in mechanical, biological, and chemical devices and processes in direct collaboration with the medical clinical profession. Expansion of the medical research community based on engineering training and development is inevitable.

As we continue to push forward in research, we are also exploring complimentary education initiatives to lead the country in the development of human capital for these exciting focus areas. I look forward to sharing our progress with you in future issues of the newsletter.

Frieder Seible