History of Biomechanics Program

Don and Al with New York Map

Cornell’s most successful collaboration between its College of Engineering in Ithaca and its Medical Center in New York City has been through a program originally developed between the University’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). The original Cornell-Hospital for Special Surgery Program in Biomechanical Engineering,  was created in 1978 to formalize strong ties between the two institutions to promote collaborative research, teaching patient care projects. Now reimagined as the Center for Advanced Materials and Engineering in Orthopaedics (CAMEO), the Program has served as a model for linkage programs between the Ithaca and New York City campuses, fostering educational and research programs between engineering faculty and students at Cornell and clinical and research staff at HSS. The Program was also instrumental in the development of the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell, which has broadened the linkage beyond biomechanics to include other biomedical program such as nanobiotechnology, imaging, instrumentation, and tissue engineering.

Hospital for Special Surgery is the orthopaedic component of Weill Cornell Medicine. Most scientists and physicians at the Hospital hold Weill Cornell faculty appointments and several hold Cornell Ithaca graduate faculty appointments as well. The Hospital is a private, not-for-profit academic healthcare institution specializing in orthopaedics and rheumatology. For many years it has been ranked first among hospitals in orthopaedics for ten straight years by US News and World Report.

Over the years, the Program has fostered collaborations between HSS research scientists and clinicians and Cornell faculty and students in disciplines including mechanical engineering, materials science, civil engineering, polymer science, chemical engineering, veterinary medicine, and statistics. As a part of the program staff from HSS travel to Ithaca to teach students at both the undergraduate and graduate level and faculty from Cornell travel to New York to teach medical students and residents. Faculty from the HSS Department of Biomechanics also serve as thesis committee members and advisors for students seeking MS and PhD degrees at the Ithaca campus. The Program also facilitates access to equipment and resources to researchers at both locations, including research cores at HSS and Weill Cornell, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Cornell Nanobiotechnology Center and the Cornell Center for Materials Research.

In 1998 with support from a Whitaker Foundation Special Opportunity award the Program developed an immersion experience to allow graduate students to spend extended periods in New York City for research and for medical students or residents to spend time in Ithaca. The immersion experience for Ithaca-based graduate students has become a part of the field of biomedical engineering’s graduate curriculum.

The immersion experience is directed by Professor Lawrence Bonassar, Daljit S. and Elaine Sarkaria Professor in Biomedical Engineering, in close collaboration with Suzanne Maher, PhD, the Associate Director of the HSS Department of Biomechanics. This program has the strong support of the Dean of the College of Engineering, the Chief Scientific Officer, the Surgeon-in-Chief, and the CEO of HSS.