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A strong collaboration with Stanford School of Medicine

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May 2016

At Stanford School of Engineering we aspire to lead and participate in the development of technologies that will help in answering questions related to some of the world’s most urgent challenges. These issues are complex and multidimensional. Finding solutions will require our faculty to work together, across the boundaries of the school’s nine departments and alongside our colleagues in Stanford University’s seven schools.

One critical place where our faculty have had an incredibly productive collaboration for many years is in the area of human health and well-being. The success of this effort provides a roadmap for the creation of partnerships throughout the university and is reflected in the fact that one-third of our Engineering faculty actively collaborate with researchers and scholars at Stanford School of Medicine.

Some of these collaborations are initiated from within the Bioengineering Department, a joint venture between the Schools of Engineering and Medicine launched in 2002 under the leadership of the then-deans of the two schools, Jim Plummer at Engineering and Philip Pizzo at the School of Medicine. The department is dedicated to fusing engineering and the life sciences to promote scientific discovery and the invention of new technologies and therapies. Its faculty and students work on extraordinary innovations that would have been quite literally unimaginable just a short time ago.

Other faculty engage with colleagues across the university through a variety of other programs. Among them is Bio-X, launched in 1998 to conduct research on challenges in bioscience. More recently, in 2013, ChEM-H was launched to bring together biologists, chemists, engineers, and clinicians to study human biology at the molecular level and apply that knowledge to create products and services that promote health.

Last month, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the creation of Stanford Biodesign, which brings together scholars from the Schools of Medicine and Engineering and beyond with industry leaders and students to develop products and services that have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world. At its heart, Biodesign is a process, and a tremendously powerful one, that begins with analyzing, framing, and defining the clinical need as the critical first step in innovation. It has had a literally life-changing impact.

We are at a special moment at the intersections of health, medicine, and engineering. Although the challenges are legion, through advances in synthetic biology, precision control and measurement, genomics, big data, and machine learning, we can now bring to bear new techniques, processes, and ways of thinking to challenges once believed to be insurmountable.

The School of Medicine is critical to our success — and vice versa. We expect that our many relationships there will continue, grow, and flourish. We believe this wonderful history and level of collaboration is a model for how we can work with other schools and disciplines to bring together the finest and most creative minds to focus on some of the world’s most complex challenges.

Persis Drell

Frederick Emmons Terman Dean, Stanford School of Engineering 
James and Anna Marie Spilker Professor in the School of Engineering
​Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Physics, Stanford University