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On the forefront of constructing with biology

Ritu Raman, the d’Arbeloff Profession Growth Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, focuses on constructing with biology, utilizing dwelling cells. Picture: David Sella

By Daniel de Wolff | MIT Industrial Liaison Program

It could appear that engineering is in Ritu Raman’s blood. Her mom is a chemical engineer, her father is a mechanical engineer, and her grandfather is a civil engineer. A typical thread amongst her childhood experiences was witnessing firsthand the helpful affect that engineering careers might have on communities. One in all her earliest reminiscences is watching her mother and father construct communication towers to attach the agricultural villages of Kenya to the worldwide infrastructure. She recollects the thrill she felt watching the emergence of a bodily manifestation of innovation that may have an enduring optimistic affect on the group.  

Raman is, as she places it, “a mechanical engineer via and thru.” She earned her BS, MS, and PhD in mechanical engineering. Her postdoc at MIT was funded by a L’Oréal USA for Ladies in Science Fellowship and a Ford Basis Fellowship from the Nationwide Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medication.

As we speak, Ritu Raman leads the Raman Lab and is an assistant professor within the Division of Mechanical Engineering. However Raman isn’t tied to conventional notions of what mechanical engineers ought to be constructing or the supplies sometimes related to the sphere. “As a mechanical engineer, I’ve pushed again in opposition to the concept individuals in my discipline solely construct vehicles and rockets from metals, polymers, and ceramics. I’m fascinated about constructing with biology, with dwelling cells,” she says.

Our machines, from our telephones to our vehicles, are designed with very particular functions. And so they aren’t low cost. However a dropped telephone or a crashed automobile might imply the tip of it, or on the very least an costly restore invoice. For essentially the most half, that isn’t the case with our our bodies. Organic supplies have an unparalleled skill to sense, course of, and reply to their surroundings in real-time. “As people, if we minimize our pores and skin or if we fall, we’re capable of heal,” says Raman. “So, I began questioning, ‘Why aren’t engineers constructing with the supplies which have these dynamically responsive capabilities?’”

Nowadays, Raman is targeted on constructing actuators (units that present motion) powered by neurons and skeletal muscle that may train us extra about how we transfer and the way we navigate the world. Particularly, she’s creating millimeter-scale fashions of skeletal muscle managed by the motor neurons that assist us plan and execute motion in addition to the sensory neurons that inform us how to reply to dynamic adjustments in the environment.

Finally, her actuators could information the best way to constructing higher robots. As we speak, even our most superior robots are a far cry from having the ability to reproduce human movement — our skill to run, leap, pivot on a dime, and alter path. However bioengineered muscle made in Raman’s lab has the potential to create robots which are extra dynamically aware of their environments.


MIT Information



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