Biology in our DNA!

Friday, Feb. 3, 2023

Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,

Happy Friday!

Topic: Biology in our DNA

Working with engineers, scientists and physicians during my years at Johns Hopkins University was enlightening in many ways. At the same time, there was the nagging recognition that medicine, and in particular delivery of medicine, was noticeably under-engineered. From macro to micro delivery of care, regardless of modes and mechanisms, I could envision the gains that engineering disciplines could offer to improve patient care. Ranging from improved integration of ICU devices to better precision radiation, targeted delivery of medicine to treat embedded disease and even the proper distribution of donated organs, I could see, and at times articulated, approaches toward operational efficiencies.

Given my background, I am delighted to report that S&T has long been involved in efforts to address and improve the delivery of health care. In fact, biology and biological sciences are in our DNA dating back to nearly 100 years ago. Dr. Ida Bengtson, one of the leading public health scientists of the 1920s, came to Rolla in 1924 to lead research on trachoma. In an article in Lady Science, Dr. Kathleen Sheppard, associate professor of history at S&T, described Bengtson as the “best bacteriologist” in the U.S. Public Health Service, whose previous successes “made her a prime candidate to lead the charge against trachoma infection in the Ozarks.” In addition to her research, Dr. Bengtson taught bacteriology to our students, had a lab in the basement of Parker Hall, and developed a test during her career with the NIH that is still used today to detect Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

The confluence where the physical sciences and engineering meet biological sciences and medicine is poised to become one of the greatest areas of academic and scientific research ever imagined, and we are prepared to play an important role in these fields of the future.

Our work in bio-related fields has flown under the radar over the years, but S&T’s contributions to biology, medicine, public health and related fields have deep historic roots. In fact, the same spirit of innovation that propelled Dr. Bengtson to establish leading research continues today among S&T faculty, students and research scientists. Our researchers are using their expertise from many disciplines to address important life science challenges in creative, innovative ways.

Just to list a few and to highlight that this is only the beginning for us here at S&T. We are working on new academic programs to further broaden our research into what we call “bio-X,” where the “X” can stand for “engineering,” “informatics,” “materials” and other related fields.

Further, given that many engineering students pursue medical degrees, we are in the early planning phases of creating an engineering/science-to-medicine pathway similar to work done at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine and Texas A&M University’s Engineering Medicine Program.

Nearsighted, farsighted or without the benefit of 20/20 vision, we are embarking on a journey of discovery and change to enhance our contribution to solutions in the biotech domain. After all, biology is in our DNA, thanks to a century of relevant research right here at S&T.



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Mohammad Dehghani, PhD
Chancellor | 573-341-4116

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