Areas of Faculty Research

Scientific discovery aimed at improving healthcare, through interdisciplinary research and education, is an important goal of the faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. In collaboration with faculty across campus, the faculty are currently researching a diverse range of topics within the field. Select an link below to explore the work being done in that area.

Biomedical Imaging

Research in biomedical imaging includes quantitative medical imaging; derivation of indices of cardiovascular health from multi-dimensional ultrasound images; quantitative modeling of physiological systems, heat regulation in infants, cardiovascular effects of anesthesia, pulmonary image analysis, cardio-vascular imaging, and three-dimensional medical imaging.  Nanoparticles are being developed as targeted contrast agents which also involves quantitative image analysis and rendering strategies.  These nanoparticles are designs for simultaneous/sequential use in MRI, CT and ultrasound echography.

Associated Faculty: Joseph M. Reinhardt, Eric Hoffman, Robert D. Tucker, Vincent A. Magnotta, John Newell, Jinhu Xiong, and Jose Assouline


Research at the biomaterials laboratory focuses a broad spectrum of topics ranging from the development of nanoparticles for medical application to bone cement for implants to hip-joint cups and knee-joint tibial plateaus, as well as thermal seeds to heat the prostate tissues.  Nanoparticles are being developed for multiple applications such as targeted contrast and for specific tissue and interventional therapy For example 100nm particles are engineered to bind and eliminate bladder and colon cancer.  (J.Assouline).  An additional area of research at the biomaterials laboratory focuses on the use of thermal seeds development of PdCo alloy seeds in various conditions (at the clinical trial stage) (Aliasger K. Salem).  Biomaterials in orthopedics: ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene in order to chemically adhere it to bone cement made from polymethylmethacrylate for better fixation of polyethylene implants (John C. Keller)

 Associated Faculty:  Jose Assouline, John C. Keller and Aliasger K. Salem

Cardiovascular Biomechanics


Research in fluid cardiovascular biomechanics includes the examination of blood vessel reactivity and the development of atherosclerosis; the creation of computational fluid-dynamic and finite-element modeling of blood vessels (reconstructed from intravascular ultrasound imaging) to understand the development of lesions in animal models in order to relate fluid mechanical stresses and vascular material property alterations with lesion growth; and the application of fluid mechanics to coronary and carotid arteries with stenosis (reconstructed from intravascular and angiographic imaging) to understand mechanical valve closure dynamics and its relationship to thrombus formation and valve cavitation.


Research in solid cardiovascular biomechanics includes the biomechanical study of abdominal aortic aneurysms and cerebral aneurysms to better understand the pathogenesis of these diseases in order to diagnose rupture risk; in vitrodevelopment of aneurysms using elastase treatment; mechanical testing and constitutive modeling of biologic soft tissues; the biomechanical study of endovascular surgery and vascular graft design; finite element method (FEM); three-dimensional surface smoothing; and adaptive mesh refinement and analysis.

Associated Faculty: M.L. Raghavan, and Sarah C. Vigmostad

Genomics, Bioinformatics, and Systems Biology

The need to gather, store, retrieve, and analyze genomic datasets requires a computational capacity that was previously unimagined by both users and designers of computers. And today, due to advances in computer engineering over the past two decades, opportunities to solve, and the demand for answers to, genomic problems are many, which in turn has led to the development of unique computer systems and new computational methods designed specifically to meet these needs.

Associated Faculty: Thomas L. Casavant, Terry A. Braun, David M. Kristensen, Todd E. Scheetz, and Michael Schnieders

Human Modeling and Simulation

Research in human modeling and simulation involves creating human life on a computer -- digital avatars that walk, talk, and behave like humans. The goal is to create intelligent human behavior that will allow digital humans to test -- in a virtual environment -- prototypic products and, thereby, reduce the number of physical prototypes that are required in order to transfer digital designs to the manufacturing process.

Additionally, research in this area encompasses multi-disciplinary efforts which include: biomechanics; gaming engines; virtual reality; kinematics and dynamics; posture and motion prediction; muscle and anatomical modeling; fatigue; and physiological measures and simulations.

Human modeling and simulation research at the University of Iowa is focused on a major technological effort, called the Virtual Soldier Research Program, which seeks to answer questions such as "How long can a soldier perform a particular task?", "How many soldiers are required to complete a particular task?", and "Can a soldier operate a particular piece of equipment?". As a result of that effort, SantosHuman™, a realistic intelligent human model, and the world's first (virtual human) biofidelic avatar, was created to help answer these and other questions.

To find out more about SantosHuman™ and the Virtual Solider Research Program please the SantosHuman Inc. website.

Associated Faculty: Karim Abdel-Malek, and Nicole M. Grosland


Mechanobiology is the study of how physical forces, mechanical constraints, and motion affect cell activity in bodily fluids and tissues. These forces are transmitted to cells from either the surrounding fluid or the extracellular matrix, and they can have a profound impact on tissue growth, remodeling, damage, and disease. A point of major emphasis at Iowa is understanding the manner in which physical forces applied at the organ- and tissue-level propagate down to the cellular-level (i.e. multiscale mechanical interactions) and effect various signaling pathways that result in the conversion of mechanical signals into chemical signals (i.e. mechanotransduction), particularly with regard to cardiovascular and connective tissues, wound healing, tissue engineering, and cancer.

 Associated Faculty:  Madhavan Raghavan, Ed Sander, Sarah Vigmostad, Michael Mackey, Jose Assouline, Stephen K. Hunter, and Aliasger K. Salem

Musculoskeletal Biomechanics

Research in musculoskeletal biomechanics employs biomechanics, biomaterials, imaging, and cell and tissue engineering to the study of injury, degeneration, repair, and regeneration of orthopedic tissues such as bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and intervertebral discs.

The University of Iowa program encompasses all levels of musculoskeletal research from joints and tissues down to individual cells and molecules.

Associated Faculty: Nicole M. Grosland, Tae-Hong Lim, and David G. Wilder