document title
Andrea Frank
back next

Scott R. Manalis
Associate Professor of Biological and Mechanical Engineering

What are you working on?

We’re working on using silicon technology—that is, all of the techniques that are used to make integrated circuits––to make new measurement methods for biology. Essentially, we have expertise in microfl uidics and we develop new ways to measure the parameters that are relevant to living systems. This can be used in diagnostics or to better understand biological processes. In many cases, we exploit the unique physical properties associated with micro and nanoscale dimensions to make measurements that are faster, better, and more sensitive than what is possible with existing methods.

Can you be more specific?

Sure. In terms of the motivation and the bigger picture, let’s consider a computer room from the 1950’s. Have you ever seen pictures of those computers from the 50’s? They’re big, and there were just a few people who knew how to use them. If you wanted to process information back then, you didn’t do it on your desktop. You would send it over to experienced users and they would take it from there.

If you go to a biology lab today, in many ways it looks similar to that. Let’s say you have a certain protein that’s related to a signature for breast cancer and you want to have it measured. Your doctor would send it to a centralized lab, wait a few days, and then get it back. In the world of computers, everything changed with the invention of the integrated circuit. With the invention of the transistor, and the ability to make integrated circuits, all of a sudden what could previously only be done in that computer room could now happen instantly on a chip. Subsequently, those chips were then used in ways that had never been previously considered. They went into microwave ovens, cell phones, toys–– everywhere. That critical revolution is starting to take place in terms of the way biological measurements are made.

[ ... ]
for full text see VISIONS - MIT Interviews book

Andrea Frank