MAE Professors Dan Quinn and Baozing Xu are collaborating across the School of Engineering and with the School of Medicine to create solutions that solve medical and societal problems via seed grants from the Center for Engineering in Medicine. The Center provides seed grants to promising collaborations between engineering and medicine. Below are descriptions of their amazing research projects.


Airflow-powered Implantables for Batteryless Monitoring of Respiratory Health

DANIEL QUINN, Asst. Prof. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (SEAS), JOHN LACH, Prof. Electrical and Computer Engineering (SEAS), LARRY BORISH, Prof., Medicine – Asthma, Allergy & Immunology (SOM)

One of the biggest challenges of treating patients with asthma is in identifying an exacerbation before an Emergency Department visit or hospitalization is required. About 5% of asthmatic patients have frequent and severe exacerbations, which feel like sudden chest tightness and sometimes lead to respiratory arrest. Most early detection mechanisms require supervised monitoring in a controlled setting or with bulky instruments. This project proposes to explore the feasibility of an implanted sensor to internally monitor airflow in asthmatics.  

The collaborators from UVA’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and UVA’s Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology will explore the mechanical, electrical and clinical questions around an implanted sensor that would both sense airflow in the trachea (the large airway that connects the lungs to the mouth and nose) and harvest energy from that airflow so that no batteries are required.

A Novel Analgesic Device for Pain Management

XUDONG (JOSH) LI, Assoc. Prof. Orthopaedic Surgery (SOM), BAOXING XU, Asst. Prof. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (SEAS)

Pain management is an area of high national importance, as adequately managed postoperative pain not only improves patient satisfaction and quality of life, but it helps with earlier mobilization after procedures, shortens hospital stays and reduces costs. Unfortunately, the widespread use of opioid-based drugs for treatment of acute or chronic pain associated with injuries and surgeries has led to a staggering rise in opioid abuse and opioid-related deaths.

This partnership between the UVA Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will develop and test high-tech drug delivery patches that can be applied to the skin to deliver medications locally at the site of pain rather than systemically, reducing the potential for side effects and addiction. This work builds on expertise at UVA in designing ultra-thin, flexible sensors and circuits that can be applied directly to the skin.