Date: Oct. 11, 2006
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National Academy of Engineering
Original Bioengineer and Energy Visionary
To Receive Honors From National Academy of Engineering
WASHINGTON -- During its 2006 annual meeting, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) will present two awards for exceptional achievement. NAE's Founders Award will be given to Shu Chien, who forged the field of biomedical engineering, and the Arthur M. Bueche Award will be given to Chauncey Starr for pioneering the development of nuclear fission reactors and the field of risk analysis. The prizes will be presented at a ceremony to be held on Sunday, Oct. 15.
Chien is an NAE member, Y.C. Fung Professor of Bioengineering and Medicine at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and University Professor for the University of California system. He will receive the Founders Award "for outstanding contributions to elucidating the engineering foundation of cardiovascular dynamics, and integrating engineering and biomedical sciences for the development of the biomedical engineering profession." The award recognizes outstanding professional, educational, and personal achievement to the benefit of society, and it includes $2,500 and a gold medallion.
Although trained as a physician, Chien has made extensive contributions to bioengineering, especially in cellular, molecular, and cardiovascular bioengineering and related fields. In the 1960s, while on the faculty at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, he was one of the few physiologists to apply engineering principles and techniques to the study of biological systems. "I have chosen to combine engineering and the biomedical sciences because I believe this combination leads to the most discoveries and innovations for the improvement of human health and quality of life," said Chien. His interdisciplinary approach enabled Chien to better understand hemodynamics -- the forces generated by the heart and movement of blood through the cardiovascular system -- and the regulation mechanisms of blood rheology, which looks at how blood deforms and flows when stress is applied. His model of blood rheology was the first to elucidate its determinants, and he later applied the basic knowledge gained from these discoveries to understand cardiovascular and other diseases, such as sickle cell anemia.
Chien went on to combine his knowledge of cardiovascular dynamics and blood rheology to examine microcirculation, where the critical exchange between blood and tissue occurs, and figured out how blood cells and their interaction with the vessel walls govern flow dynamics. Chien used these discoveries to explain the mechanisms of hemorrhage and shock, and the cardiovascular benefits of exercise. He described the effects of hemodynamic forces on transendothelial transport of macromolecules and proposed the enduring "cell turnover-leaky junction" theory to describe susceptibility to atherosclerosis.
Chien's more recent research at UCSD has brought about a novel and detailed understanding of how mechanical forces of blood flow affect cell signalling and gene expression, and how cells adapt to their physical environment. This pioneering work has far-reaching implications for bioengineering and particularly for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Chien is also designing molecular techniques to prevent and mitigate complications following balloon angioplasty, and to analyze how the vascular system responds to procedures used to treat coronary artery occlusion. In addition, he is examining how cell signals are coordinated and function over time.
Chien transformed our understanding of cells and tissues and their physical mechanisms, demonstrating that biological systems are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry. Chien's rich contributions to fundamental and applied bioengineering research are documented in some 450 peer-reviewed publications and nine books, and are recognized through numerous engineering and life-science awards and named lectureships. Furthermore, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers has twice presented Chien with the Melville Medal for the best original paper among its 20 Transactions journals; Chien is the only two-time winner of this honor.
At UCSD, Chien has been instrumental to building one of the country's top bioengineering programs. He founded and directs the Whitaker Institute of Biomedical Engineering, which facilitates research collaboration in biology, medicine, and engineering. Chien also led the formation of the Bioengineering Institute of California, a project of the University of California system that involves all 10 UC campuses and many other universities to disseminate bioengineering research. Chien has served as president for several professional societies, including the American Physiological Society, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the International Society of Biorheology, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and he is currently president-elect of the Biomedical Engineering Society. His professional activities show the widespread admiration he has received from both life scientists and engineers. Moreover, Chien is one of only six living NAE members to also hold membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.
Starr, a member of NAE and president emeritus of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), will be presented the Arthur M. Bueche Award "for leadership in the development of nuclear power, contributions to the creation of the field of risk analysis, and leadership in electric power R&D as the founding president of EPRI." He will receive $2,500 and a gold medallion in recognition of his statesmanship in U.S. public policy on technology and for promoting ties among academia, industry, and government.
Soon after receiving his Ph.D., Starr began to distinguish himself with research on thermal conductivity of metals at high pressure and on the characteristics of materials under cryogenic conditions. He relied on ingenuity to carry out his experiments, for he had to design and build much of the special electronic equipment himself. As World War II intensified in Europe, Starr accepted a call to use his talents at the U.S. Navy's David Taylor Model Basin, where he found ways to protect vessels from the effects of underwater mine explosions and sweep for these explosive devices.
In 1942, Ernest O. Lawrence invited Starr to join the Radiation Laboratory at University of California, Berkeley, where scientists and engineers were racing to find a practical method for separating U-235 from other uranium isotopes before the Nazis did. At the "Rad Lab," Starr used his skills in designing complex equipment to help create the "calutron" -- an electromagnetic separator that was the first device to produce significant quantities of U-235. Lawrence selected Starr to direct technical development and operations of the calutron pilot plant for the Oak Ridge, Tenn., Manhattan Engineering District (the "Manhattan Project"), where electromagnetic separation soon produced the fissionable material for the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima.
Starr had begun to think about peaceful uses of "atomic power," and once the war had ended, he began to work on nuclear reactor designs at the Clinton Laboratory (which later became Oak Ridge National Laboratory) and then nuclear power propulsion systems for North American Aviation (later North American Rockwell Corp.). Starr, with Walter Zinn of Argonne National Laboratory, soon began to design a reactor for electricity production. The Atomic Energy Commission awarded North American a contract for plant construction, and Starr led the project as president of the newly formed Atomics International Division and corporate vice president of North American Rockwell. Over a period of 20 years, Starr was one of the leaders in the commercial development of nuclear power.
In 1966, Starr became dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He structured the engineering program so that students would be exposed to many fields of engineering, and he recruited promising young faculty who were conducting innovative research in new fields. While dean, Starr published a landmark paper, "Social Benefit versus Technological Risk" (Science, 1979), which employed holistic, quantitative research and effectively initiated the interdisciplinary field of risk analysis. He also examined the historical relationship between energy and social structure, and how effective energy use and electrification have contributed to long-term social change (Scientific American, 1972).
After blackouts, warfare, and new environmental protections revealed weaknesses in energy infrastructure, leaders of the power industry enlisted Starr to build an institute for energy R&D activities. Beginning with a staff of two, Starr established the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in 1973, a unique organization that would tackle the industry's most urgent and thorny problems through central management of collaboratively funded activities using the best talent worldwide. EPRI quickly became renowned for innovations in technologies such as fluidized-bed coal combustion, coal-gasification combined-cycle generation, transmission systems, wind turbines, solar generation technologies, and zero-net carbon balance biomass generation. EPRI's research on environmental impacts and efficiency affected the behavior of both energy producers and consumers and brought about significant improvements. "Looking ahead," said Starr, "our electricity supply will face complex challenges such as meeting increasing demand, reliability, efficiency, and modernization of infrastructure."
After the accident at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, nuclear power industry leaders approached Starr to create an institute to address safe operating procedures and analysis at nuclear plants. He wrote the charter for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, whose standards have been adopted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The organization became the model for the World Nuclear Power Operations, established after the Chernobyl accident.
Starr's statesmanship and intellectual integrity have long been recognized with positions of leadership and awards. He is a founder, fellow, and past director and president of the American Nuclear Society. He has served the NAE as councilor and vice president. Starr was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor, and he has received the U.S. Energy Award and the National Medal of Technology.
The National Academy of Engineering is a private, nonprofit institution that provides technology advice under a congressional charter. NAE also salutes leaders in engineering for their lifetime dedication to the field, and their commitment to advancing the society through great achievements. NAE dedicates more than $1 million annually to recognize these leaders, and to bring better understanding of engineering's importance to society. In addition to the Founders and Bueche awards, NAE presents the Charles Stark Draper Prize, the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, and the Bernard M. Gordon Prize. For more information about these awards, please contact Deborah Young, NAE awards administrator, at 202-334-1266, or visit the NAE Web site at http://www.nae.edu/awards.
[ This news release is available at http://national-academies.org ]