faculty member Philip R. LeDuc, PhD (pictured), joined more than 70 of the brightest scientific researchers at the recent National Academies Keck Futures Initiative on Complexity at the Beckman Conference Center in Irvine, California. Invited participants discussed the topic of complexity in areas spanning everything from neural function to social systems and achieving a sustainable future.
"This is a great opportunity for me to interact with professionals from a broad spectrum of fields and to exchange research ideas," said Dr. LeDuc, an associate professor in mechanical engineering with a courtesy appointment in biomedical engineering and biological sciences, Carnegie Mellon University.
The event, a joint venture between the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, brought together researchers from a variety of academic disciplines, including engineering, computer science, physics, biology, and chemistry.
In early November, Dr. LeDuc also was invited to attend and speak to researchers at a think tank event for the National Institute of Health's National Cancer Institute about how systems such as cells and cancerous tissues in the human body may operate in a similar manner to a robotic system. These two events are focused on generating out-of-the-box thinking and approaches for taking on some of the biggest challenges in the future.
"There is going to be a lot of debate about how we will be able to approach grand challenges through non-traditional approaches. Carnegie Mellon has long been an innovator in bridging disciplines toward these ends, and this is a potential example of how approaches that were developed for systems such as robots could contribute to areas such as biology and medicine," said Dr. LeDuc, a recipient of the 2005 Beckman Award for leading-edge research in the biological and chemical sciences even though he is a mechanical engineer.
Dr. LeDuc is building tools that merge engineering technology with both scientific and commercial applications. He is using cell and molecular inspired approaches for developing new technology, probing cell and molecular biomechanics for understanding diseases, and pursuing computational methods to understand molecular behavior.
"By better understanding how cells communicate and how they use inherent systems such as feedback and redundancy to keep the cell in operation, we can begin to harness the cell's natural abilities, which may translate into exciting future technologies or approaches to fight diseases," Dr. LeDuc said.
His other accolades include winning the prestigious National Science Foundation Career Award, publishing a number of research articles in prestigious journals like Nature, Nature Nanotechnology, and NanoLetters, and being a co-founder and head of missionary work in Ghana, Africa.
Prior to coming to Carnegie Mellon in 2002, Dr. LeDuc was a fellow at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital, where he spent time building multidisciplinary efforts between groups in biology, engineering, physics, and chemistry.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Carnegie Mellon University Press Release (11/10/08)
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (11/11/08)
Medical News Today (11/12/08)
Bio: Dr. Philip LeDuc