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Andrew Smith receives award for excellence in research


Kimberly Besler

Bioengineering Associate Professor Andrew Smith has been named as a recipient of the 2020 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research.

His research focuses on biomedical diagnostics and biomedical studies in the life sciences. In the Smith Lab members make technologies for medical and biological detection, such as when a person has cancer or other certain diseases.

The Smith Lab has four primary research projects: research and development of molecular labels, measuring molecules in cells and analyzing how cells detect signals, responding to signals through imaging and single cells, and making targeted therapeutic agents that change the immune system.

This semester, he is teaching Technologies for Cancer Diagnosis and Therapy, which covers the fundamentals of cancer biology, clinical oncology, and all associated technologies.

The course discusses design principles and types of research which examine how to generate improved tools for cancer. The students also write NIH style grant proposals related to potential applications of new technology, which influence many of the tools developed in the lab.

Smith is the associate head of the bioengineering’s undergraduate program. In this position he designs, assesses, and improves the curriculum, while managing all other aspects of the program.

Of his experiences, Smith considers his work with the undergraduate program to be most influential.

“Tying everything back to fundamental roots of the sciences from physics, chemistry, and biology, and connecting that to an applied engineering field is very, very exciting to me,” he said. “This is still a budding field where it's not exactly clear how to define bioengineering because it overlaps with so many other disciplines.” Smith said it's also not clear exactly how to teach bioengineering from the level of an undergraduate because there's no industry that's directly taking students in bioengineering, unlike electrical engineering and chemical engineering, which are tied to telecommunications industries, the oil industry and chemical factories, so it's exciting for him to have a big part in the developing field of bioengineering.

“The insights that I have from research, and from work in industry, I can bring in to inform how we instruct undergraduates to be leaders in this field of bioengineering for the next several decades.”

Additionally, he is also the founding member of ONC-PM, a research theme from the Institute of Genomic Biology which aims to develop new tools for cancer. A faculty member at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, he, along with other members of the college, established a second-year course for Hematology and Oncology, which began last fall.