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Artificial heart lab started on campus

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The College of Engineering is expanding its mechanical engineering research to include medical devices, starting with an artificial heart laboratory.

Dr. Charles Taylor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who joined the faculty in 2013, has created an artificial heart lab on campus. While earning a doctoral degree at Virginia Commonwealth University, he studied under Dr. Gerald Miller, one of the first biomedical engineers in the United States.

During the Spring 2014 semester, Taylor taught a pilot course focused on bioengineering that covered the principles of creating artificial organs. His approach borrows from design principles and manufacturing processes used in the aeronautics and automotive industries.

He’s developing tools to assist in the testing of current medical devices and the design and testing of the next generation of medical devices, with a focus on prosthetic heart valves and ventricular assist devices.

“The idea is that computational models and bench-top systems can be designed together, much in the way that Boeing or Lockheed Martin co-develops its flight control systems with its hardware. We’re adapting that kind of design process into the medical device realm,” he said.

Taylor’s lab in Rougeau Hall is equipped with computers to create computational models. He hopes to soon add the capability for students to build and test systems.

“The medical impact keeps me involved. I talk with design groups that are developing the devices and to clinicians who are implanting these devices. I also hear from patients who have these devices who say, ‘Look, there’s got to be something better than this.’

“That element — knowing that I’m making an impact — is important to me. I’m not going to be on the cover of Time magazine as the newest heart pump designer, but I’m helping to provide a support architecture to move this research forward.”

Photo info: Dr. Charles Taylor holds an acrylic model of a human aorta that will be used for flow studies aimed at evaluating prosthetic heart valves. Photo by Doug Dugas

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