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Pritzker Distinguished Lectureship

Through the efforts of the family and friends of Robert A. Pritzker (IE ’46, Hon. Ph.D. ’84) and the Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society Distinguished Lecturer Award was re-named in 2007 as a tribute to Robert A. Pritzker. The lectureship was designed to honor Pritzker’s dedication to the advancement of the biomedical engineering field.  The purpose of the lecture is to critically review a field of biomedical engineering and offer a vision of its future.

The Pritzker Distinguished Lectureship Award is the Society's premier award. This prestigious award is given each year to recognize an individual's outstanding achievements, originality, and leadership in the science and practice of biomedical engineering.

The Pritzker Distinguished Lecturer delivers a plenary talk at the Annual BMES Conference/Meeting in the fall, followed by a presentation in the spring, at the Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering.

2019 Pritzker Distinguished Lecturer: Christopher Chen

“Seminar Title- Engineering Niches to Control Biological Function: How Simple is Complex Enough?”

Christopher Chen

Christopher Chen
Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Division of Materials Science & Engineering
Boston University, Boston, MA


Multicellular ecosystems, from biofilms and tissues to whole organisms, operate as highly integrated systems whose biological functions are inextricably linked to physical structure. For instance, in mammalian tissues, structure determines the effectiveness by which muscles generate force, lungs oxygenate blood, or glandular organs produce bile, milk, or saliva. Even at the level of single cells, structure constrains how cells interact with surrounding extracellular matrix, communicate with neighboring cells, and respond to physical forces acting upon them. These cues from the surrounding niche in turn regulate cell function, such as proliferation, differentiation, migration, and suicide. Therefore, in order to rationally perturb or synthetically design and build multicellular ecosystems, it is imperative that we understand these underlying control systems. Here, I will describe our efforts to engineer biological niches in order to expose the complex interplay between structure, force, signaling, and function in single cells and multicellular systems; control multicellular assembly and build in vitro organotypic models that mimic native tissue functions; and impact regenerative medicine therapies. Finally, I will also highlight how these interfaces between cells and their environment, between cell- and tissue-scale function, between biology and engineering are emerging as the next era of biomedical research, and how our vibrant interdisciplinary community is uniquely poised to facilitate and lead the wave of transdisciplinary innovation that will be required.

This event is free and open to the IIT Community

Pritzker Distinguished Lecturers

2018 Lecturer Rashid Bashir
2017 Lecturer Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic
2016 Lecturer Nicholas A. Peppas
2015 Lecturer Martin L. Yarmush
2014 James J. Collins
2013 Ashutosh Chilkoti
2012 Ajit P. Yoganathan
2011 Michael L. Shuler
2010 Rebecca Richards-Kortum
2009 Donald E. Ingber
2008 Buddy D. Ratner
2007 Antonius G. Mikos