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White House Honor
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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

White House Honor

When bioengineering Professor Shu Chien left his Columbia University lab in 1988, it was bustling with 30-40 researchers and students. The bioengineering department at UC San Diego had, by comparison, just six faculty members. Still, Chien saw what he could help build here and the potential was too alluring to pass up. Twenty-three years later, the department is a leader in linking biology, engineering and medicine, and ranks number one in bioengineering doctoral programs, according to the National Research Council.

An expert on how blood flow and pressure affect vessels, Chien's research has led to the development of better diagnostic tests and treatments for atherosclerosis. And on October 21, 2011, his work was honored when he received the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House.

Chien, who directs UCSD's Institute of Engineering in Medicine, says UC San Diego pioneered the multidisciplinary approach to solving big problems that all major academic institutions now want to emulate. He believes today's UC San Diego students are provided with a much more multidisciplinary education than has been the norm in engineering but they must take responsibility to educate themselves. "We are here to teach them how to learn more than what to learn," says Chien. "The classroom is important to provide them with a foundation, but they need to use that launching pad and then the sky is the limit."

—Catherine Hockmuth