November 12, 2004 —
Ellis Meng, a specialist in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) fabrication
processes, has been appointed assistant professor in USC’s biomedical engineering
Meng, the first woman to join the department’s faculty, will also be affiliated
with the Viterbi School’s Biomimetic Microelectronic Systems (BMES) Engineering
Research Center. The Biomimetic Microelectronic Systems Center is a National Science
Foundation-funded interdisciplinary research center aimed at developing novel
implants to treat disabilities such as blindness, paralysis and memory loss.
“We are very excited to have Professor Meng on our faculty,” said Michael Khoo,
professor of biomedical engineering and holder of the department’s Dwight C. and
Hildagarde E. Baum Chair. “Her work will help us pave the way for the development
of some novel new biomedical devices.”
Meng specializes in MEMS fabrication. MEMS are tiny machines made using manufacturing
techniques developed in the integrated circuit industry. Meng has developed the
first highly sensitive parylene-based thermal microsensor, which is capable of
detecting flows as small as 0.5 microliters a minute. These biological microsensors
could be used one day to build new cortical and sensory pathways in the brain
or allow physicians to implant devices to monitor medications.
Microsensors, micropumps and microvalves are combined with tiny microchannel
networks to create “lab-on-a-chip” systems.
“These miniaturized, high-performance, integrated systems have tremendous potential
for revolutionizing biomedical engineering,” Meng said. “Our current research
focuses on developing novel biomedical devices that may one day be used to treat
many more incurable or degenerative diseases.”
In addition to that work, Meng has also developed a novel process for
fabricating parylene-based “neuron cages” and has demonstrated that neurons in
the hippocampus of a rat’s brain can be successfully grown in these cages. The
work will help researchers at USC develop bionic chips to restore neural pathways
in the brain and eye.
Meng said she was attracted to USC by the unique opportunity to collaborate on
highly interdisciplinary topics with a top-flight group of researchers and students.
“The Alfred E. Mann Institute and the BMES Engineering Research Center make USC
a particularly exciting research venue for the development of innovative biomedical
devices to improve our quality of life,” she said.
Meng, a native of Southern California, received her Ph.D. in electrical
engineering from the California Institute of Technology in January 2003. She
became an assistant professor in UC Davis’s department of mechanical and aeronautical
engineering before joining USC. She has two patents to her name and has published
10 scholarly papers.