The University Awards for Excellence recognize and encourage excellence in all forms at the academic level. Recently, the 2019 Interdisciplinary Award was presented to the Flow Ventilators Team for their collaborative efforts for working to improve treatments for asthma and other lung diseases.

Provost & Executive Vice President John Wiencek (center) poses with the 2019 University Awards for Excellence Interdisciplinary Award recipients.

Team members include 4 researchers from 2 colleges: Tao Xing, associate professor of mechanical engineering, Gordon Murdoch, associate professor of physiology in animal and veterinary science, Gabriel Potirniche, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Nathan Schiele, assistant professor of biological engineering.

The Flow Ventilators Team aims to significantly improve the fundamental understanding of mechanics of respiration and physiological mechanisms of ventilation through interdisciplinary research. Their goal is to use research to promote respiratory health through the development of next-generation flow ventilators for better prevention and treatment of various lung diseases. This will improve the quality of life and extend the lives of those with lung diseases.

The team began in 2016 with Xing, Murdoch and a Center for Modeling Complex Interactions pilot grant for a multiscale model of interaction between lung and pulmonary ventilation. They then realized the importance of performing fluid-structure interaction computer simulations that required the knowledge of not only fluid but also solid mechanics and accurate tissue properties, which are the expertise of Potirniche and Schiele, respectively. The team’s success in its interdisciplinary and collaborative efforts was shown not only by the amount of funding it secured in a short amount of time, but also by its strong publications, number of citations and number of post-graduate and graduate students that have been involved in the enterprise. The interdisciplinary team and the industry partner network that the team has been developing have the potential to grow even further as they energize a wider circle of collaborators across campus, and as they continue to attract the interest as well as the respect of external constituents.