Disease research breakthrough earns PhD student IEEE award

Scarlett Leung

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Breakthrough research on diseased cells has earned PhD student Tan Youhua the coveted T.J. Tarn Best Paper Award at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics. Tan Youhua studies at the Joint Advanced Research Centre in Suzhou established by the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) and City University of Hong Kong (CityU).

Tan’s paper, A mechanical model of biological cells in microinjection, was co-authored with his supervisors Dr Sun Dong, Associate Professor of CityU’s Department of Manufacturing Engineering and Engineering Management, and Professor Huang Wenhao from USTC.

Microinjection is a technique to introduce foreign materials into a biological cell. Although great developments have been achieved, a full understanding of the mechanical responses of biological cells to the injection operation remains deficient. In Tan’s paper, a mechanical model based on membrane theory was proposed. Experimental data showed that the proposed model could be used to estimate the mechanical properties of cell biomembranes that can be applied to an earlier diagnosis of disease cells.

The mechanical modelling of the cell is one part of the ongoing research project on the automated manipulation of biological cells in CityU. “The proposed model can help us characterise and predict the properties of different kinds of cells. One direct application to biomedical applications is to have earlier diagnosis of some disease cells, for example cancer cells, based on the model,” said Dr Sun, one of the leading researchers at CityU.

Dr Sun commended Tan for his solid academic background, creative thinking and excellent performance throughout the research. The award was also testament to the successful collaboration between CityU and USTC in nurturing talent, he added.

The IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics is one of the largest in the world focusing on advanced robotics and bio-engineering applications. It has attracted more than 600 participants from more than 40 countries this year.

The USTC-CityU Joint Advanced Research Centre in Suzhou opened in October 2005 allows the two universities to work together on research projects, supervise and teach research students, and furnish professional training opportunities. It offers joint doctorate programmes in which students can apply for a doctorate awarded by both universities after completing their dissertation.


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