Dr. Geert Schmid Schoenbein: Bioengineering Now and Then
Entering a sunlit office, a reflection on the cheery disposition of Dr. Schoenbein himself one could not imagine that the founding fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the winner of the Melville Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineering and the present chair of Bioengineering Department at University of California, San Diego to be as humble and welcoming. Known for his work in the discovery of autodigestion, the conversation that followed was scintillating.
Q: How did you decide that bioengineering was for you and why did you decide to pursue it at University of California San Diego?
A: In my early days, I was pursuing physics and mathematics, mostly in the non-living world. As exciting as these disciplines were, this field left me unsatisfied since at the core, I wanted to pursue the study of living tissue. And having heard about a group here at UC San Diego, in its infancy, coming up with the idea and a vision in the study of living tissue, choosing this university became a natural progression of thought.
Q: When you hear about bioengineering, then and now, what is the first thing that comes to your mind and why?
A: Bioengineering itself is an upcoming and growing field. A pertinent area of research for most students remains the study of living tissue, and figuring out how it grows and functions. Bioengineers as before and at present, work on tissue and apply themselves to a wide range of problems. It remains the opportunity of bioengineering to find solutions to health and other problems on the planet that involve living things, and find new paths in doing so.
Q: You joined as an assistant professor at UCSD in 1979. How has bioengineering as a research subject evolved for you since then?
A: Bioengineering has already come a long way. New directions have been introduced including but not limited to tissue engineering and systems bioengineering. Problems are worked on today that were unimaginable back then. The marriage of traditional fields like biology, medicine and engineering has helped open previously undiscovered doors in our understanding of this world and I see many bright opportunities for bioengineering up ahead in the future.