|Professor Shu Chien, recipient of the National Medal of Science|
President Barack Obama today named University of California, San
Diego bioengineering professor Shu Chien one of the seven eminent
researchers to receive the National Medal of Science, the highest honor
bestowed by the United States government on scientists and engineers.
Chien is the only engineer among the seven medalists.
Shu Chien, a professor in the Department of Bioengineering
at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, is a world leader in
the study of how blood flow and pressure affect blood vessels. Chien is a University Professor of bioengineering and medicine at UC San Diego and director of the UC San Diego Institute of Engineering in Medicine.
“Professor Shu Chien is truly remarkable. He is one
of only 11 renowned scholars who are members of all three U.S. national
institutes — the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of
Engineering and the Institute of Medicine,” said Chancellor Marye Anne
Fox. “For more than 20 years, Shu has collaborated with UC San Diego
colleagues across the campus and the health sciences while mentoring a
generation of students and postdoctoral researchers. We celebrate this
tremendous honor and congratulate him.”
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, which refers to the
hardening of the arteries, and other diseases.
“Shu Chien played a crucial role in forming the
Jacobs School’s Department of Bioengineering and building it into a
world class institution that is ranked No.1 for biomedical
engineering by the National Research Council,” said Frieder Seible, dean
of the Jacobs School of Engineering. “As director of the UC San Diego
Institute of Engineering in Medicine, Shu is now leading efforts to
further strengthen research and educational collaborations between all
six departments of the Jacobs School of Engineering and the School of
Medicine and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy.”
Chien joined UC San Diego in 1988 after he was
recruited by Y.C. Fung and Benjamin Zweifach, who co-founded the
bioengineering program at UC San Diego with Marcos Intaglietta.
"I regard recruiting Shu as my greatest
contribution to UCSD," said Fung in 2005 when Chien received the
Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian American
Engineer of the Year Awards Committee. Chien has held the Y.C. Fung
Endowed Chair in Bioengineering since 2006.
The Department of Bioengineering at the UC San
Diego Jacobs School of Engineering is a leader in systems biology,
regenerative medicine and multi-scale bioengineering focused on
understanding, diagnosis and treatment of human disease.
The UC San Diego Institute of Engineering in
Medicine has research centers focusing on health and disease in cardiac,
musculoskeletal, retina, and neurological systems; on medical devices
and instrumentation technologies; multiscale imaging in living systems;
and nano-medicine and nano-engineering. The institute also focuses on
training, industry cooperation and entrepreneurism.
Shu Chien’s research
Chien is widely known as an exceptional researcher, instructor, mentor, and citizen of the university and his professional community. His research integrates biomedical sciences and engineering across the biological hierarchy, from genes and molecules to cells and tissues to organs and systems.
Some of his more recent research has focused on the effects of mechanical forces — pressure and flow — on cellular functions such as gene expression. When genes change their expression, the proteins will change, and proteins are the major determinants of functions of cells such as growth, migration and programmed cell death. For example, his research has shown how the mechanical forces generated by circulating blood affect the functions of endothelial cells in health and disease. Endothelial cells line the interior surface of the body’s blood vessels throughout the circulatory system.
Chien’s research has led to the understanding of why atherosclerotic lesions form preferentially at branches of coronary arteries. More specifically, this research uncovered the mechanical and molecular mechanism of the preferential distribution of atherosclerosis in regions of complex flow such as arterial branch points by establishing the differential signal processing and gene expression of endothelial cells in these regions as compared to regions resistant to atherogenesis, which is the process by which plaque forms in the arteries.
Chien has worked with Karl Willert, director of UC San Diego’s stem cell core facility, to develop an automated, computerized process that allows scientists to identify the best environments to grow stem cells. The experiments require mixing six proteins in a wide range of combinations. The machine developed by Chien’s team allows researchers to test hundreds of them at once.
With UC San Diego bioengineer Adam Engler and material science
professor Shungho Jin, Chien has examined how the physical properties of
the environments where stem cells grow can influence their development.
For example, a stiffer matrix can steer the cells toward becoming more
like bone cells, while a softer matrix leads to brain-like ones.
Shu Chien biography
Chien was born in Beijing, grew up in Shanghai and was a
pre-med student at National Peking University when he and his family went
in 1949 to Taiwan during the turmoil of the Communist takeover of
China. He received his medical degree from National Taiwan University
and a Ph.D. in Physiology from Columbia University, where he served as
professor from 1969 to 1988. During a sabbatical from 1987 to 1988,
Chien founded Taiwan’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Academia
Chien is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
and has published more than 500 archival journal articles and 11 books.
He has served in leadership positions in the Federation of American
Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the American Institute for
Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and other
National Medal of Science
The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959
and is administered for the White House by the National Science
Foundation. Awarded annually, the medal recognizes individuals who have
made outstanding contributions to science and engineering.
“Each of these extraordinary scientists, engineers, and
inventors is guided by a passion for innovation, a fearlessness even as
they explore the very frontiers of human knowledge, and a desire to make
the world a better place,” President Obama said. “Their ingenuity
inspires us all to reach higher and try harder, no matter how difficult
the challenges we face.”
Nominees are selected by a committee of Presidential
appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in and contributions
to chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, and the biological,
behavioral/social, and physical sciences.
National Medal of Science awardees with current faculty
affiliations with UC San Diego include Margaret Burbidge, Shu Chien, Chancellor
Marye Anne Fox, Michael H. Freedman, Yuan-Cheng Fung, Craig Venter,
Andrew Viterbi and Walter Munk.
Past UC San Diego National Medal of Science recipients include Roger Guillemin, Charles Keeling, George Palade, Linus Carl Pauling, Roger Revelle, Marshall Rosenbluth and Harold Urey.