IMat Initiative Lead Q&A: W. Hong Yeo

W. Hong Yeo

W. Hong Yeo leads the Materials for Biomedical Systems research initiative for the Institute for Materials at Georgia Tech. In this role, he fosters collaboration between faculty, researchers, and clinicians to advance research in biomaterials and biomedical systems.

Yeo is an Associate Professor and Woodruff Faculty Fellow in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and holds a courtesy appointment in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. He is also the director of the Center for Human-Centric Interfaces and Engineering at Georgia Tech. His research focuses on the areas of nano and microengineering, advanced soft materials, molecular interactions, and bio-electromechanical systems, with an emphasis on stretchable hybrid electronics.

In this brief Q&A, Yeo discusses his interest in materials for biomedical systems, some of the current challenges in human healthcare, and how he hopes to bridge the gap between materials research and bioengineering systems at Georgia Tech.

What is your field of expertise and at what point in your life did you first become interested in this area?

My expertise is in biomaterial-enabled medical sensors and electronics. During my graduate study, I found biomedical systems research impressive since it can contribute to human healthcare. Currently, I am working on the study of soft materials, flexible mechanics, nanomanufacturing, machine learning, electronics, and system packaging to develop nanomembrane biosensors and bioelectronics. These biomedical systems are used to advance portable human health monitoring, quantitative disease diagnosis, enhanced therapeutics, and persistent human-machine interfaces. 

What questions or challenges sparked your current materials research?

I have found out that the existing medical devices urgently need new materials that can enhance their sensitivity, reliability, and usability. That triggers my research using new biomaterials and nanomaterials to develop human-centered medical systems. 

Why is your initiative important to the development of Georgia Tech’s Materials research strategy?

This initiative, materials for biomedical systems (MBS), can bring new perspectives on tissue-compatible and bio-friendly materials to develop next-generation healthcare monitors, diagnostics, and therapeutic tools. The MBS initiative will study interdisciplinary fundamental science in materials and integrated materials engineering to develop innovative biomedical systems for bridging gaps in materials research and bioengineering systems at Georgia Tech. This initiative will build an inclusive culture and interdisciplinary research ecosystem across and beyond Georgia Tech while targeting large-scale extramural center funding and developing industry consortia. 

What are the broader global and social benefits of the research you and your team conduct?

One of the Grand Challenges in Engineering is to engineer better medicines, which still has many unresolved and ongoing challenges in materials and biomedical systems. It should be addressed by combined efforts and expertise in materials, nanoengineering, physiology, electronics, informatics, and human-centric designs. The MBS initiative will enhance human health via multidisciplinary materials research, which will bring a unique opportunity to Georgia Tech to tackle the healthcare grand challenge. 

What are your plans for engaging a wider Georgia Tech faculty pool with IMat research?

I plan to organize Georgia Tech, regional, and national workshops and/or technical conferences to bring together the biomaterials, biomedical, human-centered engineering, and nanoengineering communities. Eventually, I will organize a Georgia Tech-Industry Consortium to gain external awareness and sustainable research support. 

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