Bin He, IEEE Fellow, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, discusses the importance of the IEEE Life Sciences Initiative.
Why is IEEE’s Life Sciences Initiative important?
IEEE Life Sciences Initiative is extremely important because this century is really life sciences’ century, instead of physical sciences’ century in the past, and we all need everyone to work in order to move this field forward. I think one of the greatest strengths of the IEEE is its vast technical expertise, which is distributed in many many societies and councils. This Life Sciences Initiative really is bringing together all of the vast technical expertise, which are well distributed through all these societies and councils of IEEE and the biomedical sciences community. I think this is really reflecting this collaboration principle because if you want to accomplish anything big, you have to collaborate, and that’s why I think this initiative is timely and is very important. We’re very likely to make a big impact to both IEEE and to the larger society.
The Life Sciences Portal is a very important platform and is like a gate for this Life Sciences Initiative. Anyone who is interested in collaborating can start from this Life Sciences Portal. It is very well designed, well-made, and very dynamic so I think it is an essential component of the Life Sciences Initiative.
What are some of the breakthroughs we’ll see in the next 10 to 20 years?
Prediction is always extremely difficult and uncertain. For example, one thing I research is predicting when seizures will start. It’s been very difficult. But nonetheless, I would think in the next 10 to 20 years there are a few things that may lead to a huge breakthrough in my personal research. One is called neural technology. I’m working with neuroengineering — I’m the director of neuroengineering at the University of Minnesota — on how to apply the engineering concepts to studies of the nervous system and develop some device that will compliment or repair or even enhance human function. There is a lot of fascinating research that has been done. For example, in my lab, we demonstrated that we can control flying a helicopter just by the thought of a human subject. Such a thing would have never happened before, but I think in the next 10 years or so this line of research is likely to have a big impact and move into clinical practice, not just staying in a research lab. This is one of the major things I would think would happen.
Another thing is imaging. Especially in brain imaging. Like we all know, MRI has been one of the greatest invention in the past decades, but in the coming 10 years I think there is much greater progress in not only imaging the anatomy of the brain, but also to image the function of the brain, how they talk to each other, what kind of information flows inside the neural network.
In these few examples, IEEE has played a big role in the field. I believe this Life Sciences Initiative is going to push this forward one more step.