UNIVERSITY of British Columbia researcher Dr. Sudip Shekhar is the first Canadian to receive the prestigious Schmidt Science Polymaths Award, which supports 10 recently tenured professors with “extraordinary talent” who are looking to explore promising interdisciplinary research.
Shekhar, an associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at UBC’s faculty of applied science, will receive approximately $3 million (US $2.5 million) over five years to realize an ambitious dream: a highly compact biomedical sensor that can make medical diagnosis much faster, easier and cheaper than it has ever been.
“This biomedical sensor will be portable, disposable and accessible,” says Shekhar, a former circuits research scientist at Intel who completed his bachelor’s at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur and his master of science and PhD degrees at the University of Washington.
He believes that biomedical testing is overdue for miniaturization, similar to how computers have been downsized from room size machines to the size of a smartphone.
“Imagine an inexpensive credit-card-sized medical testing kit that can collect data for viruses, cardiac, neurological and other ailments. By combining the power of silicon and photonics we are coming closer to this reality,” he says.
Such a device would be ideal for point-of-care biomedical testing, and improve access to medical testing for remote communities and emergency services. Ultimately this technology can also be used at drivethrough testing centres or pharmacies and for home use.
Shekhar is collaborating with electrical and computer engineering professors Dr. Lukas Christowski, a photonics expert and Dr. Karen Cheung, who is conducting research in biomedical devices; professor Dr. Cheryl Wellington in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine; and other colleagues across UBC.
The team has achieved proof of concept – successfully diagnosing COVID-19 in the laboratory.
“Point-of-use diagnostics is a complex multidisciplinary research field, but I believe it is an area primed for the microchip revolution—and my colleagues and I are incredibly inspired and excited to pursue this work to its conclusion, with the support of the Schmidt Science Polymaths award,” says Shekhar.
Also named to the 2022 Schmidt Science Polymath awards are researchers at Boston University, California Institute of Technology, Israel Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Purdue University, University College London, University of Cambridge, University of Copenhagen/Imperial College London, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For more information, visit: https://ece.ubc.ca/dr-