Incoming Professor Focuses on Developing Biosensors for Personalized and Precision Medicine

Fall quarter, the Electrical Engineering Department welcomed Sam Emaminejad to its faculty. The central focus of Assistant Professor Emaminejad’s research is on mobile, wearable and in vivo devices used to continuously monitor the physiological state of patients. The purpose of such devices is to give doctors a greater understanding of an individual’s health so that the individual can receive more personalized and effective healthcare treatment. This treatment may come in the form of an early diagnosis for a patient.

Consumer devices used to monitor heath, like the Fitbit or the Apple Watch, already exist, but Professor Emaminejad is interested in creating health-monitoring devices that record much more in-depth measurements. For example, he is interested in devices that can detect micrometer and nanometer scale biomarkers such as cells proteins, metabolites and electrolytes. One type of device Professor Emaminejad has developed with his colleagues (during his joint-postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley and Stanford School of Medicine) is a wearable band that records the sweat metabolites such as glucose, lactate as well as sweat electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.

A wearable band that records sweat metabolites and electrolytes. It was developed by Professor Emaminejad and colleagues.

Professor Emaminejad would like to use his devices for large-scale population monitoring to unravel large medical trends. With this approach, he aims to address a fundamental challenge in realizing personalized medicine which he describes as ‘the chicken and the egg problem.’ This problem is that clinicians need devices for their studies to determine the informative biomarkers, but engineers make devices that detect very specific biomarkers. Therefore, his goal is to make devices that can measure a large panel of biomarkers at once and can be used to monitor a large population of patients. In collaboration with data scientists and clinical investigators he could analyze large swaths of physiological data to search for significant findings which could assist medical professionals.

Professor Emaminejad said, “You need as much information as possible to do so.” He added that he wanted to target each level of the human body to assist medical professionals.

Professor Emaminejad believes in the importance of raising the next generation of researchers to support his research vision. Therefore, to motivate students to engage in this research field, he co-developed and instructed a well-received graduate-level course during his Ph. D. and postdoctoral research at Stanford University. Now, he is excited to offer an expanded version of this course, entitled “Micro- and Nanoscale Biosensing for Molecular Diagnostics” at UCLA this Spring.

Professor Emaminejad received his BASc (2009) and MS/Ph. D. (2011/2014) degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo and Stanford University, respectively. He pursued his Ph. D. thesis at Stanford Genome Technology Center where he developed low-cost and mobile biosensing and bioelectric platforms. Prior to joining UCLA, he was a joint-postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley and Stanford School of Medicine, where he exploited flexible electronics technology to create non-invasive wearable sensors and systems for physiological monitoring and diagnostic applications.