|November 13, 2000
Media Contact: Denine
Hagen (858) 534-2920,
UCSD BIOENGINEER TO
RECEIVE PRESIDENT'S NATIONAL MEDAL OF SCIENCE
Photos of Y.C. Fung available
More details about the
President's National Medal of Science: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/awards/nms/start.htm
The White House announced
today that Yuan-Cheng Fung, fondly known as the father of
biomechanics, will receive the President's National Medal of Science,
the nation's highest scientific honor. Fung, a professor emeritus of
bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
Jacobs School of Engineering, will be recognized at an awards dinner
scheduled for December 1 in Washington, D.C.
In announcing the 12 Medal of Science honorees for the Year 2000,
President Clinton paid tribute to a group of scientific leaders who
changed or set new directions in social policy, neuroscience, biology,
chemistry, bioengineering, mathematics, physics, and earth and
Fung is the first bioengineer
to receive the prestigious National Medal of Science since it was
established in 1959. He is also the only engineer among this year's
honorees. UCSD now counts five National Medal of Science recipients
among its distinguished faculty.
"Dr. Fung was one of the first visionaries to recognize
that quantitative and analytical engineering principles and
technologies could be used to develop innovative ways to diagnose,
treat and prevent human disease," said UC President Richard
Atkinson. "Today, medical researchers, physicians and government
leaders agree that major medical advances in the 21st century will
only be possible through active involvement of engineers."
Fung joined UCSD in 1966 to
initiate a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. program in bioengineering. He helped
shaped and continues to bolster a Bioengineering Department that was
ranked third best in the nation in the 2000 U.S. News & World
Report survey of graduate programs.
"Dr. Fung is a pioneer,
both in establishing the founding principles of the field of
bioengineering, and in helping to set the standards of scientific
excellence at the University of California, San Diego," said
Robert Dynes, UCSD Chancellor. "His work is a wonderful early
example of how basic bench research translates to improved treatment
at the bedside."
"We are deeply proud of
all that Bert Fung has accomplished and all that he has meant to this
campus, the Jacobs School and our Bioengineering Department, "
said Robert Conn, Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering. "He
is a truly unique individual, and that is evidenced by his being one
of only a handful of people who have been elected a member of all
three national academy branches: the National Academy of Science, the
National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine."
Prior to joining UCSD, Fung
was a faculty member in the Department of Aeronautics at the
California Institute of Technology, where he received his Ph.D. in
1948. His early research focused on the dynamics of airplanes in
turbulent weather, and on aircraft and spaceship safety, performance
and design. His pioneering work welded the classical fields of
aerodynamics and structures into a unified discipline of
aeroelasticity. He published one of the two first books in that field.
Beginning in the late 1950's,
Fung became interested in the mechanics of the eye because his mother
was suffering from glaucoma. In the mid 1960's, he published the
pioneering "tunnel" theory of the capillary blood vessels,
and the "stress-free design" theory of the red blood cells,
which are still widely accepted. He grew convinced that the
understanding of the human body can be improved by paying attention to
stress and strain in the body.
"I realized that existing engineering mechanics could not
deal with biology without a complete revolution," said Fung.
"Some axioms had to be changed. All the mechanical properties of
living tissues and cells had to be determined before one could
proceed. New mathematical approaches had to be developed to deal with
the stochastic, nonlinear, and biological complexities."
With plans to devote 100 percent of his time to develop this
interdisciplinary area, Fung resigned his professorship from Caltech
in 1966 and came to UCSD with Ben Zweifach and Marcos Intaglietta to
start one of the nation's first bioengineering programs.
At UCSD, Fung developed
equations representing the strain energy function of soft tissues as
an exponential function of a quadratic sum of the strain components.
He devised many ways to determine the elastic constants of soft
tissues. He introduced the concept of pseudo elasticity and
quasi-linear viscoelasticity. On the basis of his equations and
methods, functional constitutive data are collected around the world.
Fung, with Sid Sobin, Michael
Yen, and their students, developed a "sheet-flow" theory of
the lung. The predictions of this theory agree with the experimental
results in remarkable detail and precision. For its novelty in
concept, completeness in fundamental anatomic, histological,
mechanical, electronmicroscopic, and physiological data, and the
absence of ad hoc assumptions, this sheet- flow theory is peerless. It
explains and predicts many clinical observations on pulmonary blood
flow, edema and other problems. An interesting deduction is that the
speed of sound in the lung is very low, on the order of 60 to 80 mph.
An airbag shooting out in a car accident would impact the lung at
supersonic speed. That is why the air bag is dangerous to the lung.
Fung and his associates
provided the medical community with the most complete sets of
morphometric data on the coronary blood vessels (with Ghasson Kassab),
pulmonary vascular tree (with Z.L. Jaing), and intestines (with Hans
Gregersen), from which rigorous theoretical analyses can be based.
He and his students clarified the zero-stress state of blood vessels
and other organs. When a tissue remodels, the zero-stress state
changes. This change is the simplest and best measure of tissue
remodeling. Fung and his colleagues, Shu Qian Liu, Wei Huang and
others have focused on tissue remodeling as a take off point for
Fung's effort could be
summarized as trying to wed engineering science with biology. The
field of bioengineering is developing very rapidly, particularly with
the help of the Whitaker Foundation, a national philanthropic
organization that has invested millions in bioengineering education
and research. At UCSD, the bioengineering faculty members have
expertise in a wide variety of areas, from genes, molecules, and cells
to tissues, organs, and whole organisms. Around the world, today's
bioengineers not only try to add new understanding of nature, but also
work on "engineering" the natural organisms, making tissue
substitutes at all levels, from molecules to man, looking for
engineered pharmaceuticals, and engineered gene therapy.
"Today, nearly every
academic research university has established a bioengineering program.
Across the country, these programs are modeled after the work of Y.C.
Fung," said David Gough, chair of UCSD's Department of
single-handedly opened up new horizons for biomedical
engineering," said Shu Chien, director of UCSD's Whitaker
Institute of Biomedical Engineering. "His impacts are strong,
far-reaching and long-lasting."
Fung has written several
authoritative books on biomechanics that are used as textbooks around
the world, in addition to books on solid mechanics and continuum
mechanics. He adds the National Medal of Science to a long list of
honors that include: the Founder's Award from the National Academy of
Engineering (1998); the Bioengineering Award from the Japan Society of
Mechanical Engineering (1995); the Distinguished Alumnus Award from
California Institute of Technology (1994); the Timoshenko Medal
(1991), the Melville Medal (1994), and Honorary Member (1996) from the
American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the Borelli Award from
the American Society of Biomechanics (1992); and the Lifetime
Achievement Award from the Association of Chinese
Scientists and Engineers of California (1992). In 1986, the ASME
established the "Y.C. Fung Young Investigator Award" in his