New Chair in biomedical engineering

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After an international search, a leading expert on cell biology and regenerative medicine, Melissa Knothe Tate, has been named the new Paul Trainor Chair of Biomedical Engineering at UNSW Australia.  

Professor Knothe Tate joins UNSW after more than a decade at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. She is already planning to develop an engineering outreach program aimed at inspiring innovation in some of Australia’s Indigenous communities.

“The idea is to encourage innovation by getting young people to observe things in their environment and explore ways that nature can 'engineer itself' to adapt and survive,” Professor Knothe Tate says. 

“I feel a very strong calling to reach out to underrepresented groups and part of my goal here in Australia is to work and engage with Indigenous populations,” she says. “I think Indigenous communities have so much to offer the world, particularly when it comes to innovation.”

The engineering outreach program will be modelled on a similar initiative she established for a remote Inuit community in northern Canada in 2010, where she worked with and taught more than 400 school-aged children.  

Professor Knothe Tate’s research ranges from fundamental cell biology to the development of “disruptive” regenerative technologies that can be translated into clinical applications with a clear benefit for patients.

One technology is an implantable device that mimics the natural regenerative capabilities of periosteum – a thin sleeve-like membrane covering the surface of bones, which contains stem cells and growth factors necessary for bone formation and repair. In trials with sheep, these sleeve-like devices were implanted and were shown to hasten the speed of bone repair.

“One of the things I found so captivating about this opportunity and the Paul Trainor Chair is that it’s largely based around the idea of translating your research,” says Professor Knothe Tate. “This is really the crux of biomedical engineering and an important part of my career.”

Dean of the UNSW Faculty of Engineering, Professor Graham Davies, says: “Melissa was a top choice for the Paul Trainor Chair. She has a reputation for delivering research discoveries that can be successfully commercialised, and works as an advocate for women in engineering, Indigenous education, and primary maths education – all of which are priorities for our Faculty.”   

The Paul Trainor Chair in Biomedical Engineering honours the late Australian entrepreneur who established the Nucleus Group of companies and who played a pivotal role in developing the Cochlear implant and other medical devices and technologies such as the pacemaker.  

Professor Knothe Tate says she is fascinated by Paul Trainor’s legacy and is excited about the opportunity to develop relationships within Australia’s biomedical industry.

Media Contact: Myles Gough, 02 9385 1933