Bioengineering, Global Health
The Q-EPIC Program in Biomedical Engineering: Quality, Exposure, Policy, Innovation and Implementation in Context
As a bioengineer, Muhammad Zaman has two primary goals: developing novel tools to understand how cancer spreads through the body, and creating affordable technologies to address significant healthcare problems in the developing world. As someone who grew up in a developing country, he is actively engaged in bringing quality engineering education to students at Boston University and to students in developing nations.
Among Zaman's most significant scientific achievements is the development of a detailed quantitative understanding of how cancer cells move in their native environments. Most current knowledge about tumor cell motility comes from two-dimensional systems that subject cells to artificial environments. Zaman's work has provided new quantitative information on how three-dimensional environments regulate cellular migration, leading to an improved understanding of key stages of tumor invasion and metastasis.
More recently his lab engaged in addressing high value public health problems in developing nations. His lab has developed a new technology, PharmaChk, to test substandard and counterfeit drugs, which continue to cause death, morbidity and emergence of drug resistant pathogens. Zaman’s work has the potential to significantly impact public health outcomes in developing countries. PharmaChk, quantitatively analyzes the composition, concentration, and dissolution of drugs in minutes. PharmaChk is highly affordable and can be used at the point of care, or all points in the drug supply chain, from the manufacturer to the consumer in resource-limited settings.
In his courses at Boston University, Zaman aims to teach his students to appreciate rigor and depth, and does so in a way that encourages them to contribute to the world well beyond their classroom. To ensure that his students are engaging with course material, Zaman is committed to “real-time engineering” of his teaching. He uses anonymous biweekly surveys as a continuous feedback mechanism for students to inform him of their barriers to learning and suggest ways he can better deliver the material.
All of his courses incorporate real-world challenges faced by people both in the developed and in resource-limited areas. His students use standard bioengineering tools to address pressing biomedical problems that affect billions of people. When he talks about tools for cancer detection, he talks about challenges not just in Boston but also in Botswana. Zaman further engages his students with a focus on ethics and design. For example, when covering heat transfer, students address both the technical the ethical issues associated with the famous legal case in which a woman sued McDonald’s after spilling hot coffee and burning herself. Zaman uses the case to discuss how to design a better coffee cup, how to think about implications of design, and how to appreciate societal responsibilities of engineers.
Zaman is also currently involved in setting up biomedical engineering departments at universities in Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, and Ethiopia. He served as co-Director of the United Nations Africa Biomedical Initiative. He is a regular contributor on issues of STEM education and global health for the Project Syndicate, Huffington Post, and writes a weekly column on higher education for a leading Pakistani daily newspaper, Express Tribune (part of The International New York Times).