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Eric Richardson: Creating New Opportunities through Engineering Design

Duke BME's newest faculty member discusses projects and perspectives he'll bring to the student design experience

Among the newest faculty to join Duke University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, is Eric Richardson, who wants to encourage engineering design expertise, both in the BME department and beyond. Formerly an engineer at Medtronic, Richardson helped develop some of the first transcatheter heart valves, now used in more than 50,000 patients across the world. He later taught at Rice University, creating immersive design experiences for engineering undergraduate and graduate students with a specific focus on emerging medical markets. 

Now, in his new role as an associate professor of the practice in BME, Richardson is leveraging his background in design, industry and global health to craft innovative design programs for biomedical engineering seniors, graduate students and other trainees across Duke.

What projects will you pursue in your new role at Duke?

I’m going to continue my focus on design and innovation by fostering unique design programs and collaborations. One of the things that attracted me to Duke was the amazing medical center with the proximity to the top-ranked BME program.

I’ll primarily be teaching design courses for undergraduate and graduate students. I’ll be teaching the BME 590: Medical Device Design with Mark Palmeri. As we move into the second year of that program, we’re working to bring in company sponsors for their projects, as we’re hoping to expand the industry collaboration in our capstone program.

In addition, I’m currently working with Ravi Bellamkonda, dean of the Pratt School of Engineering, and Joe Knight from the Fuqua School of Business to create a graduate program in design that brings together Pratt, Fuqua, the medical school, and other groups.

What is your design background?

Prior to arriving at Duke I worked at Rice University, where I taught the undergraduate capstone course for engineering seniors working on design projects. I also developed a new graduate program called the Global Medical Innovation Program, where we taught engineers how to design devices that were appropriate for emerging markets, especially Latin America and Asia. I also helped create the Texas Medical Center’s Biodesign program, where fellows from engineering, medicine, business, design, computer science and research programs identify unmet clinical needs and develop unique medical tools to address them.

What is unique about your approach to the design process?

I’m really interested in exploring the anthropological side of medical technology. Engineers need to not only understand the physical constraints of the devices they create, but the cultural, regulatory and legal constraints. In engineering, about 80 percent of the world’s devices serve about ten percent of the world’s population, so we have this 80 percent using technology that wasn’t created for their specific needs. Now, as we’re seeing the emergence of medical device markets in places like Latin America, Africa and Asia, there is a growing movement to understand how designs can better serve those healthcare systems.

Within the context of Duke BME, I’m interested in doing research in biomedical design, where we’ll work to better understand how engineering students can effectively immerse themselves so they can truly see the context for the tools they’ll create.