Izatt Named Chair of Biomedical Engineering at Duke
Joseph A. Izatt, a globally recognized expert in medical imaging, will lead Duke BME through 2025
Joseph A. Izatt has been appointed chair of Duke’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. An internationally recognized expert in medical imaging innovation, respected student mentor and advisor, and faculty leader, Izatt has served as interim chair since July and will now lead Duke BME until June 2025.
“After seeing the energy and dedication he brings to the position, even in a temporary capacity, I quickly concluded that Joe would be an excellent choice for chair,” said Jerome P. Lynch, Vinik Dean of Engineering at Duke. “His first-hand experience in translation of innovation from lab to clinic makes Joe a fantastic resource to lead Duke BME into its next phase of growth, which will emphasize deepening its positive impact on society.”
“Providing the best possible educational experience for our students and professional development opportunities for our staff, all in the context of an inclusive and equitable environment, will be a top departmental priority.“
Joseph A. Izatt | Chair, Duke BME
Izatt, the Michael J. Fitzpatrick Distinguished Professor of Engineering, has been a member of the Duke BME faculty since 2001.
He is a pioneering researcher and inventor who played a foundational role in optical coherence tomography (OCT). The non-invasive medical imaging technique uses optical interferometry to peer through layers of soft tissue, such as the retina at the back of the eye.
OCT aids medical professionals and patients by providing richly detailed images that guide diagnosis and treatment decisions.
The Izatt Biophontics Lab continues to seek further innovations with the promise of improving human health—including new methods of non-invasive medical diagnostics, in vivo tomographic microscopy, and real-time, image-guided robotic surgery. The lab’s expertise in OCT technology has also allowed it to expand beyond the realm of biomedical imaging, such as investigating how OCT could help autonomous robots and vehicles to see better.
Izatt is a partner in a decades-long interdisciplinary collaboration with Cynthia Toth, a medical doctor and Duke professor of ophthalmology. Their work to improve the accuracy of examination and surgery of the eye has led to handheld OCT systems for infants and the first intraoperative OCT-guided system for eye surgery.
“Duke BME was the first accredited undergraduate BME program in the US, and is one of the world’s premier biomedical engineering programs—I am honored to serve as its chair,” Izatt said. “I can think of nothing more vital or more inspiring than the work Duke BME faculty, staff and students do, which is designing solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing human society.”
“Joe’s first-hand experience in translation of innovation from lab to clinic makes him a fantastic resource to lead Duke BME into its next phase of growth, which will emphasize deepening its positive impact on society.”
Jerome P. Lynch, PhD, F.EMI | Vinik Dean of Engineering at Duke
Izatt’s vision for the future of Duke BME, he says, centers on the continuation of its trajectory of success to become widely recognized as both the top destination for faculty and trainees at all levels seeking cutting-edge biomedical engineering research and pedagogy, and as a vibrant, inclusive and welcoming home for all members of the departmental community.
Work toward this vision will include continuing to recruit and retain the most outstanding faculty widely recognized as thought leaders across all of the major traditional and emerging areas of BME research, as well as building upon and supporting Duke BME’s remarkable cadre of teaching-focused faculty who are recognized leaders in innovation within engineering education.
Izatt would also like to increase Duke BME’s connectivity with its thousands of successful alumni, especially those in positions of leadership in BME education and industry across the globe. As well, he said, Duke BME should expand its outreach and involvement in the incredibly exciting expansion of life-science industries in the Research Triangle Region of North Carolina, especially ventures working in gene and cell therapy.
Holding 75 US patents, Izatt is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). He is also the recipient of honors for excellence in mentoring and advising, including the 2008 Pratt School’s Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising and the 2017 Duke Graduate School Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring.
Beyond his classroom, laboratory, and faculty duties, Izatt has contributed leadership to the school and university. He served as chair of a landmark organizational visioning exercise, Pratt 2039, and served as chair of the Search Committee for Duke’s Vice President for Research and Innovation. For service to his profession, Izatt received the Fantone Distinguished Service Award from Optica (formerly the Optical Society of America) earlier this year.
“Our Duke BME community encompasses some 800 individuals on campus, including Duke’s largest graduate program, one of its largest undergraduate majors, and our incredibly talented and devoted research and administrative staff,” Izatt said. “Continuing to provide the best possible educational experience for our students and professional development opportunities for our staff, all in the context of an inclusive and equitable environment, will be a top departmental priority.”
Biomedical Engineering at Duke
- Duke’s Department of Biomedical Engineering was created in 1971. A year later, it offered the first accredited undergraduate BME program in the United States
- For 50 years, Duke BME has been a highly-ranked global leader— in 2022, Duke BME has the #3 undergraduate program and the #7 graduate program in biomedical engineering in the country, as ranked by US News
- New research awards for its faculty are $48 million annually
- The department is the home of the NIH-funded research and PhD training Center for Biomolecular and Tissue Engineering, and additional centers focused on global women’s health technologies, genomic and computational biology, and advanced genomic technologies
- Faculty innovation at Duke BME has spun off more than 20 new companies
- Duke BME educational offerings include master’s degrees in biomedical engineering and medical technology design, and a dual MD-Master of Engineering for Duke medical students