COE Alumnus, Now Professor Focuses in the Interdisciplinary Fields of Biomechanics and Mechanobiology
Rouzbeh Amini, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, jointly appointed in bioengineering, first came to Northeastern in the early 2000s pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He recalls his days as a graduate student at Northeastern fondly and didn’t imagine that he’d ever get the chance to come back to the university as a professor.
That’s exactly what happened some 15 years later.
“I think it’s a really big privilege,” Amini says. “I don’t know how many people get the luxury to work at a place where they’ve built up a lot of memories, before actually becoming a professor in that environment.”
Good feelings are only a part of the equation that led him to return, however. The combination of his research interests, his passion for teaching, and the unique environment Northeastern provides closed the deal.
“The engineering program at Northeastern is a great environment with a lot of world-class researchers, and being in that stimulating environment is great,” he explains. “I can walk down the hall and talk to people who are experts in a number of fields and areas that I’d love to learn more about and collaborate more in.”
Amini is especially interested in the fields of biomechanics and mechanobiology. Northeastern is uniquely positioned in these fields both as a leader, and a university on the rise.
“I can’t think of many other institutions that have the emphasis on, and enthusiasm for growth for, this field,” he describes. “Being in this environment that’s already advanced and has this upward trajectory is key.”
Since his work is intricately linked with human health, being so close to Boston’s world-renowned hospitals is a major plus. Amini earned a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program grant while at his previous institution and has earned several other awards while at Northeastern.
Amini summarizes his research work in two main directions. He uses mechanical engineering tools, combined with exciting accurate medical imaging modalities, to understand how biomechanical factors affect the onset and progression of diseases. For example, his research group, in collaboration with ophthalmologists who perform the medical imagining, investigates if the iris of patients suffering from a specific form of glaucoma are mechanically stiffer than those of normal eyes.
In another interesting and equally important approach, Amini’s team uses benchtop experiments and computer models to fundamentally understand the mechano-biological phenomena that may be the underlying cause of such diseases. For example, in the case of glaucomatous irises, his team’s goal is to understand how and why such mechanical changes take place in certain individuals that may lead to the onset and progression of the disease.
Developing the next generation
While Professor Amini has a passion for his research, he also loves teaching.
“Northeastern is an institution that has always focused on high-quality education, and teaching is the reason I’m not working in a 100% research lab,” he explains. “I have a lot of respect for those researchers, but I really love teaching and working with students in the classroom, so it is an absolutely fun place to be.”
“Every time I walk by the student center, or Snell Library, or some of the other buildings, it’s like walking down memory lane,” he says. “I feel a sense of belonging to this place.”