Although microelectronics technology has progressed very quickly in the past sixty years, in many ways it is still catching up. Over millions of years, biological systems have evolved exquisite capabilities far beyond those of modern technology. One way to overcome this “technology gap” is to learn from biology. My research strives to accomplish this by developing hybrid bioelectronic systems, by incorporating principles of adaptation into electronic systems, and by understanding the physical basis for biology’s successes. I’ll describe several efforts along these lines, including integrated biosensors that directly monitor the responses of living cells and adaptive integrated circuits that automatically adjust their characteristics to improve performance. I’ll highlight some directions and remaining challenges in the path ahead, as well as novel applications that are made possible by these advances.
Pamela A. Abshire is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, with appointments in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Institute for Systems Research. She is also a member of the Programs in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science (NACS) and Bioengineering. Her research focuses on mixed-signal integrated circuit design, particularly adaptive circuits and biosensors, and understanding the tradeoffs between performance and energy in natural and engineered systems. She received the B.S. degree in physics with honor from the California Institute of Technology, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical and computer engineering from The Johns Hopkins University. She also worked as a Research Engineer in the Bradycardia Research Department of Medtronic, Inc. She received the NSF CAREER Award in 2003, the George Corcoran Memorial Award for Electrical Engineering Education in 2004, and the University of Maryland Invention of the Year Award in the Physical Sciences category in 2005 for Cell Sensor Based Pathogen Detection.