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Hospital for Special Surgery Scientist Featured in Book Lauding Women Engineers

Book explores how female engineers give back to society and make the world a better place

New York, NY—May 17, 2006

Engineer Marjolein van der Meulen, Ph.D., associate scientist with the laboratory for biomedical mechanics and materials at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, is featured in a new book titled "Changing Our World: True Stories of Women Engineers.” The book addresses the issue of female under-representation in the field of engineering. According to the book, of the estimated one million engineers in the United States today, approximately 100,000 of them are women.

Written by Sybil Hatch and published by the Extraordinary Women Engineers Project, the book’s introduction says women engineers are united by a desire to “give back to society and make the world a better place.”

“The opportunity to improve human health is a big part of what motivates me,” said Dr. van der Meulen. “I like working on problems that are not abstract academic exercises.”

“Our research examines how forces produced by everyday activities are sensed by bone cells that then react to adapt bone mass,” she explained. “In tennis players, for example, it has been shown that thicker and stronger bones are produced in the playing arm. In the lab, we simulate forces applied to the skeleton to understand how these processes can be harnessed to form bone. We hope that this will one day benefit individuals with bone loss associated with osteoporosis.”

Dr. van der Meulen first became interested in pursuing a career in engineering when, as a teenager, she saw a television program about paraplegics who were learning to walk again. She began her study of engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering in 1987. Dr. van der Meulen continued her studies at Stanford University where she earned a master of science in mechanical engineering in 1989 and a doctorate in mechanical engineering in1993.

Dr. van der Meulen is also an associate professor at Cornell University’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Her research focuses on the human skeleton in the relatively new field of mechanobiology, which examines how mechanics influence biological systems. In the book’s section on bioengineering, called “Healthy Bodies, Creative Minds,” Dr. van der Meulen explains how her research on adolescent bone mass development could be applied to help prevent osteoporosis later in life.

“In contrast to models that focus primarily on the adaptation of dense bone, this research could result in a personalized exercise regimen designed to increase bone mass at specific regions of the skeleton where bone is lost with osteoporosis and to enhance bone around joint replacements,” she noted. Along with her colleagues at Cornell and Hospital for Special Surgery, Dr. van der Meulen is studying porous bone and its adaptation to mechanical load and hormonal manipulation.

Timothy Wright, Ph.D., director of the laboratory for biomedical mechanics and materials at Hospital for Special Surgery, said that the hospital is extremely fortunate to have Dr. van der Meulen on its research staff. “Marjolein is becoming one of the new leaders in her field,” Dr. Wright said.  “She represents a new breed of biomedical engineer working in medicine; she knows engineering for sure, but she also understands biology and orthopedics, and she possesses a professional commitment to the musculoskeletal field.”

In addition to her research at Cornell and Hospital for Special Surgery, Dr. van der Meulen has also collaborated with Emily Holton, Ph.D., and Ruth Globus, Ph.D., at NASA to characterize changes in the load-bearing ability of bones as a result of the reduced forces experienced during spaceflight and to examine cellular mechanisms that may sense the altered forces. Past collaborations with the space agency earned her the NASA Graduate Student Research Fellowship and a NASA Ames Research Center Honor Award.

In 1995 Dr. van der Meulen received the National Institutes of Health FIRST Award and in 1999, the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Award. She serves on the board of associate editors for the Journal of Orthopaedic Research and has published widely in a variety of peer reviewed journals including Bone, Journal of Orthopaedic Research, and Journal of Rehabilitation Research Development.

Designed to encourage young women to become engineers, the book was launched at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., during Engineer’s Week.  The book will be distributed primarily to school libraries and counseling centers.


About HSS | Hospital for Special Surgery
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the eighth consecutive year) and No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2017-2018). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. The global standard total knee replacement was developed at HSS in 1969. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State. In 2017 HSS provided care to 135,000 patients and performed more than 32,000 surgical procedures. People from all 50 U.S. states and 80 countries travelled to receive care at HSS. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. The HSS Global Innovation Institute was formed in 2016 to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The culture of innovation is accelerating at HSS as 130 new idea submissions were made to the Global Innovation Institute in 2017 (almost 3x the submissions in 2015). The HSS Education Institute is the world’s leading provider of education on the topic on musculoskeletal health, with its online learning platform offering more than 600 courses to more than 21,000 medical professional members worldwide. Through HSS Global Ventures, the institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally.


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