BINARY (or Biomedical, Information technology and Nanotechnology Applied Research laboratory)


Lab Name and Affiliation

BINARY (or Biomedical, Information technology and Nanotechnology Applied Research laboratory)

Canadian National Research Council / National Institute for Nanotechnology and University of Alberta, Canada

Lab Director (or Principal Investigator)

Dr. Jie Chen is a Fellow of the he Engineering Institute of Canada. He is also a professor in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Alberta, as well as a research officer of Canadian National Research Council / National Institute for Nanotechnology. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland. Chen has received numerous awards such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Leaders' Opportunity Award by CFI, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Distinguished Lecturer Award by the Circuits and Systems Society (2004-2005), and Best student paper award at IEEE/National Institutes for Health (NIH) 2007 Life Science Systems & Applications Workshop. His research on designing miniaturized ultrasound device for intra-oral dental tissue formation was listed by "Reader's Digest" as a major medical breakthrough in Canada in 2006. In partner with the University of Toronto, the device is in a Phase 2 clinical trial. Chen's current interdisciplinary research interests are (i) impedance-based portable devices for metabolic sensing, (ii) low intensity pulsed ultrasound device for cell therapy and increasing renewable biofuel production, (iii) nanotechnology-based platform for gene and drug delivery.

Dr. Chen has coauthored two books, three book chapters, 75 peer-reviewed journal papers, and 65 peer-reviewed conference proceeding papers as of April 2014. Some of them were published in high impact journals, such as Physical Review Letter (impact factor: 7.435), Small (impact factor: 7.823). The others were published in IEEE journals: IEEE Trans. on Circuits and Systems, IEEE Trans. on Biomedical Circuits and Systems, and IEEE Trans. on Signal Processing, etc. According to the Google Scholar search (, the h-index is 26 and total citation is 2,590 as of April 2014. He has received numerous research grants totaling over $10.5 million (either serve as a PI or as a co-PI) between 2003 and 2013 from US NSF and Canadian funding agents. He also has five patents in application, four were granted (Canadian companies licensed two patents). He has acquired entrepreneurial experience while helping establish two Bell-Lab spin-off companies. One company focused on developing the 4th-generation wireless network and was acquired by QUALCOMM in San Diego in 2005, and the other, iBiquity Digital Coorporation (, produces HD-Radios. The radios have been installed in most brands of cars worldwide, such as GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda and BMW. They are also sold in most retail stores such as Wal-Mart and BestBuy.

Lab Introduction

Fundamental changes in conducting cross disciplinary research are required if we are to step forward -- breaking down 'silos' and breaking down walls of traditional scientific boundaries. Foreseeing the need for these changes, we have shifted our research direction from traditional electrical engineering research in multimedia and networking device and circuit design towards interdisciplinary nanobiotechnology research over the past decade. The primary research interests of our lab include (i) nanoscale device and circuit design, (ii) building a portable impedance-based microfluidic nanoscale sensor for metabolite biomarker detection and environmental monitoring, and (iii) designing a low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) device for improving biofuel production. Our research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF, US), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC, equivalent to NSF in US), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR, equivalent to NIH in US), the Canadian Foundation of Innovation (CFI), Alberta Innovates, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, etc.

Personal statement about the research direction change:
My Ph.D. thesis was on VLSI multimedia video codec design. I also have many years work experience, including 4 years in Bell Labs and its spin-off companies, in the area of circuit and device design for telecommunication. However, several incidents afterwards in my life led me to the switch from traditional electrical engineering research to interdisciplinary biomedical research.

1. In 2002, I taught at Brown University. My research was in a conventional electrical and computer engineering topic, in particular research profile #1 ("Designing nanoscale devices and circuits"). One day a student approached me, a young man in his 30s. He asked whether he could do cancer research under my supervision. He informed me that, in the 1980s, he was the 16th employee to be hired by Microsoft Inc. He was very wealthy and even had his own helicopter. However, he suffered from cancer. He wanted to find a cure. Such a young man, wealthy but not healthy! This incident motivated me to devote the rest of my life to cancer research. However, performing cancer research requires a lot of infrastructure and abundant funding supports. I started to look for opportunities worldwide. In 2004, I knew the Canadian government planned to establish a National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) in Edmonton. I was interviewed by National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) and the University of Alberta (UofA) and got an offer as a research officer at NINT with a cross-appointment as an associate professor at the UofA in 2005. Over many years of research and development, this led me to research profile #3 "Building a portable impedance-based microfluidic nanoscale sensor for companion diagnosis". I have collaborated with many faculty members in medicine, biology and chemistry on this project.

2. Dr. El-Bialy of Dentistry and I both attended a new faculty orientation class when we joined the UofA in Fall 2005. Instructors were talking about how to motivate students to study a subject that they hate. As an example, Dr. El-Bialy mentioned that he didn't like circuit design. Because of my passion for this subject, I volunteered to get up in front of my fellow professors and demonstrated how to teach circuit design to the group. Afterwards, when I asked Dr. El-Bialy why he had mentioned circuit design - he is a dentist - he explained that he had done research on using ultrasound to regrow teeth. The ultrasound device he bought from the market didn't fit his needs and he needed someone - an engineer - to customize the design. It was this occasion that led me to work on the design of the ultrasound device, or research profile #2 "Improving biofuel production and regenerating tissues using LIPUS devices".

Looking back in history, nearly all individual medical advancements followed from new instrument inventions. For instance, pathology and microbiology thrived after the discovery of microscopy. The same holds true for medical imaging after the invention of the X-ray machine. The list can go on and on. Thanks to the advance of state-of-the-art biomedical research, people now live longer than our ancestors. I named my research group BINARY (or Biomedical, Information technology and Nanotechnology Applied Research laboratory) with the vision of applying information technology and nanotechnology to solve biomedical research problems.

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