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Mechanical engineering chair named ASME fellow

Author: Holly Ober
November 3, 2020

Guillermo Aguilar, a professor and chair of mechanical engineering at UC Riverside’s Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering, has joined the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ 2020 class of fellows. 

Fellows are recognized for their exceptional engineering achievements and contributions to the society, known as ASME, and the engineering profession.

Guillermo Aguilar
Guillermo Aguilar

Aguilar works on biomedical optics and lasers. His pioneering work to develop a ceramic “Window to the Brain” in collaboration with colleagues in Mexico earned him a spot in the National Academy of Engineering of Mexico last year.

Most materials used to replace bone are made of titanium or opaque polymer. But for patients with brain conditions that require regular medical treatments, such as cancer, traumatic injuries, neurodegenerative diseases, and strokes, a transparent cranial implant would allow doctors to access the brain without repeated craniotomies. 

The Window to the Brain project produces implants by densifying yttria-stabilized zirconia nanopowder into a bulk ceramic material. Their manufacturing process minimizes light scattering caused by diffraction and incorporates guides to direct therapeutic laser and ultrasound waves through the ceramic. This allows undiminished light from a laser or waves from an ultrasound transducer to focus directly on one spot on the brain. 

Aguilar also leads the first successful bid for a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center in UCR’s history. The center, called Advanced Technologies for the Preservation of Biological Systems, or ATP-Bio, aims to develop and deploy breakthrough bioengineering technology to preserve a wide range of biological systems: cells, tissues, organs, and whole organisms. 

The ability to “stop biological time” through “suspended animation” has potential benefits such as revolutionizing organ transplant and tissue banking, accelerating and reducing the cost of drug research and discovery, improving treatment of severe injuries, and advancing cryopreservation of animal embryos.

Since 2018, Aguilar has served as member, secretary, and vice-chair of the ASME Engineering Department Heads Executive Committee. Next year, he will serve as chair of the committee.