To aid in the clinical diagnosis of cancer and other diseases, Timothy Chang, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has developed a robotic technique for placing genetic material onto slides precisely, quickly and inexpensively. With an NSF grant, he is building a prototype system that will make gene-based diagnostics accessible even for small hospitals. He is collaborating on the project with Patricia Soteropoulos, director of the Center for Applied Genomics at the Public Health Research Institute. Dr. Chang is head of Robotics and Automation at the center.
The new system for placing minute dots of material into a microarray -- a grid on a slide -- features a "smart pin" that uses a fiber-optic pin and a sensor known as a piezoelectric nano-positioning device to get the right amount of DNA material on the slide. "The smart pin will also be applied to the field of proteomics to analyze proteins which are the building blocks of all life forms.