Meritorious Achievement Award goes to outstanding Engineering Science faculty member
Ash Parameswaran, professor in the SFU School of Engineering Science, won the 2013 Meritorious Achievement Award from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC).
The award is part of the APEGBC annual President’s Awards, which recognize APEGBC members who have made significant professional, technical, or community service contributions. He was recognized for his long-term achievements in the field of engineering science.
Parameswaran also won the APEGBC Teaching Excellence Award in 2007 and has held the J.L. Wighton Professor of Experimental and Laboratory Studies since 2004. Despite his many achievements, Parameswaran credits those around him for his success.
“If at all I have made any achievements it is because of the support of my colleagues and collaborators … my peers from SFU, members I have met through APEGBC meetings and my international collaborators. Also, I acknowledge my research students who were the real players behind the scene.”
Earlier this year, Parameswaran received $100,000 through the federal government’s Stars in Global Health program for his “lab-on-a-chip” (LOC) technology. The low-cost, portable device allows for speedy point-of-care diagnosis of pathogens that cause infantile diarrhea and abdominal cramping, a leading cause of death for children under the age of five in developing nations. While many antibiotics exist – and are distributed for free by the World Health Organization – to cure infantile diarrhea, the challenge is quickly determining the correct one to administer. The plastic microfluidic device tests the sensitivity of certain bacteria to different antibiotics and yields the results within two hours, whereas it could take up to a week to get samples to medical staff at a centralized facility.
Parameswaran’s aim is to integrate the device with an electrochemical detection system using cell phones, whereby an infant’s caretaker would attach a sensor unit to a phone, dip the sensor in a small quantity of bodily fluid and wait for the results. These results would then be uploaded to be viewed by doctors in another part of the world, who would then call the caretaker and prescribe the correct antibiotic. At a cost of less than $5 per system, and less than $1 per test, the device is critical to rural and impoverished areas of the world.
Inspiration for the device came from Parameswaran’s visits to his native India, where he is now establishing connections with scientists via the Canada India Network Society. He is currently working with the Centre for Biotechnology in Chennai, India, and the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore on developing the implementation of the LOC system.
Parameswaran is internationally sought for his technical expertise, having worked with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Institute of Health, and the UN. He plans to put his technical ingenuity to further good use, working on low-cost devices to detect cancer and other disease markers for application in developing nations.
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