Sameer Sonkusale calls himself a problem solver. A professor of electrical and computer engineering, he does not limit himself to one field. “The journey of problem solving takes us to very unexpected places.”
From his background in circuits and electronics, Sonkusale developed a smart bandage to address the medical problem of chronic wounds. These bandages monitor the healing process, transmit data wirelessly, and deliver antibiotic, antimicrobial, and growth factor treatments to combat infection and promote skin regeneration.
A problem still existed, however, with very deep wounds. Bandages do not access—and cannot monitor—the wound bed. Sonkusale and his collaborators thought about surgeons, who are able to reach into wounds with needle and thread. Inspired by this, the researchers figured out how to place sensors and electronics on a thread.
Now, they are attempting to solve other problems with smart threads. They have developed threads that change color when exposed to certain gases in the environment and to certain chemicals in sweat, an added safety measure for soldiers, athletes, first responders, and laboratory workers. Sonkusale is working toward a goal of “zero-cost diagnostics.” He wants to empower everyone, regardless of means or scientific training, to monitor their health and environment with what they already have on them.
As Sonkusale moves from problem to problem, he values similar versatility in the students he works with. “Tufts students are not one-dimensional, and that feeds in well to the way they think about a problem. It’s not just technical. They’re also thinking about applications, entrepreneurship, societal impact.” He adds, “Everyone who works in my research group has brought in a different view or perspective that I had not known before.”
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