College of Engineering’s Higginson earns inaugural honor

Jill Higginson, mechanical and biomedical engineering professor, has been named the inaugural director of the University of Delaware’s new Institute for Engineering Driven Health. The Institute was recently established following the generous donation by David and Connie Helwig, both 1973 graduates of the UD’s College of Engineering and Lerner College of Business and Economics, respectively, to promote the discovery, development and commercialization of technologies to significantly advance healthcare.

“What’s most exciting about the new Institute is streamlining access to products, processes and services — designed by engineers — that have the potential to benefit human health,” Higginson said. “Improving access to our partners on the consumer and clinical side is an exciting way to create pipelines of opportunities to connect people who have identified health and mobility needs with those who are equipped to engineer the solutions.”

Launch of the institute is made possible by a multimillion dollar commitment through Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware from the Helwigs. Their gift will provide foundational funding for the institute to hire key staff, further develop its areas of focus and inspire additional support for impactful research and development. It will be led by the College of Engineering in partnership with other units across the University.

Under Higginson’s leadership, the Institute will focus on bioinspired and responsive therapeutics, microphysiological systems, wearable technology and experimental studies. Ultimately, the effort aims to integrate biomaterials with biomechanics to improve patient care.

“Jill understands the importance of translating findings from research into products, and is a great fit to be the inaugural director for this new endeavor,” said College of Engineering Dean Levi Thompson. “This announcement marks an important milestone for the institute, which we’re thrilled to be hosting thanks to the generosity of the Helwigs.”

Higginson joined the College of Engineering faculty in 2004 and is a named Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In 2010, Higginson became the founding director of UD’s biomedical engineering program, coordinating the undergraduate program through 2013. She also serves as the College of Engineering’s associate dean for Graduate and Post-graduate Education and has published over 125 peer-reviewed articles and abstracts, which have garnered more than 6,000 citations, according to Google Scholar.

Researchers in the Institute for Engineering Driven Health will work with faculty, students and staff from across the University, aligning and leveraging their expertise and innovative work around a common purpose within a solid infrastructure.

“The College of Engineering and the University continue to inspire confidence, change and innovation,” David Helwig, a member of the College of Engineering’s advisory council and a part of the University’s President Leadership Council, previously said about the new institute. “Connie and I are humbled by the role we can play in bringing new partnerships and initiatives to life through the institute — not only enabling the college to take a leadership role in providing new educational and teaching experiences for UD faculty, staff and students, but also creating and implementing necessary changes in the ever-important healthcare industry.”