Frank Baaijens awarded the Huiskes Medal for Biomechanics
Former TU/e rector magnificus and professor of Soft Tissue Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering Frank Baaijens is the first Dutch scientist to receive the ESB Huiskes Medal for Biomechanics.
TU/e professor Frank Baaijens has been awarded the prestigious Huiskes Medal for his outstanding contribution to the field of Biomechanics, this afternoon. His innovative research and application of this specialism have led to groundbreaking developments in tissue engineering, particularly in the field of heart valves. This renowned award has been conferred on Baaijens due to his scientific impact, commitment to valorization and dedication to mentoring young scientists.
This year, the ESB Awards Committee awarded Frank Baaijens with the Huiskes Medal due to his extraordinary contributions that have made him one of the leading scientists in biomechanics. His work has demonstrated the fundamental role of biomechanics in the successful development of living cardiovascular tissue substitutes. His involvement in professional societies, editorial boards and advisory boards has contributed to the visibility and impact of biomechanics at the national and international level.
Groundbreaking and multidisciplinary
Baaijens received his PhD from TU/e in 1987 and was appointed professor at the department of Mechanical Engineering in July 1995. In October 2002, he was appointed professor of Soft Tissue Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering at the department of Biomedical Engineering.
Specifically, Baaijens has a background in computational rheology and continuum mechanics. With that experience, he started working across the full spectrum of research, from laboratory to clinical application. His early work on hemodynamics and fiber-reinforced polymeric heart valves laid the foundation for his later focus on cardiovascular biomechanics and tissue engineering of living heart valves.
From 2015 to 2023, he was Rector Magnificus of TU/e. He handed over the baton to Silvia Lenaerts in May 2023.
I see this appreciation mainly as recognition for the wonderful colleagues, PhD students and students with whom I have had the privilege of working with. Their contributions have been invaluable to the advancement of our research.
A pioneer in biomechanics
Sandra Loerakker and Tommaso Ristori, direct colleagues of Frank Baaijens at the department of Biomedical Engineering and also proposers for this nomination call Baaijens "a true visionary" in the field of computational biomechanics. In their letter of recommendation, they write: ‘He was the first to hypothesize that the main directions of collagen fibers in cardiovascular tissues are determined by differences between maximum principal stresses or strains. A concept still widely used today. He applied these insights in his research on the development of living heart valves that can grow with the patient and adapt to changes in hemodynamic circumstances, called Tissue Engineered Heart Valves (TEHVs).
His work has shown that these in vitro cultured heart valves can function as aortic valve replacements. Moreover, recent work from his group has led to a breakthrough in the field, where advanced computational models were instrumental in the identification of a superior valve design that enabled an enormous improvement in the performance of these living heart valves.’
Educating young scientists
In addition to his pioneering research, Professor Baaijens has dedicated himself to training and mentoring young scientists. He has mentored dozens of MSc and PhD students, inspiring many of them to pursue independent academic careers. His dedication to teaching is also evident in his development of biomechanics classes at various academic levels and his contribution to the textbook "Biomechanics, Concepts and Computation," for undergraduate and graduate students in biomechanics.
Baaijens' work has not only had a huge impact in the field of biomechanics, but has also led to the creation of several TU/e startups, spawned from research conducted at the department of Biomedical Engineering. Companies such as Xeltis, STENTiT and LifeMatrix Technologies (the latter is a start-up of the University of Zurich, where Frank Baaijens also has an appointment as visiting professor), are applying his research to develop innovative solutions in the areas of synthetic bioabsorbable heart valves, regenerative stents, and in vitro cultured TEHVs. This illustrates the practical applicability and medical potential of his work.
About the Huiskes Medal
The Huiskes Medal is awarded by the European Society of Biomechanics (ESB). This is the largest society for biomechanics in Europe, with more than 1,500 members. Its aim is to stimulate research, disseminate knowledge and promote progress within the field of biomechanics. In recognition of Professor Rik Huiskes' lifetime achievements for biomechanics and the ESB, the Huiskes Medal is awarded every two years, via a worldwide competition, to a senior scientist who has made a significant contribution to this field. So this year, for the first time, to a Dutch scientist.
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