Banu Onaral is H. H. Sun Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA. She received her BS and MS in electrical engineering from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey, in 1973 and 1974 respectively and earned her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. Dr. Onaral joined the faculty of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Biomedical Engineering and Science Institute at Drexel University in 1981. Starting in 1995, she led the strategic planning to transform the Biomedical Engineering and Science Institute into a university-level interdisciplinary school. Since 1997, she has served as the Founding Director of the School of Biomedical Engineering Science and Health Systems.
Academic Focus and Leadership
Her academic focus both in research and teaching is centered on information engineering with special emphasis on complex systems, biomedical signal processing in ultrasound and optics and functional optical brain imaging. She has led major research and development projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of Naval Research (ONR), DARPA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). She supervised a large number of graduate students to degree completion and has an extensive publication record in biomedical signals and systems.
She founded several laboratories throughout her career: the most recent is the CONQUER (Cognitive Neuroengineering and Quantitative Experimental Research) CollabOrative established in Fall 2008 as an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional and international resource dedicated to the study of brain activation, development and deployment of optical brain imaging technologies in human performance, healthcare, mental health and learning with research and development partners in US and overseas, including China, Israel, Spain, Turkey and UK.
National Honors, Awards and Services
She is the recipient of a number of faculty excellence awards including the 1990 Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award of Drexel University, the EDUCOM Best educational Software award and the NSF Faculty Achievement Award. She is a Fellow of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a Founding Fellow of American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). She served on the inaugural Board of the AIMBE as publications chair and as Chair of the Academic Council.
Dr. Onaral’s professional services include chair and membership on advisory boards and strategic planning bodies of several universities and funding agencies, including service on the National Science Foundation's Engineering Advisory Board, and on the proposal review panels and study sections. Her professional responsibilities have included service on the Editorial Board of journals and the CRC Biomedical Engineering Handbook as Section Editor for Biomedical Signal Analysis.
She served as President of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS), the largest member-based biomedical engineering society in the world. Earlier, she had served as Vice-President of Conferences of IEEE-EMBS. She has been active in conference leadership; notably, she organized and chaired the 1990 Annual International Conference of the EMBS and Co-Chaired the 2004 Annual Conference of the Biomedical Engineering.
Translational Research and Health Innovations Leadership – University
Dr. Onaral’s translational research efforts for rapid commercialization of biomedical technologies developed at Drexel and its partner institutions have resulted in the creation of the Translational Research in Biomedical Technologies program. This initiative brings together academic technology developers with entrepreneurs, regional economic development agencies, local legal, business and investment communities. Under her leadership, the program has been awarded $10 million from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation toward the creation of the $20 million Coulter Translational Research Partnership Endowment.
Regional Health Innovation Partnership
She is currently leading the creation of the regional Health Innovation Partnership - Philadelphia Region modeled on the ‘Coulter Translational Research Partnership’ approach to commercialize university innovations. The initiative aims to mobilize the academic grassroots and to pool regional resources and assets to bring novel solutions to healthcare.
International Academic and Health Innovation Partnerships
She has actively forged international academic partnerships with institutions in China, Israel, Italy, Spain and Turkey. She participated in the strategic planning team charged with the creation of Sabancı University established in 1998 in Istanbul, Turkey and served on its Board of Trustees. She served as the President of the Turkish American Scientists and Scholars Association. She is currently serving as the US lead of regional health innovation initiatives, namely INOVIZ, INOVA and INOVITA (health focused initiative of INOVIST) in Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey, respectively.
In 2000, she led the first Eisenhower Foundation sponsored delegation of biomedical engineers to China and helped organize the first Asia-Pacific Biomedical Engineering Conference in Hangzhou. She has been instrumental in the organization of international biomedical engineering conferences in China and Turkey, including the Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology in Istanbul, Turkey in 2001 and Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology in Shanghai, China, in 2005. She has facilitated the development of translational research partnership with the Institute for Drug Research of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, in Fall 2010. She is spearheading the creation of similar partnerships with the Med-X Research Institute / School of Biomedical Engineering of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China; Life Sciences and Technology Center, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey; Human Neuropsychology and the Faculty of Physiology, University of Seville and the National Hospital for Paraplegics in Toledo, Spain.
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