Case Western Reserve University engineer and researcher Umut Gurkan, known for groundbreaking research that has revolutionized lab-on-a-chip and point-of-care medical diagnostic technologies for underserved populations, has been selected as a member of the 2021-23 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s (NASEM) “New Voices” cohort.
The NASEM program brings together 22 early-career leaders across academia, industry, government and non-profit organizations to discuss how these fields can address emerging challenges. Gurkan is the Warren E. Rupp Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the Case School of Engineering
Gurkan works on gaining a fundamental understanding of hemoglobin, red blood cells, blood rheology and microcirculation in health and disease—which has led to cutting-edge technology used to screen and diagnose sickle cell disease and anemia in underserved populations worldwide.
Born and raised in Turkey, Gurkan pursued a career in engineering after his family emigrated from Europe, becoming a first-generation college graduate and PhD-degree holder in his family. Through his experience, he has developed a passion for not only advancing research that will improve the lives of people across the world, but developing a diverse and inclusive team to support these efforts.
“As an inventive engineer, and entrepreneur academic, my research efforts fully focus on engineering fundamentals and design principles to improve access to affordable diagnostics, effective treatments and definitive cures for all, regardless of where they are from or where they live, ensuring safety, efficacy, equity and ethics,” he said.
Gurkan said he will focus on working toward ensuring that people in underrepresented communities are included in scientific research, technology innovation and science policy decisions that so often have a direct impact on their lives, but who rarely have input on those decisions.
“Through my engagement with New Voices, I would like to devise new and unique ways to empower underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and medicine,” he said. “Through new policies that would maximize entrepreneurship and leadership roles in these groups, I believe we can make lasting change in the decision-making bodies of the future.”
The 2021-23 class of NASEM leaders will meet over a two-year period with a senior advisory committee to address key issues, engage nationally with a wider group of young, diverse leaders and attend international events on science policy.
He has published research in more than 85 scientific publications and holds 10 U.S. patents and numerous international patents. His patents have been licensed and/or commercialized by four companies: DxNow Inc., Xatek Inc., BioChip Labs Inc. and Hemex Health Inc.
One of these technologies won a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patents for Humanity Honorable mention in 2018. It was for a point-of-care test for common hemoglobin disorders, such as sickle cell disease, commercialized under the product name “Gazelle” by Hemex Health.
The National Hearth Lung and Blood Institute featured Gurkan in Today’s Faces of Sickle Cell Disease and his research on lab-on-a-chip technologies in a recent article, Future of medicine: Lab-on-a-chip devices starting to make an impact.