MechSE faculty appointed as Course Directors in new College of Medicine


Taylor Tucker, MechSE Communications

The Carle Illinois College of Medicine will be accepting its first class of students to begin classes in July 2018.

The college will offer a medical curriculum blended with engineering principles and will admit students who have already completed their undergraduate degree.

Among its inaugural faculty members are MechSE Associate Professor Amy Wagoner Johnson, Professor Iwona Jasiuk, and Professor and Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs Elizabeth Hsiao-Wecksler.

Elizabeth T. Hsiao-Wecksler
Elizabeth T. Hsiao-Wecksler
Hsiao-Wecksler will serve as a Course Director and Jasiuk and Wagoner Johnson will serve as Associate Course Directors. The three women will be working with teams that include basic scientists and clinicians to develop curricula and case studies for different courses in the college.

Wagoner Johnson received an appointment for Obstetrics after serving as the Interim Course Director for Obstetrics last fall. She will work with Carle physician Franklyn Christensen and Molecular and Integrative Physiology Professor Derek Wildman. The Obstetrics course has a problem-based, active learning approach and will take place during year two of the college’s four-year program.

“My goal is to do what I can to help the College of Medicine get off to a great start and to be successful in the long term,” Wagoner Johnson said.  “I am really excited for the opportunity to be involved in a meaningful way.”

Iwona Jasiuk
Iwona Jasiuk
She will also continue to do research with collaborators at the Beckman Institute and the Institute for Genomic Biology as well as in engineering. One facet of her research focuses on the mechanics of reproductive tissue, an area for which Wagoner Johnson hopes her new role will enable more growth.

Jasiuk’s development focuses on Women’s Health, a course that will discuss topics related to vasomotor and pelvic pain conditions. She will be working with Psychology Professor Dolores Albarracin and Carle gynecologist Dr. Marta Spain.

Jasiuk’s interest in the new college stems from her own research, in the areas of biomechanics and mechanics of materials. 

“I have had collaborative projects with doctors and medical researchers,” Jasiuk said.  “The new college opens a unique opportunity for engineers to get actively involved in the medical field.”

Amy Wagoner Johnson
Amy Wagoner Johnson
She and her group, the Bio and Nano Laboratory, are currently researching multi-scale characterization and modeling of bone.  She is confident her new position will open opportunities for more projects in areas like orthopedics.

“I look forward to learning more about pressing needs in medicine and contributing to the program, as well as new collaborations and joint projects,” Jasiuk said. 

Because of her research background in locomotion biomechanics, Hsiao-Wecksler was originally asked to develop the Movement course.  As the program evolved, three original courses in Movement, Neuromuscular, and Brain and Behavior were streamlined into two courses in Musculoskeletal and Clinical Neuroscience. 

Hsiao-Wecksler will work to develop the latter course, collaborating on a team that includes Carle MD/PhD neurologists Graham Huesmann and Dan Llano, who also have appointments in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, and Professor Yuril Vlasov from ECE.

She is currently engaged in research with faculty from the Neurology Department at OSF Healthcare in Peoria, the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, and the Physical Therapy Department at Bradley University. 

“We are collaborating to develop a passive hydraulic training simulator for replicating spasticity at the elbow,” Hsiao-Wecksler said. 

Spasticity is speed dependent, meaning that muscle resistance increases with increased speed of movement. The condition is often observed in stroke, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis patients.

Hsiao-Wecksler will also continue researching with her group, the Human Dynamics and Controls Lab.

College applicants will be required to submit an MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) score. The college recently announced that the entire inaugural class is receiving four-year scholarships.

“Students should be curious and want to make a difference in medicine by using their engineering and problem solving skills to realize medical needs,” Hsiao-Wecksler said.