• Reflections by Roger Kamm

    Perspectives on the USNCB and its accomplishments in advancing the field of biomechanics

    The US National Committee on Biomechanics was founded in 1982 by a forward thinking group led by YC Fung, with the expressed purpose of promoting biomechanics, in all its dimensions, throughout the  research community, in government agencies, and amongst the general public. These broad and ambitious goals have been accomplished over the years through a variety of activities and initiatives, and by the work  of many dedicated individuals. I am pleased to have played some small  role in the USNCB, and valued greatly the opportunities it has provided  to all of us. I first became a member of the USNCB in 1997, served as Secretary (2000-2003), Vice Chair (2003-2006), and Chair (2006-2009). During that time a transition took place in that the primary focus shifted from organizing the US-China-Japan Biomechanics Meeting, to addressing the emerging role of biomechanics in new fields, not  traditionally thought of as falling under the biomechanics umbrella. We  did this through a series of initiatives, which I will describe briefly.

    Our sense during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, was that biomechanics was becoming viewed as a mature discipline, and that many felt the truly exciting research opportunities were to be found in other fields. Acting on the firm belief that this was not the case, we decided to organize a series of meetings which we called Frontiers in Biomechanics, patterned after the popular Gordon Conferences, with about 100 attendees. These were designed with the explicit goal of highlighting areas of biomechanics where new opportunities could be found, in many cases stretching the boundaries of what had traditionally  been viewed as the domain of biomechanics. Frontiers Meetings  were subsequently held in 2003, 2005 and 2011, with each having one or  more focused topics and with an emphasis on attracting young  bioengineers and researchers in closely affiliated fields. Topics  included protein mis-folding, venous disease, bioMEMS, embryonic growth  mechanics, mechanics of speciation & evolutionary biology, and most  recently, the mechanics of development. These have been extremely  successful, usually held in conjunction with a larger meeting, and  effective in their purpose of highlighting the essential role of  biomechanics in these cross-cutting or transformative fields. One  measure of the success of these meetings is that many of these topics  have become regular sessions in our traditional meetings on  biomechanics.

    A second initiative with a similar goal was to hold a Summit on Biomechanics  in Snowbird, Utah in 2007, with the expressed purpose of defining the  directions for biomechanics research in the next decade, and to  disseminate the results of our discussions through a series of white  papers to be published in the archival literature. We chose to organize  discussions along the spectrum of length scales addressed in biomechanics research, from molecular to cellular, to tissue and organ. Through lively discussions at the meeting, and extensive interactions afterward, the following papers were published:

    • Molecular Biomechanics: The Molecular Basis of How Forces Regulate Cellular Function (Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering, 2010)
    • Biomechanics: Cell Research and Applications for the Next Decade (Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 2009) 
    • The Impact of Biomechanics in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (Tissue Engineering: Part B, 2009)
    • Integrative Biomechanics: A Paradigm for Clinical Application of Fundamental Mechanics (Journal of Biomechanics, 2009).

    In part because of these meetings and discussions, biomechanics has been re-defined. Prime examples can be seen in the tremendous growth in the new discipline of mechanobiology, and the wonderful success of the new journal, Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering. The USNCB served a critical function in helping to facilitate these new directions, and more generally, has had enormous impact on our  profession and beyond. I was pleased to have played a role, and have  valued greatly the interactions with my colleagues that have been  facilitated through the USNCB.