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Simple, ingenious way to create lab-on-a-chip devices could become a model for teaching and research

With little more than a conventional photocopier and transparency film, anyone can build a functional microfluidic chip.

A local Cambridge high school physics teacher invented the process; now, thanks to a new undergraduate teaching lab at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), students will be able explore microfluidics and its applications.

The Microfluidics Lab, developed by Dr. Anas Chalah, Director of Instructional Technology at SEAS, takes advantage of a simple but ingenious new method of creating lab-on-a-chip devices that are quick to produce, affordable, and reusable.

Chalah is excitedcontagiously soabout the lab's potential to serve students from all areas of science and engineering.

"Harvard University shaped the emergence of the field of microfluidics and soft lithography through the leading research conducted in the labs of George Whitesides and David Weitz, among others," he says. "Now we are bringing those areas of experimentation to the undergraduate teaching labs at SEAS."

The first course to use the lab will be the mechanical engineering course ES 123, "Introduction to Fluid Mechanics and Transport Processes." Students enrolled in the course this spring will use sophisticated COMSOL MultiphysicsTM software to model the flow of liquid through chips of varying structure, in order to design and build optimal chips in the lab. The COMSOL software is widely used for design projects in both academic research and industry.

ES 123 is structured to emphasize the importance of the design process.

"Students do the simulation, go through the homework, and get exposed to the process before they even get in the lab," says Chalah.

Chalah emphasizes that the new lab will provide a core facility for multiple areas of undergraduate study. "We can get people from different disciplines excited about the same device," he says.

For example, the do-it-your

Contact: Michael Patrick Rutter
Harvard University

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