Bringing Bioengineering and Biotechnology to its Fullest Potential
By Katie Webb, CBB Biographer
December 6, 2012
Murray Moo-Young, member of the Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo, has had an illustrious career. While formally trained as a chemical engineer, Moo-Young’s career took a turn towards bioengineering during his post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Edinburgh and he has since been influential in the development of the field.
His ability to be so influential stems in part from the balance he has struck between the pure and applied sciences. Moo-Young combines the need to follow scientific lines of inquiry where they lead with maintaining a connection with society to find the social benefit for new discoveries. Striking this precarious balance comes in part from Moo-Young’s strong support for both collaborative and interdisciplinary work, as collaboration with another person who is more applied or pure in their methodologies can present new opportunities to extend research to its fullest potential.
This type of collaboration, he notes, is especially important for successful research in the field of bioengineering and biotechnologies. To be successful in research and development in bioengineering and biotechnologies requires bringing together a wealth of knowledge from biology, engineering, and other sciences. This demands a breadth of knowledge that requires extensive study in many disciplines and is rarely found within a single person, requiring researchers to branch out to their colleagues in other disciplines to fully expose and utilize all aspects of a new discovery.
To bring together the knowledge necessary to bridge the gaps between disciplines, Moo-Young states that we must learn to communicate across the cultural lines which keep us apart, whether they form around an identity based on faculty or area of study, hierarchical structures, or the different cultures found in academia and the private and public sectors. He speaks candidly of how the best ideas can be generated in a social environment where casual conversation, and sometimes beer, allows ideas to flow more informally and collaborations to begin between those who otherwise may not have found common grounds for research.
Looking to the future of the field, Moo-Young sees a dual benefit to the faster pace of development that is currently occurring. The faster pace of discovery that stems from the continued globalization and improved communications technologies enables greater levels of collaboration, even internationally. This increased level of collaboration, in turn, introduces new ideas, ways to intermingle disciplines, and solutions to social problems, which are able to cycle back into promoting new collaboration, bringing together the right people to fully exploit the potential of ideas and create change.
To date, Moo-Young has published 14 books, 10 patents, and over 355 papers. In recognition of his significant contributions to the field, he is the recipient of many national and international awards. He is the chief editor of Biotechnology Advances (www.Elsevier.com) with the 4th ranked Impact Factor of the current 157 English-language biotech-related journals. He is an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the highest accolade for a Canadian scholar.