IEEE Young Professionals Bangladesh and IEEE Bangladesh Section presents the webinar  “Exploring Research Opportunities on the Interface of Engineering and Biology amidst the Covid-19 Reality

Date: 27th June 2020

Time: 7:30pm-9:30pm

Place: Zoom web meeting

The webinar will invite renowned researchers of Biology and Electronics who work in the field. It will encourage young professionals to explore interdisciplinary research opportunities. Specific outcomes will be to have fruitful research ideas and collaboration from the young researchers.


  • Dr. Muhammad Ashraful Alam, FIEEE, Jai N. Gupta Professor of ECE, Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA
  • Dr. Firdausi Qadri, Senior Scientist, Head Mucosal Immunology and Vaccinology Unit, icddr,b; Lead, ideSHi
  • Dr. Mustak Ibn Ayub, Assistant Professor, Department of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Dhaka University

Meeting Report on Exploring Research Opportunities on the Interface of Engineering and Biology amidst the Covid-19 Reality

Reported by, Dr Sajid M Choudhury, Chair, IEEE YP Bangladesh

IEEE Young Professionals Bangladesh and IEEE Bangladesh Section organized the webinar  “Exploring Research Opportunities on the Interface of Engineering and Biology amidst the Covid-19 Reality” on 27th June 2020 from 7:30pm-10:00pm. The webinar invited renowned researchers of Biology and Electronics who work in the field. It encouraged the young professionals to explore interdisciplinary research opportunities. 

Dr. Sajid Muhaimin Choudhury started moderating the session by sharing his vision and rationale for the webinar. Dr. Choudhury explained his experience with the interdisciplinary research culture at Purdue University during his PhD. Engineers, Biologists, Material Scientists, Physicists all actively collaborate and target a specific problem, each bringing in their unique skills to the table to solve the problem. The webinar is organized to bring in professionals and researchers from two different disciplines and discuss possible collaborative research approaches to solve problems. Since Covid-19 is a global problem, the webinar is focused on how interdisciplinary research problems related to this issue could be solved by combining the skills of Engineers and Biologists. It is important for young researchers, graduate students and young engineers to be acclimated to the culture of problem driven interdisciplinary research to tackle the challenges of pandemic and post-pandemic reality.

Dr. Firdausi Qadri (ICDDRB) was the first speaker of the evening. Dr. Qadri is working as an emeritus scientist in the icddr;b, and is the Head of the Mucosal Immunology and Vaccinology Unit. She works in collaboration with international and national organizations on research related to infectious diseases and vaccine development.  She has published over 200 papers in peer reviewed journals. She founded the institute for developing Science and Health initiatives (iDeSHi) in 2014 and is currently the lead and Chairperson of the organization. She is a fellow of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), Bangladesh Academy of Sciences (BAS), in the advisory panel of the World Health Organization (WHO). Her ground-breaking work on vaccines helped to save millions of lives in Bangladesh and for that she is recipient of many national and international recognitions, including Bangladesh Academy of Sciences Gold Medal in 2005, Christophe Mérieux Prize from the French Academy of Sciences in 2012, C. N. R. Rao Prize in 2013, L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards in 2020. Dr. Firdausi Qadri (ICDDRB) rightly pointed out some major roles of engineers in their field and she also inspired researchers for possible collaboration. rightly pointed out some major roles of engineers in their field and she also inspired researchers for possible collaboration.

The second speaker was Dr. Muhammad Ashraful Alam. Dr. Alam holds the Jai N. Gupta professorship at Purdue University. I was extremely fortunate and privileged to have him as my direct classroom teacher when I was in Purdue. From 1995 to 2003, he worked in the Silicon ULSI group at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ. Dr. Alam is known for important, innovative contributions that have overcome technological bottlenecks in various aspects of semiconductor, electronic and opto-electronic device device technology. He is a fellow of IEEE, American Physical Society (APS), and American Association of Advancement of Science (AAAS). His awards include 2006 IEEE Kiyo Tomiyasu Medal for contributions to device technology for communication systems, 2015 Semiconductor Research Corporation Technical Excellence Award for fundamental contributions to reliability physics, and 2018 IEEE EDS Education Award. He shared his talk on “Five Facets of  Covid-19 Research: An Electrical Engineer’s Perspective” He shared some ideas on Biosensors. He explained how engineers can play a pivotal role in improvement of healthcare related sectors.

Since IEEE YP Represents the young Engineers, IEEE YP wanted to include a young biotechnologist to learn about the research problems. The third speaker is Dr. Mustak Ibn Ayyub. Dr. Ayyub is currently working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Dhaka. Dr Ayyub completed his PhD in Molecular Oncology Cancer and Immunology Lab of John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford. He is a director of Network for Young Biotechnologists of Bangladesh.  He talked about “Generate-Compile-Interpret-Integrate: A Data-centric Model Towards Interdisciplinary Research”. His talk had an interesting discussion on genome sequence analysis.

Dr. Celia Shahnaz was our first panelist. Dr. Shahnaz is the Chair of IEEE Bangladesh Section and Chair of IEEE EMBS Bangladesh. She presented some very effective biomedical applications and assistive technologies to support sustainable development goals. She also shared her initiatives in enhancing joint collaboration between IEEE Societies and Bangladesh Section, (e.g. 4 co-located conferences and a workshop in 2019).


Dr. Shafiqul Islam was the second panelist. Dr. Islam is the Head of the Department of EEE and the Chair of IEEE EDS/SSCS Bangladesh. Dr. Islam summarized the discussion and pointed out the importance of collaborative research.

Dr. A B M Harun-ur Rashid was the third panelist.  Dr. Rashid is a Professor of the Department of EEE and EC Member of  IEEE EDS/SSCS Bangladesh. He shared his own thoughts regarding the collaborative research.

Dr. Sheikh Anowarul Fattah was the fourth panelist. Dr. Fattah is a Professor of the Department of EEE, BUET and Chair of the IEEE RAS Bangladesh. Considering the “COVID19 reality”, Professor Fattah shared two applications: Disinfection Robots (an upcoming initiative by IEEE RAS Bangladesh Chapter) and COVID19 detection from chest X-ray (one of his own research results).

During the question and answer session, Azfar Adib (Concordia U, Montreal), asked how the standards are adopted in healthcare during Covid-19. Dr. Shakil Farid, Consultant Cardiac Surgeon, John Radcliffe Hospital UK asked about the Ivermectin trials and asked about the possibility of using air circulation in hospitals to reduce risk of infection for doctors. Nazmus Sakib (ICT Division, GoB), Dr. Aowalad (Department of ECE, KUET), Muntasir Hasan (EEE, BUET) asked technical questions that the speakers answered.

Finally Dr. Choudhury concluded the session by thanking all the speakers, panelists, participants, volunteers, his family members who attended (Prof. Shamima Choudhury, Fellow of BPS, Dr. Shakil Farid, Dr. Sarah Choudhury) and organizers.


Dr. Ashraf Alam has a course in EdX called Principles of Electronic Biosensors that may interest the audience of this webinar

Dr. Alam later answered the questions asked in the session in more detail. We sincerely appreciate Dr. Alam’s quest for knowledge and thank Dr. Alam for his passion for teaching, humbleness and answering all the questions. As per his suggestion, here is a copy of his email for everyone to follow up (it was written as a reply to Dr. Sajid Choudhury’s email):


Dear All:

Thank you for participating in the forum. This is a wonderful education experience for me. Instead of responding individually, allow me to  respond to the questions collectively. Sajid may eventually decide to collect all the responses and save in a webfile linked to the webinar for future reference. I would be curious to know the answers to questions asked of other participants as well.


 ** Walaikum as salam, Sajid.

I hope you are doing well. It was really kind of you to ask for the questions from the audience members during yesterday’s webinar. I am copying all the questions below from the chat box. I think some of the questions are already answered in the live session, and in the interest of time, we could not accommodate all the questions. The email is CCed to all the participants who asked questions.

 ** You are right, Sajid – Several of the questions have been already answered. I can respond to them briefly.


Dr. Shakil Farid: hi. I just wanted to ask something. How difficult is it to install devices for  air cycle changes in hospitals in bangladesh. How many days will it take to install this in a 1000 sq feet area ICU

 ** Dr. Farid: Your questions are practical and thoughtful. I am sure the technology exists and architects know them very well, but retrofitting an existing facility at the time of crisis may be difficult and expensive. After all, the hospital designs have evolved greatly over the last 100 years (as shown by the pictures of rows of beds during Spanish flu time), but an owner/administrator’s cost-benefit analysis may not include once in a lifetime event. God forbid, if the pandemic persists, I think the hospitals still find it important to add the fix.


Dr. Aowalad: Question to Prof. Alam, Sir. Are the mentioned super sensitive sensors available now commercially for covid19 detection? If not, how much time will be required to come to the market?  Rapid accurate testing is really needed for early detection and preventive measures against virus spreading.

 ** Dear Dr. Aowalad:  The technology is not commercially available, but many groups have adopted the approach for laboratory-scale super-sensitive  detection. In fact, the sensor is so sensitive that it can detect the difference between the osmoregulation of dead vs. live bacteria (which is one of the most elegant and fascinating machines I have ever seen!) . As the droplet is evaporating, the increasing salt concentration builds up the differential osmotic pressure to 10s of atmosphere attempting to burst the cell wall. Desperate, the bacteria begins to generate within seconds a protein channel that allows it dramatically increase the salt-intake to equilibrate the pressure (almost like our blood pressure regulation mechanism).  In short, although the technique is not commercial, the approach provides a new way of thinking about DNA, antibody, and bacteria detection.  Please see: Ebrahimi, A., & Alam, M. A. (2016). Evaporation-induced stimulation of bacterial osmoregulation for electrical assessment of cell viability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(26), 7059-7064. Ebrahimi, Aida, Laszlo N. Csonka, and Muhammad A. Alam. “Analyzing thermal stability of cell membrane of Salmonella using time-multiplexed impedance sensing.” Biophysical journal 114.3 (2018): 609-618.


Mohammad Muntasir Hassan: Dear sir, Thank you very much for your very interesting talk. I have two questions for you.  

Question 1: I have found that simulation papers used wavelength shift/RIU for sensitivity but I think that metric often underestimates sensitivity. So can you suggest any other metric in this regard for expressing sensitivity of a sensor? 

 ** If the approach relies on bulk index change due to adsorbed molecules, then you are right that it can only shift quadratically with wavelength, which is not a very sensitive measure. Therefore, people have sometimes used nonlinear enhancement based on the fractal network of the substrate (a random collection of metallic Nanowire should do). The localized enhancement of the field can exceed 1e3 times the bulk value and a significant change of index is possible. For fractal networks with nonlinear optical properties, please see the work by Vlad Shalaev and others (Prof. Sajid Choudhury’s advisor).


Question 2: Which technique – photonic, electro-mechanical, electrical (like capacitance change) will be the most effective one to detect virus (any virus)?

 ** Each technique has its merits and limitations. Photonic systems are often more advanced but difficult to miniaturize and integrate with electronics, but electrical systems are much more sensitive, easy to integrate with modern electronics, but their selectivity are not always fully quantified. Will you listen to my lectures on “Principles of Nanobiosensors” on Nanohub (or edX, or youtube) for a deeper appreciation of these techniques?


MD.NAZMUS SAKIB: i have a question to alam sir that if fiber optic refractive index biosensors can detect covid19 rna virus???

 Dear Sakib:

 ** I am not sure if this will be sufficiently selectively, especially without PCR. You see, real-time PCR already uses light-scattering  to count the viral load (virus diameter 200nm well matched to the light wavelength in fluid).  Since the virus count was amplified by PCR, therefore its number is much larger than other particles present. I am sure if you do PCR, you can detect by fiber-optic techniques as well, but the question really is can you do it without PCR (by resonant enhancement, for example)?  That may not be possible because various viruses have very similar dielectric constants. Anyway, here is an interesting reference:



Dr. Shaikh Anowarul Fattah: Q–To Prof Alam Sir–Sir thanks for the talk. There are two issues: (1) Design and implementation of bio-sensors and (2) Using the sensing data for analyzing the behavior using deep learning. Would you shade lights on the second part? How does that analysis help the first part?

 ** Dear Fattah: You are absolutely right regarding the distinction. Data analysis play fundamentally different roles  in classical lab-based sensors under well-controlled environment vs. wearable sensors with uncontrolled environment. For the high-precision well-controlled sensors, data analysis involved design of experiments, hypothesis testing, shotgun assembly (for genome sequencing), quality control, etc.  For wearable sensors (liberated from the lab!) a different class of statistical techniques (e.g. machine learning, bootstrapping) that came into prominence in the 1980s are more relevant. Your students may enjoy the lectures of I have on modern statistics posted here:   …. Just like physics, there have been three major revolutions in statistics over the last 300 years. When I come to Bangladesh next time, perhaps I can give 2-3 lectures on the topic. 



** Thank you, Sajid.


Dr. Muhammad Ashraful Alam

A picture taken just after the event