Fellow: Awarded 2002
Field of Study: Molecular and Cellular Biology
Competition: US & Canada
Sheldon Weinbaum (born July 26, 1937, in Brooklyn, New York) is an American biomedical engineer and biofluid mechanician. A CUNY Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, of biomedical and mechanical engineering at the City College of New York, as of 2013 he is one of nine living individuals who is a member of all three U.S. national academies (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was the Founding Director (19941999) of the New York Center for Biomedical Engineering, a regional research consortium involving the BME program at The City College and eight of the premier health care institutions in New York City. A lifelong advocate for women and minorities in science and engineering, he was the lead plaintiff and organizer of a class-action lawsuit (Weinbaum vs. Cuomo) charging New York State officials with racially discriminatory funding of its two university systems, CUNY and SUNY (New York Law Journal, 1996). In recognition of his efforts in this area he has received the Public Service Award of the Fund for the City of New York, the first CUNY faculty member so honored, and he was the inaugural recipient of the “Diversity Award” of the Biomedical Engineering Society (2009). He is currently Chair of the Selection Committee for the annual Sloan Awards, which honor the outstanding math and science teachers in the New York City public high schools.
Professor Weinbaum is widely recognized for novel biomechanical models that have changed existing views in such areas as bone fluid flow and mechanotransduction (how bone cells sense mechanical forces), vulnerable plaque rupture (principal cause of cardiovascular death), the role of the endothelial glycocalyx in initiating intracellular signaling, microvascular fluid exchange, endothelial transport aspects of arterial disease, glomerular-tubular balance in the renal tubule, and bioheat transfer (Weinbaum-Jiji equation for microvascular heat exchange between blood and tissue). In each case he resolved a long-standing “mystery” by discovering either a new structure—such as micro-calcifications in the fibrous caps of vulnerable lesions or leaky junctions for transport of LDL across vascular endothelium, or a new function for a known structure –such as by demonstrating that the glycocalyx on endothelial cells senses the fluid shear stress of the blood flow and transmits it to the intracellular cytoskeleton. He has also proposed a new concept for a high-speed train where lift is generated by a giant ski riding on a soft porous material in a channel with impermeable side walls.