Brain Science and Neural Engineering

illustration of various aspects of neural engineering

Brain sciences, from basic neuroscience to clinical applications in brain health and disorders, have always benefited from advances in engineering and the physical sciences. Richard Canton and Hans Berger worked closely with engineers to measure electrical signals from brain (EEG) and link those to behavior and cognition. Hodgkin and Huxley, in their development of the core theory for neural function, relied on Kenneth Cole’s voltage clamp for their experiments, and leveraged then nascent numerical ordinary differential equation integration methods to demonstrate that their quantitative models of ion channel dynamics reproduced experimentally measured action potentials. Today, such interdisciplinary interactions are needed more than ever to understand normal brain function and to develop novel treatments for brain pathologies.

Faculty in the Penn State Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) are engaged in a wide range of experimental, theoretical, computational, and clinical brain science research, as well as engineering approaches to advance such efforts. Examples include efforts to understand neurovascular coupling; mechanics of fluid flow through and waste removal from the brain (glymphatics); origins and control of seizures and spreading depression; device development for health monitoring, brain modulation, brain computer interfaces; development of neuromimetic devices; modeling the mechanics of neurovascular clot removal; origins and treatments of neurological diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s disease to epilepsy and childhood hydrocephalous.

ESM faculty are also engaged in the responsible development of brain science and technologies, with investigations into the ethical and social implications of advances in the brain sciences and neurotechnologies, including neurodevices and other neurointerventions.

ESM faculty form a major core of the Penn State Center for Neural Engineering, which now hosts the NIH-sponsored Cross Disciplinary Neural Engineering (CDNE) Predoctoral Training Program. Applicants to the ESM graduate program interested in participating in the CDNE program should state this intention in their application materials, identify research topics in which they are interested, and list faculty members with whom they would like to work.

Key Faculty:

Affiliate/Graduate Faculty



The Penn State Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) is an internationally distinguished department that is recognized for its globally competitive excellence in engineering and scientific accomplishments, research, and educational leadership.

Our Engineering Science program is the official undergraduate honors program of the College of Engineering, attracting the University’s brightest engineering students. We also offer graduate degrees in ESM, engineering mechanics, engineering at the nano-scale, and an integrated undergraduate/graduate program.

Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics

212 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-4523