Professor Pietro Valdastri

Profile

My academic career started with a Laurea degree cum Laude in Electronic Engineering from the University of Pisa in 2001 and a PhD degree cum Laude in Biomedical Engineering from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in 2006, with Prof. Paolo Dario as primary advisor. After the PhD, I served as Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna for three years, focusing on implantable medical devices and surgical robotics. In 2011, I moved to Vanderbilt University, where I became Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, with secondary appointments in the Electrical Engineering Department and in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. At Vanderbilt University, I founded the Science and Technologies Of Robotics in Medicine (STORM) Lab (https://my.vanderbilt.edu/stormlab/), a research lab focusing on medical capsule robots for gastrointestinal endoscopy and abdominal surgery. In 2016, I moved to Leeds as Chair of Robotics and Autonomous Systems with a primary appointment in the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and a secondary appointment in the School of Mechanical Engineering. In Leeds, I continue to direct the STORM Lab and I am actively involved in the Surgical Technologies Research Group.

I am a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holder, a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), one of the Editors of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, a member of the Technology Committee of the European Association for Endoscopic Surgery (EAES), and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Medical Robotics Research. At Vanderbilt, I also served as a standing member of the Institutional Review Board.

I co-founded a successful medical start-up (WinMedical, www.winmedical.com), and received several prestigious awards, including the Wolfson Research Merit Award and the Hamlyn Symposium Surgical Robot Challenge Award in 2016, the NSF CAREER Award in 2015, the Sensys 2014 Best Paper Award, the OLYMPUS Best Laparoscopy/Robotic Paper Award 2013, the OLYMPUS ISCAS Best Paper Award 2012, the ASME Design of Medical Devices Conference Best Paper Award 2012, the Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics Best Oral Presentation Award 2011, and the European Association of Endoscopic Surgery Best Technology Presentation Award 2011.

Responsibilities

  • Director of the STORM Lab
  • Director of the Institute of Robotics, Autonomous Systems and Sensing
  • Director of Robotics at Leeds

Research interests

My research is centered around “Medical Capsule Robots”. Capsule robots are meso-scale devices that leverage extreme miniaturization to access and operate in environments that are out of reach for larger robots. In medicine, capsule robots can be designed to enter the human body through natural orifices or small incisions, and to perform endoscopy and surgery while minimizing the invasiveness of the procedure. At the STORM Lab, we are working on enabling technologies that have the potential to transform endoscopy and surgery. These technologies include magnetic manipulation of capsule robots, water jet propulsion, real-time pose tracking, intermagnetic force measurement, miniature mechatronic design, small-scale electronic circuits and open source design environments.

In order to make a real difference in patients’ wellbeing, we have a strong focus on translation of lab prototypes to clinical use, especially to address pressing medical needs in low-income countries. Current work is focusing on a painless solution for colonoscopy based on a magnetic soft-tethered capsule robot and on an ultra-low-cost platform for gastric cancer screening in Central America based on water-jet propulsion.  

To date, STORM Lab’s research has been featured by several tech magazines, including WIRED, IEEE Spectrum, Medgadget, Medical Design Technology Magazine, Medical Xpress, Newswise, NSF Science Now.

Professional memberships

  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS)
  • IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBS)
  • European Association for Endoscopic Surgery (EAES)
  • International Society for Medical Innovation and Technology (iSMIT)
  • American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)

Research groups and institutes

  • Robotics at Leeds
  • Surgical Technologies Research Group
  • Institute of Robotics, Autonomous Systems and Sensing

Publications:

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