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John Robertson

Industry Leader Spotlight

John Robertson

Medical devices and testing

My professional journey has been long ... unexpected ...deeply fulfilling. The journey began in earnest with my training as a translational medical scientist (veterinarian, pathologist) and over the years included stints in pharmaceutical development, teaching veterinary pathology and oncology at Virginia Tech. Eventually I landed my 'dream job' as a research professor in biomedical engineering.

My major interests are detection and treatment of kidney diseases and cancer, development of medical devices and tests for disease detection, improving dialysis therapy, and helping my team develop electroporation-based therapies for destruction of human and canine malignant brain tumors like glioblastoma.

My research focuses on Raman chemometric urinalysis — a means to stage chronic kidney disease and to screen urine for molecular profiles associated with bladder cancer. This was co-developed with my brilliant colleagues, Ryan Senger in biological systems engineering and Pang Du in statistics.

Another focus area is in the field of automated dialysis therapy — a technology to individualize/improve hemodialysis — that I work on with Senger and Tom Diller in mechanical engineering. Additionally, as part of a fantastic team led by Rafael Davalos, John Rossmeisl, and Scott Verbridge; all of biomedical engineering, we study non-thermal ablation of tumors.

I first discovered a passion for this work ...
When my dad let me play with a cellar-full of discarded machines when I was 11 years old.

My work impacts society ...
By improving the lives of humans and animals suffering from severe disease.

I see the future in my field ...
Improving treatment of dread diseases (cancer, organ failure) with engineered technologies.

I wish I invented ...
A synthetic, portable, fully-functional kidney.

My favorite quote ...
"Experience is a hard teacher. First it gives the test, then it teaches the lesson"

In my free time ...
I am learning to walk again with my new hip!

Something that excites me in my field ...
Damn! Everything! Today - the possibility of developing a urine-based test for understanding the systemic effects of COVID-19 infection.

Words of encouragement to an aspiring inventor ...
Work to solve impossibly hard problems and never give up.

The most formative experience that I've had ...
Overcoming my fear of water and learning to swim. This taught me the value of understanding myself and my limitations and developing perseverance.

Honor or award I am most proud of ...
Norden Outstanding Teacher Award.

If I had a superpower, it would be ...
An infinite and predictable ability to heal.

Best part of working at Virginia Tech ...
My dream job in biomedical engineering.

Media Contact:

Lindsey Haugh

(540) 231-6959

Additional Highlights

John Robertson, V.M.D., Ph.D.    |    Research Professor

Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Virginia Tech

(540) 231-8516

College of Engineering - faculty bio page



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