DCI Surgeons Part of Team Awarded $3 Million NSF Training Grant

Patrick Codd, MD
Patrick Codd, MD

Brian Mann, DSc (principal investigator), Patrick Codd, MD, Sabino Zani, Jr., MD, and Leila Bridgeman, PhD (co-principal investigators) are the recipients of a $3 million National Science Foundation Grant Award that will train Master’s and PhD students in the interdisciplinary fields of engineering, computer science, data science, and surgical technologies. (NRT-FW-HTF: NSF Traineeship in the Advancement of Surgical Technologies) 

Sabino Zani, MD
Sabino Zani Jr., MD

Codd, a member of Duke Cancer Institute, is an assistant professor in the departments of Neurosurgery, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, and Head & Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences at Duke.

Zani is an assistant professor in the Duke Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, and program director, Hepato-pancreatobiliary Fellowship.

Both Bridgeman and Mann are faculty with the Duke University Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.


Rapid changes in surgical technologies have created new demands on the future engineering workforce. For example, future engineers will create intelligent surgical instruments, autonomous robots that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to make clinical decisions, and tools that augment the performance and capabilities of surgeons. This will require a convergence of skillsets and knowledge to traverse technological, regulatory, ethical, and societal hurdles to create technologies that safely and successfully meet modern challenges.

Most graduate engineering programs excel at teaching the fundamental tenets of their respective disciplines. However, graduate engineering curricula often lack the training that enables students to transcend their disciplines and engage in convergent research that involves not just other engineers, but also professionals from other STEM fields, medicine, business, and law. By engaging with these other disciplines, this traineeship will provide a more holistic and innovative approach for the professional formation of engineers to impact the future of advanced surgical technologies.

This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award to Duke University will train Master’s and Ph.D. students in the interdisciplinary fields of engineering, computer science, data science, and surgical technologies. This project anticipates training a total of 230 students, including 30 NRT-funded trainees from Engineering, Computer Science, Math, Science and Society, and Statistics. The vision for this traineeship is to provide a new research and training framework for engineering and computer science graduate students to access other disciplines and thereby design advanced surgical technologies that integrate medical provider, societal, end-user, and patient needs throughout development and testing. CONTINUE READING