Engineering Professor to Head NIH Study Section
May 29, 2008
Erin D. McKenzie

Ralph W. Metcalfe, professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and mathematics, was recently appointed chair of the National Institutes of Health Cardiovascular Devices Study Section.

The study section’s scientific review administrator selected Metcalfe, who has served on the section since June 2004, for the position.

At the section’s upcoming meeting in Bethesda, Md. June 23, Metcalfe will head a group comprising 18 other experts—12 of whom are physicians and the remaining six consisting of engineers and scientists—from across the United States.

Rather than studying research or data, the experts will evaluate grant proposals related to cardiovascular devices submitted by small companies and universities.

In his new role, Metcalfe will chair the section’s meetings three times a year, reviewing more than 150 grant proposals for their scientific merit and importance.

“I’m really making sure each proposal gets a fair hearing and equal time for review, and those with concerns are heard,” Metcalfe said of his new post.

Primary and secondary reviewers and a discussant read each grant proposal before it’s brought before the entire group of experts and given a technical score. These evaluations are then forwarded to the appropriate NIH board to decide, based on the scores, which will get grant funding.

“We are really helping them (NIH) decide the distribution of millions of dollars in funding for the things most promising – what is moving medicine and science ahead in the best possible way,” he said. “It’s a very serious responsibility, a big commitment with lots of hard work involved.”

Metcalfe has been a member of the UH faculty since 1987. In the last 10 years, his research in the Cullen College of Engineering has focused on cardiovascular issues. Through the use of computational fluid dynamics, Metcalfe is assisting physicians at The Methodist Hospital Research Institute to develop a new medical technology to identify brain aneurysms before they create strokes. He is also working with physicians at the Texas Heart Institute to study blood flow in artificial hearts. Metcalfe earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Washington in 1968. He went on to obtain his master’s and doctoral degrees from MIT in 1970 and 1973, respectively.

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