Marjolein van der Meulen
Marjolein C van der Meulen
James M & Marsha McCormick Director of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY

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Close Up
  • What I Do
    My job as a professor consists of a variety of different activities that relate to research, teaching and service. My research focuses on the biomechanics and mechanobiology of bone, the material that makes up your skeleton. Much of the day-to-day research is performed by students who work with me. I have taught both required mechanical engineering classes and biomechanics electives. My service activities include participating in committees at Cornell and in my professional community.
  • Why Engineering?
    My dad really steered me towards engineering as a career, but I was more interested in biology initially. Then I discovered the two fields could be combined during high school when I saw a 60 Minutes segment on helping paraplegics regain walking skills. So, I started as a mechanical engineer interested in biological problems and never looked back.
  • School Days
    My SB (Science Bachelor) is from MIT and then I moved to the West coast and received my MS and PhD from Stanford, all in mechanical engineering.
  • My Day At Work
    My work involves both experimental and analytical work. Many of our experiments involve breaking bones to understand how strong they are and what factors contribute to bone strength. This type of work is very similar to testing of conventional materials. We don't have nondestructive ways to measure bone strength, so bones are tested directly in the lab. The analyses usually involve models that allow us to vary characteristics that can't easily be examined in the lab. The model predictions feed into our experiments, and then the data we measure contributes back to model development and validation.
  • Best Part
    Lots of things! Solving problems, doing hands-on work, making things, especially when I’ve designed them myself and they work as planned.
  • Inspiration
    My family has very much influenced my choices and continues to do so. We have a strong nuclear family because my parents left the Netherlands to the US and didnnâ€t return. Most holidays were just the four of us. In addition to my immediate family, my grandfather was a supportive influence. He was the director of the Dutch National Weather Service (KNMI) and had a physics background. He always encouraged me, even reading my journal papers and discussing what I was working on whenever I came to visit him in the Netherlands.
  • Want to be an Engineer?
    Engineering is a great career, particularly in this technology-based day and age. When I look at the choices that our graduating mechanical engineering undergrads have, the opportunities are amazing, they follow nearly any path including many other than engineering.
  • Additional Thoughts
    Engineering is a great career, particularly in this technology-based day and age.
  • Hobbies
    I've always had a lot of hobbies. These days I have less time for some of the creative hobbies, although I have started to get into photography as part of my love of travel. Travel is a big part of my personal and professional life. I also enjoy outdoor activities, for which Ithaca is a great setting. And, I love art, especially Matisse and Calder. Calder was trained as a mechanical engineer.
BS, Mechanical Engineering, MIT; MS, Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University; PhD, Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University
Volunteer Opportunities
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
Latest Questions
  • Aisha, Lagos University Teaching Hospital/ lagos- Nigeria asked Marjolein van der Meulen, Cornell University

    Added Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 4:00 PM

    Hello there! I am a medical graduate from Nigeria. I recently applied for a masters in Biomedical Engineering but I was not accepted for several reasons I guess. Some of which includes an application to top notch schools like John Hopkins (because they have clinical based biomedical engineering program) and I have zero to no experience in biomedical engineering, because nothing of such is done in my country. Now, my question is that I would like to apply this year but I would like to find out ...
    Related to Bioengineering/Biomedical, Graduate School, International Travel
    Answers 0
  • Vivian, Orlando

    Added Saturday, January 2, 2016 at 2:52 AM

    I recently saw a post questioning engineering careers that involve animals. I was wondering what type of engineer would be involved in creating replacement joints (or hip replacement? I think was in the answer to the question) for animals? And what other work could a type of engineer do with animals?
    Answers 1
    Marjolein van der Meulen, Cornell University
    Answered Saturday, January 2, 2016 at 2:52 AM


    Biomedical engineers, mechanical engineers and materials engineers (or materials science and engineering majors) are all types of engineers who could be involved in creating joint replacements for orthopedics. Working in this area provides ...

    Read More
  • Jamie, Akron

    Added Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 5:01 PM

    I am looking into going to school for bio engineering, a couple of the colleges have a requirement that you get a Bachelor's in either chemical, mechanical or electronic engineering. I am having a hard time deciding. My question is how exactly would each of those engineering fields contribute to bio engineering. I want to better understand for when I make a final decision.
    Answers 1
    Marjolein van der Meulen, Cornell University
    Answered Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 5:01 PM


    Virtually every engineering field can be applied to biological or medical questions, including not only chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering but also materials science and other engineering specialties.  My own training is ...

    Read More
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