Ultrasound Technology and Biomedical Engineering Leader

Cobbold, Richard S. C.

Richard Cobbold, Professor Emeritus & Director (1974-1983)

September 25, 2012

“They were very short on faculty,” recalls Professor Emeritus Richard Cobbold on his first teaching assignment at the University of Saskatchewan’s Biomedical Engineering program—a program begun by IBBME’s first director, Norman Moody. “I was actually doing my PhD there. At the same time, I was an assistant professor.”

But in 1966, the lure of Norman Moody, who had come to Toronto to run the Institute of Biomedical Electronics, and the warmer Toronto winters, had Cobbold and his family on route to Toronto.

“The Institute was much smaller in those days,” relates Cobbold, “maybe five or six faculty members, and we’d meet regularly every week. It really was run through collaboration.”

When Norman Moody stepped down, Cobbold became the Institute’s second director, a challenge he took on from 1974 until 1983.

In its earliest inceptions, claims Cobbold the Institute was a different animal. “We were primarily interested in making things.”

“‘[We emphasized] the use of electronics to develop new diagnostic tools and therapeutics, but gradually we started to broaden our interests, and we changed the name [of the Institute] in 1972.”

During Cobbold’s tenure as Director, finding funding for the Institute was paramount—a struggle which forced Cobbold to end the BIDU, or Biomedical Instrumentation Devices Unit, a research group begun by Norman Moody. “This had to be wound up because the funding wasn’t there.”

But characterizing Cobbold’s tenure was slow, steady growth of the Institute, which also saw the Clinical Engineering Program approved, if not executed.

“There’s been a major shift in the funding,” says Cobbold of the field of Biomedical Engineering, “the move to industrial development.” Nowhere is that more apparent than at IBBME, which counts as its partners three separate commercialization ventures: the Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), Techna (UHN), and Crania (Centre for Research in Advanced Neural Implant Applications).

But the same holds true for professors such as Cobbold.

Cobbold, now in his astounding forty-sixth year as a professor at the Institute, is still winning major research funding for his work in ultrasound technology and 3-dimensional printing. This year Cobbold and his lab won a five-year NSERC research grant to continue developing new ultrasound imaging techniques, such as bone sonography, that promises to significantly improve diagnostic images over current approaches.