Deirdre Meldrum

Deirdre Meldrum

Director, Biodesign Center for Biosignatures Discovery Automation


Deirdre R. Meldrum received a bachelor's of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1983, a master's degree in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, in 1985, and Ph.D. in electrical engineering degree from Stanford University in California in 1993.

As an engineering co-op student at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington in 1979, she designed structures on Navy ships and submarines. As an engineering co-op student at the NASA Johnson Space Center in 1980 and 1981, she was an instructor for the astronauts on the Shuttle Mission Simulator. From 1985-1987, she was a Member of the Technical Staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where she worked on the Galileo spacecraft and performed theoretical and experimental work in identification and control of large flexible space structures and robotics.

Dr. Meldrum joined the faculty at the University of Washington in 1992, rising to full Professor in electrical engineering in 2001. She also held adjunct appointments in the departments of bioengineering and mechanical engineering. She was awarded a National Institutes of Health Special Emphasis Research Career Award (SERCA) in 1993 to train in biology and genetics, bring her engineering expertise to the genome project, and develop automated laboratory instrumentation. She was founder and director of the Genomation Laboratory in the Department of Electrical Engineering with research interests in genome automation, microscale systems for biological applications, ecogenomics, robotics, and control systems. In 1996, she was awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for recognition of innovative research utilizing a broad set of interdisciplinary approaches to advance DNA sequencing technology.

In 2001, Professor Meldrum was awarded an $18 million grant for a National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence in Genomics Science, which led to the establishment of the Microscale Life Sciences Center. The Center brought together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers in electrical engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, computer science, materials science and engineering, laboratory medicine, microbiology and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to work on developing microscale devices to provide genetic information. The goal was to understand cell proliferation and cell death in the effort to better understand diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and inflammation.  The MLSC grant was renewed for an additional $18 million, and five years, 2006-2011.  Additional supplemental grants were funded to support the work for another two years.  The work continues, funded through a variety of internal and external sources.

In addition to her work on human health research, Professor Meldrum worked  as a team member of the Regional Scale Nodes (RSN) Project led by the University of Washington. The project's goal is to construct a cabled underwater observatory on the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate in the northeast Pacific Ocean for real-time observations and experiments with sensors. Professor Meldrum’s team has and continues to  develop sensing devices, sensorbots, and other instruments to gain knowledge of the biological, chemical and physical environments at microbial levels on the sea floor and the water column. In August 2006, she went to the sea floor at 2200 m below sea level in the Alvin submersible to perform experiments in the NE Pacific Ocean. The RSN project is the regional part of the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative.

In 2007 Professor Meldrum moved to Arizona to accept the  position as Dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and brought the Microscale Life Sciences Center and her research team's part in the RSN project to Arizona State University. This team is headquartered in the Center for Biosignatures Discovery Automation  under Professor Meldrum’s direction at the Biodesign Institute at ASU   As theDean of Engineering, D. Meldrum transformed the Schools of Engineering to focus on solving grand challenges of society and is engaged nationally in research and education forums with the National Academy of Engineering. Professor Meldrum and the Center continue to work on biosignatures discovery and single cell analysis to improve human health outcomes.

Professor Meldrum was a member for two terms of the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

She was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Climos, Inc. and a member of the advisory board for external research and programs for Microsoft Research. She is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, The American Chemical Society, the Association for Women in Science, the Human Genome Organization, the Society of Women Engineers and Sigma Xi. She was Senior Editor and then Chair of the Advisory Board for the IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering. In March 2015, Professor Meldrum was inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) to its College of Fellows for her outstanding contributions and pioneering work in the automation of innovative single cell Analysis for discovery biosignatures that predict human health and disease. She was recently named to the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Joint Genome Institute of the Department of Energy.