History and Purpose

Professor Ian W. Hunter is the Hatsopoulos Professor of Mechanical Engineering and runs the BioInstrumentation Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ian was born in New Zealand and had an early interest in science, engineering and instrumentation which continues to the present. He started his first company when he was 9, by the age of 10 he had published his first paper (a design of a miniaturized single transistor radio) and by age 14 had built a fully functional gas liquid chromatograph (hydrogen flame ionization type) for chemical analysis. After graduating from the University of Auckland with BSc, MSc and PhD degrees he completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at McGill University, Canada. He then joined the faculty of McGill University and advanced to tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. In 1994 Ian moved his lab to the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT.

His main areas of research are instrumentation, micro-robotics, medical devices and biomimetic materials. Over the years he and his students have developed many instruments and devices including: confocal laser microscopes, scanning tunneling electron microscopes, miniature mass spectrometers, new forms of Raman spectroscopy, needle free drug delivery technologies, nano- and micro-robots, micro-surgical robots, robotic endoscopes, high performance Lorentz force motors, and micro-array technologies for massively parallel chemical and biological assays. As a result of his research, Ian has over 500 publications. He also invents instruments and devices based on this research. This has led to over 150 issued and pending patents. Finally Ian’s inventions have been used by numerous companies and in addition he has founded or co-founded over 25 companies.

Ian loves teaching and has been the recipient of several teaching awards at MIT including the Keenan Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, the Amar Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Den Hartog Distinguished Educator Award.

Current members and alumni are talented inventors, entrepreneurs, designers, teachers, and doers. If you are a renaissance-type engineer who thrives on multidisciplinary research, welcome home.

In the Press

Startup’s needle-free drug injector gets commercialization deal MIT News (December 7, 2017)

Nylon fibers made to flex like muscles MIT News (November 23, 2016)

Tiny wires could provide a big energy boost MIT News (July 7, 2015)

Can you feel me now? MIT News (June 14, 2013)

Ian Hunter Feature MechE Connects (2013)

Device May Inject a Variety of Drugs Without Using Needles MIT News (May 24, 2012)

Talking Shop with Prof. Ian Hunter MIT MechE "In the News" (Dec. 10, 2012)

Ian Hunter: Innovator Actuator MIT MechE (2007)

“The first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it... when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it.

But when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science.”
Lord Kelvin, 1883