History and Purpose

Prof. Ian W. Hunter was born in New Zealand and had an early interest in science, engineering and instrumentation from a young age. 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 and founded the BioInstrumentation Laboratory. In 1994 Prof. Hunter moved the laboratory to the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with five graduate students. In the last 20 years the laboratory has quickly expanded in space, facilities and breadth of projects.

Current research projects in the laboratory are diverse and broadly include instrumentation, micro-robotics, medical devices and biomimetic materials. The laboratory houses instruments, equipment, and space for biological testing, optical experimentation, manufacturing and assembly, computational and theoretical pursuits, electronics design, and chemical engineering. These tools allow the laboratory's researchers to draw from a wide array of areas to invent, create, and solve. The lab's environment is fast-paced and energetic, emphasizing hands-on research guided by theory, rapid iteration, and high levels of autonomy.

Over the years Prof. Hunter 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. These efforts have resulted in over 500 publications and over 150 issued and pending patents. These inventions have been used by numerous companies, over 20 of which Prof. Hunter founded or co-founded.

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