EDITOR’S NOTE — This is the last of four features on UNL faculty who received University of Nebraska systemwide honors. This UNL Today series began April 28.
Shane Farritor, professor with the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, is developing surgical robotics that could someday remove a gallbladder via a pair of pills passing through the human body.
To develop this and other minimally invasive surgical procedures, Farritor collaborates with Dmitry Oleynikov, professor of surgery, director of the Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery, and director of the Center for Advanced Surgical Technology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Farritor and Oleynikov are the University of Nebraska’s 2014 Innovation, Development and Engagement Award winners. The award recognizes faculty members who have extended their academic expertise beyond the boundaries of the university in ways that have enriched the broader community.
Farritor and Oleynikov led creation of miniature surgical robots that can be inserted through a tiny incision in the abdomen and perform minimally invasive surgery. The work is expected to significantly reduce a patient’s pain and recovery time. And, the collaboration resulted in a new spinoff company, Virtual Incision Corp., as well as multiple patents and technology commercialization. Their work is widely recognized as a model for cross-campus collaboration.
Farritor — who grew up in central Nebraska and earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at MIT after undergraduate studies at UNL — said his 12-year research partnership with Oleynikov, which involves other UNL engineers and UNMC surgeons, is very special.
“Making a good connection has allowed us to go far and fast,” Farritor said. “(With) very good surgeons and very good engineers, you end up with very good research at that intersection.”
Tim Wei, dean of engineering, who nominated the pair for the IDEA honor, said the research will enable surgeons in the future to do not only minimally-invasive procedures but also surgery at very great distances. Overall, Wei said the collaboration is one of two leading surgical robotics groups in the nation.
“This work is going to change how surgery is done in the future,” Wei said.
Through the research, Farritor also generates opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to work on robotics projects.
“He is able to take the excitement of this state-of-the-art work and bring it into the laboratory with the students and also bring that into the classroom,” Wei said.