Women's Health

Columbia Engineering’s Women’s Health Initiative brings an engineering lens to advance women's health and well-being through innovative design thinking, technical skills, and a focus on practical solutions.  

We are focused on bringing a systems-based, user-centered engineering approach to improve women’s health, developing tools whereby women can self-manage and partner proactively with practitioners.

The Initiative seeks to apply its deep understanding of mechanobiology, imaging and data science to shed light on critical societal challenges such as preterm birth, cancer, endometriosis, and a maternal morbidity record that is not only the worst among developed countries but getting worse.

The Initiative brings together a multidisciplinary community of engineers, physicians, and professionals to drive innovation for women’s health by utilizing woman-centered design from ideation through the delivery of effective and equitable tools. Together, our teams will advance evidence-based solutions, including transformative medical technologies, treatments, and public health interventions that significantly improve women's lives.


Columbia Engineering

  • Sunil Agrawal, PhD., Professor of Mechanical Engineering and of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine
  • Elham Azizi - Biomedical Engineering and Herbert and Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Cancer Data Research (in the Herbert and Florence Institute for Cancer Dynamics and in the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center)
  • Santiago Correa, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • X. Edward Guo, PhD., Stanley Dicker Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Medical Sciences
  • Christine Hendon, PhD, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering
  • Lance Kam, PhD., Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences (in Medicine)
  • Elisa Konofagou, Robert and Margaret Hariri Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Radiology
  • Ioannis (John) Kymissis, Kenneth Brayer Professor of Electrical Engineering
  • Helen Lu, Percy K. and Vida L.W. Hudson Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Jose McFaline-Figueroa, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Kristin Myers, PhD, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
  • Itsik Pe'er, Professor of Computer Science and Systems Biology
  • Ansaf Salleb-Aouissi, Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Computer Science
  • Mijo Simunovic, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering
  • Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, University Professor and Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering
  • Harry West, PhD, Professor of Professional Practice in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
  • Christopher Wiggins, Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics and Systems Biology

In Collaboration

  • Arnold P. Advincula, MD, Levine Family Professor of Women's Health in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Xiaowei Chen, Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology
  • Noémie Elhadad, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics (biomedical informatics & computer science; machine learning, human-centered AI)
  • Gamze Gursoy, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics (in Computer Science) (biomedical informatics & computer science; privacy)
  • Richard Ha, Associate Professor of Radiology
  • Hanina Hibshoosh, Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology
  • Shalmali Joshi, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics (biomedical informatics & computer science; machine learning, AI)
  • Rita Kukafka, Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Sociomedical Sciences at the Columbia University Medical Center (biomedical informatics & socio-medical sciences; health equity)
  • Tal Korem, PhD, Assistant Professor of System Biology and Reproductive Sciences (in Obstetrics and Gynecology)
  • Lena Mamykina, Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics (biomedical informatics, human-computer interaction)
  • Mirella Mourad, MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Columbia University Medical Center
  • Jessica Opoku-Anane, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Columbia University Medical Center (ObGyn; endometriosis, fibroids, PCOS, pelvic pain)
  • Valerie Purdie-Greenaway, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology and Instructor at Columbia Business School
  • Uma Reddy, MD, MPH, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Professor of Population and Family Health
  • Ronald Wapner, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ObGyn; reproductive endocrinology)
  • Qi Yan, PhD, Assistant Professor of Reproductive Sciences (in Obstetrics and Gynecology)

Research Areas

Women's Health Across the Lifespan

  • Uterine cancer. Uterine leiomyosarcoma has a combined 5-year relative survival rate of 38%. Unfortunately, standard imaging techniques like MRI cannot always differentiate benign and malignant uterine tumors. In addition, MRI is not routinely available for real-time guidance of surgeries at Columbia or U.S. medical institutions broadly. To improve interventions to treat gynecologic conditions at early stages and enable less invasive treatment options, we aim to develop minimally invasive probes that doctors can use in the office for gynecologic disease diagnosis, biopsy guidance, and screening. 
  • Breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common non-cutaneous cancer in women in the United States, and its prevalence is rising as the population ages, and hormonal factors favor its emergence. Within Columbia Engineering, we are working towards improving diagnosis of breast cancer, improving surgical and pathology workflows, and evaluation of chemotherapy treatment with a range of advanced imaging tools (ultrasound, optics) and data analytics.
  • The Ultrasound and Elasticity Imaging Laboratory works on developing novel, ultrasound-based techniques for imaging and therapeutic applications. In the field of breast cancer research, our group uses Harmonic Motion Imaging (HMI), a technique that induces dynamic tissue vibrations for tissue elasticity characterization, for both breast cancer imaging and therapeutic monitoring. Current projects include using HMI for longitudinal assessment of tumor responses to neoadjuvant systemic treatments, tumor boundary characterization, and real-time monitoring of tissue changes during Focused Ultrasound (FUS) therapy. 
  • Osteoporosis and Bone Health
  • Pelvic Floor Health

Pregnancy and Maternal Health

Preterm birth

Gynecologic Health

Fibroids may grow as large as 30 cm in diameter and are a common cause of chronic pain, abnormal uterine bleeding, bloating, and infertility. Underlying difficulties in treating uterine fibroids are that they are extremely heterogeneous and can appear similar to other pathologies. We aim to create a comprehensive atlas of uterine tissue optical, fiber architecture, and biomechanical properties and to build an optical endoscope surveillance device for disease detection. 

Sex-based Differences

The Vunjak-Novakovic lab is interested in engineering human tissues and organs for medical impact, in two related areas: regenerative medicine and “organs-on-a-chip” models of injury and disease. Much of our work is being done using human iPS cells, enabling patient-specific studies. One direction focuses on differences in the progression of injury and diseases and responses to treatment between female and male patients. We are also actively studying cancers that occur in women, such as breast cancer and its invasion into other organs in the body.


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  17. Zork NM, Myers KM, Yoshida K, Cremers S, Jiang H, Ananth CV, Wapner RJ, Kitajewski J, Vink J. A systematic evaluation of collagen cross-links in the human cervix. Am J Obstet Gynecol [Internet]. 2015 Mar;212(3):321.e1–8. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2014.09.036 PMCID: PMC4346506
  18. Yao W, Gan Y, Myers KM, Vink JY, Wapner RJ, Hendon CP. Collagen Fiber Orientation and Dispersion in the Upper Cervix of Non-Pregnant and Pregnant Women. PLoS One [Internet]. 2016 Nov 29;11(11):e0166709. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166709 PMCID: PMC5127549
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  21. Vink JY, Qin S, Brock CO, Zork NM, Feltovich HM, Chen X, Urie P, Myers KM, Hall TJ, Wapner R, Kitajewski JK, Shawber CJ, Gallos G. A new paradigm for the role of smooth muscle cells in the human cervix. Am J Obstet Gynecol [Internet]. 2016 Oct;215(4):478.e1–478.e11. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2016.04.053 PMID: 27166013
  22. Yoshida K, Mahendroo M, Vink J, Wapner R, Myers K. Material properties of mouse cervical tissue in normal gestation. Acta Biomater [Internet]. 2016 May;36:195–209. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actbio.2016.03.005 PMID: 26961804
  23. Yao X, Gan Y, Chang E, Hibshoosh H, Feldman S, Hendon C. Visualization and tissue classification of human breast cancer images using ultrahigh-resolution OCT. Lasers Surg Med [Internet]. 2017 Mar;49(3):258–269. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/lsm.22654 PMCID: PMC5368015
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  25. Westervelt AR, Myers KM. Computer modeling tools to understand the causes of preterm birth. Semin Perinatol [Internet]. 2017 Dec;41(8):485–492. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.semperi.2017.08.007 PMCID: PMC7357816
  26. Westervelt AR, Fernandez M, House M, Vink J, Nhan-Chang CL, Wapner R, Myers KM. A Parameterized Ultrasound-Based Finite Element Analysis of the Mechanical Environment of Pregnancy. J Biomech Eng [Internet]. 2017 May 1;139(5):0510041–05100411. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1115/1.4036259 PMCID: PMC7104753
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  32. Shi L, Yao W, Gan Y, Zhao LY, Eugene McKee W, Vink J, Wapner RJ, Hendon CP, Myers K. Anisotropic Material Characterization of Human Cervix Tissue Based on Indentation and Inverse Finite Element Analysis. J Biomech Eng [Internet]. 2019 Sep 1;141(9):0910171–09101713. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1115/1.4043977 PMCID: PMC6808002
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  59. Samimi K, Contreras Guzman E, Wu M, Carlson L, Feltovich H, Hall TJ, Myers KM, Oyen ML, Skala MC. Optical coherence tomography of human fetal membrane sub-layers during loading. Biomed Opt Express [Internet]. 2023 Jun 1;14(6):2969–2985. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/BOE.489691 PMCID: PMC10278609
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Educational Programs

Faculty Tech Talk: Body Mechanics

Professors Christine Hendon and Kristin Myers sat down with Dean Boyce and a gathering of students for the latest faculty tech talk. More
Nov 30 2018 | By Jesse Adams | Hendon Photo Credit: Jeffrey Schifman | Myers Photo Credit: Eileen Barroso
OCT scanner for imaging breast specimens.

Improving Breast Cancer Treatment and Outcomes

Gloved hands holding a preliminary device that could mitigate preterm birth by adding light therapeutics to remodel the cervix.

Mitigating Pre-term Birth

Gloved hands holding a multi-organ chip

Personalizing Care