< BackResearch FacultyJohn Whalen, PhD

John Whalen, PhD

Division: neural-electronics

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Research, Department of Ophthalmology; Director, Business Development and Industrial Relations

Research Interests:

Biomedical devices (e.g. implants, diagnostics, instruments, etc.) interface with human tissues and therefore must provide certain materials characteristics specific for the application. In some cases desirable surface chemistries may deliver electrical or pharmaceutical therapeutics. In other situations, they may need to detect bioelectrical or biochemical signals from tissue. And in many situations material surfaces may simply need to maintain a biocompatible environment for surrounding tissues to ensure good lifetime performance. All of these applications require engineering of the surface chemistry of devices to produce a desired output.My research interests focus on using material synthesis techniques in electrochemistry, thin film processing, and polymer chemistry, to address three biomedical materials research challenges: synthesis and characterization of novel hydrogels to address ocular trauma, development of non-pharmacological antibacterial surface coatings to prevent ocular and nosocomial infections, and electrochemical synthesis and characterization of nano-textured thin films to improve interfaces between implantable microelectronics and tissue.


Dr. Whalen’s career has been focused on activities related to early development of new biomedical materials technologies, including both publications and patents in the areas of biomaterials research. Prior to joining IBT, Dr. Whalen served as the Director of Industry Relations for the NSF-sponsored Biomimetic Microelectronic Systems Engineering (BMES) Research Center at USC. In this role, Dr. Whalen was responsible for growing and managing a consortium of over a dozen medical device manufacturers and component vendors, to provide commercialization guidance and support to the research and development efforts of BMES. His efforts raised over $400,000 in industrial partner membership dues, over $3 Million in collaborative development programs with industry, and three company spin-offs since 2009. Dr. Whalen has also participated in a number of early stage medical technology ventures: co-founder of Platinum Group Coatings, LLC (Los Angeles, CA), a company developing novel implantable microelectrode technologies for neurostimulating and neurosensing applications (2012-current); management team member of Aspire Bariatrics, LLC (Philadelphia, PA), developing a Class-III device to treat obesity (2006-2010); and member of NEATCap, LLC (Lehigh, PA), developing neuro-protective headwear for premature infants (2011-current); Before entering industry, Dr. Whalen’s post-doctoral and graduate research focused on materials surface sciences. His work focused on electrochemical deposition of platinum group metals as well as fabrication of novel nanowire array structures for neurostimulation and neurosensing applications.

List of Publications:

  • Y Zhang, P Falabella, N Bayat, S Rauen, JD Weiland, JJ Whalen III, ME Thompson, MS Humayun. “Thermoresponsive Reversible Adhesive for Temporary Intervention in Ocular Trauma.” Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2014; 55: 2353.
  • A Petrossians, JJ Whalen III, JD Weiland, F Mansfeld. “Nanotechnology for Packaging.” Advances in Micro/Nano Electromechanical Systems and Fabrication Technologies. In-Tech Publishing. May 2013. ISBN 980-953-307-774-6.
  • A Petrossians, N Davuluri, JJ Whalen III,  F Mansfeld, JD Weiland. “Improved Biphasic Pulsing Power Efficiency with Pt-Ir Coated Microelectrodes.”2013 MRS Fall Meeting Proceedings. v1621.
  • MS Humayun, AP Rowley, JJ Whalen III, JD Weiland, AR Tanguay Jr. “The Development of a Retinal Prosthesis: A Significant Biomaterials Challenge.” Part II: Biology and Medicine. Biomaterials Science: An Introduction to Materials in Medicine. Editors: B. Ratner et al. Elsevier Publishing Inc. 2012; 946-957.


  • BS, Biomedical Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD) 1994-1998
  • MS, Materials Science and Engineering ,The Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD) 1998-2000
  • PhD, Materials Science and Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD) 2000-2004
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Ophthalmology and Bioeelectronics, University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) 2004-2006