Martin L. Tanaka Ph.D. P.E.

As a biomedical engineer with significant experience in mechanical design, my research focuses on two main areas 1) understanding human movement and 2) developing innovative engineering devices. In the first focus area, my students and I apply mechanical engineering principles to understand human movement to prevent injuries, aid in rehabilitation, and develop new diagnostic methods. Our specific emphasis is to understanding stability of movement and non-linear dynamics of multi body systems. In the second focus area, I work with students to design innovative products using methods that I acquired and refined while working in industry. Product/process design research enables investigation of cutting edge ideas that push the boundaries of normal innovation. Although many of these devices are medical in nature, a significant number are other applications of electro-mechanical devices. An element common to both focus areas is the use of mathematical modeling and computer simulations. These can be used not only to gain a better understanding of complex systems, but to conduct virtual experiments avoiding costly trial and error methods.


Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, May 2008
Virginia Tech & Wake Forest University, Blacksburg, VA / Winston-Salem, NC

M.S. Engineering Mechanics, December 1993
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

B.S. Mechanical Engineering, May 1992
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

NSF Scholar in Residence at the FDA (2022, 2024, & 2025)

Licensed Professional Engineer, (since 2003)
North Carolina #038925


Product innovation, design, development, manufacturing, and launch
Innovative medical devices including prosthesis and assistive devices
Human dynamics and neuromuscular control


Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (2016)
Winning Team – Faculty Entrepreneurship Boot Camp at UNC Chapel Hill (2015)
Board of Governors Distinguished Teaching Award (2014-2015)
The Kimmel School Distinguished Research and Scholarly Engagement Award (2013-2014)
The Kimmel School Outstanding Early Faculty Career Award (2011-2012)
US Patent: Tissue tensioning devices and related methods. USPTO 8,926,626 606-102.
US Patent: Purge Gas Sensor. USPTO 6,789,433 73-861.52.
Tau Beta Pi – Engineering Honor Society – Chapter President, NC Alpha (1990-1991)
Veteran – Served in US Army (1985-1993)
DOD Secret Clearance – Issues 1987


Western Carolina University, School of Engineering and Technology, Cullowhee, NC
Professor (2021 – Present)
Program Director, Bachelor of Science in Engineering (2023 – Present)
Associate Professor (2016 – 2021)
Graduate Program Director (2014 – 2017)
Assistant Professor (2010 – 2016)
Fellow, Rapid Center (2010 – 2012)

Wake Forest University, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Winston-Salem, NC
Assistant Professor  (2009 – 2010)
Instructor (2008 – 2009)
Director, Human Performance and Biodynamics Laboratory (2008 – 2010)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA
Research Assistant (2006 – 2008)
Teaching Assistant (2005 – 2006)

Electro -Tec Corporation, Blacksburg, VA
Engineering Manager & Quality Manager (2004-2005)

ABB Incorporated, Lewisburg, WV
Mechanical Team Leader / Senior Engineer (2001 – 2004)

Siemens VDO Automotive
Mechanical Engineering Supervisor (2000 – 2001) Troy, MI
Sr. Mechanical Engineer (1996 – 2000) Winchester, VA

Texas Instruments Incorporated, Lexington, KY
Mechanical Design Engineer (1994 – 1996)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA
Research Assistant (1992 – 1994)

US Army, 24th Infantry Division, 1st 14th Field Artillery, Ft. Stewart, GA
Soldier (1986 – 1988)