Chuck is inventor, artist, scientist, expressive raconteur and congenital geek most at home in novel situations, figuring things out on the fly. These tendencies have led Chuck to garner experience in surgical robotics, functional morphology, biomechanics, fluid dynamics, miniature robotics, autonomous underwater vehicles, ballistics, maritime communications, entertainment effects, teaching, design (graphic, exhibit and industrial) and filmmaking. Never at rest, he’s had 100 shows of his paintings and sculpture, with dozens of papers published in biology, engineering and patents issued or pending. Having raised millions for research and now on his third startup, Chuck has the nagging suspicion he’s become a serial entrepreneur.
Chuck is a Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer at Physcient, Inc. designing the next generation of surgical instruments: hand-held robotic smart tools that sense (and respond) to their environment, which includes the patient and her tissues. Cracking a rib cage with conventional steel tools makes recovery long and painful. In contrast, smart surgical tools smoothly adjust their motion to give the surgeon her best views and give the patient freedom from damage. "It's not the hole that hurts," says Pell. "It's how you make the hole. Change the instrument, not the procedure; stop the damage, reduce the pain, speed recovery. This is months away - not years."
Before Physcient, Chuck was co-founder and Director of Science & Technology of Nekton Research, LLC, a leader in unmanned underwater robots and expendable maritime devices. Nekton developed biomimetic subs, creating the world's fastest, the most maneuverable, the smallest and the simplest underwater robots. Acquired in 2008, it continues innovating as iRobot's Maritime Systems division. Chuck also provided platform technology for Parata Systems, a 500-employee pharmaceutical robotics firm incubated at Nekton that has installed >1,500 high-speed robots at retail sites nationwide. Before Nekton, Chuck co-founded (with Stephen Wainwright) the Duke University Zoology BioDesign Studio where researchers collaborated to build hundreds of physical, working models of organisms. Prior to Duke, Chuck was Director of R&D at Dinamation, a firm that built full-size robotic dinosaurs and hands-on science exhibits for display worldwide. Fascinated by shape, pattern and flow, Chuck also builds boomerangs, paleolithic tools, catapults and kayaks. He serves on Boards, is an avid volunteer at several institutions including the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, occasionally sleeps, and travels to give exuberant talks. Pell holds an MFA in Sculpture and Painting from the University of Notre Dame and a BFA in Sculpture and Video from Western Michigan University.
Areas of Expertise
Surgical Robotics, Biomechanics, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, Biomimetics, History of Technology, Fine Arts, Creativity, Hidden Assumptions, Popularizing Science, Boomerangs
An idea worth spreading
Use biomechanics, elegant design, sensors and automation to transform the many thousands of antiquated devices throughout our society into Simple, Smart tools working in concert.
I'm passionate about
Improving everything, savoring the moment, and discovering the stunning ideas that hide Right Under One's "Knows."
Talk to me about
Uncovering and overcoming the Hidden Assumptions (that govern your vision, thoughts and actions) by Pursuing Surprise, in any endeavor.
People don't know I'm good at
Boomerangs, building baidarkas, stage-wand maker, finding four-leaf clovers
My TED story
TEDMED Speaker and peripatetic supporter of Fellow Speakers.