The BioTECH Quarterly
MIT BMES Wins Awards, Talks Shop at the National Conference in Baltimore
By Brian Chase '06, Managing Editor
On Thursday, September 29, six members of the MIT BMES Executive Board traveled to Baltimore, site of the 2005 National BMES Fall Conference. The trip was graciously sponsored by the MIT Biological Engineering (BE) Department, and the students were proud to return with a plaque for winning the BMES Chapter-of-the-Year Award.
The journey started early Thursday morning, with the students leaving MIT at 5 a.m. for their flight to Baltimore. Ironically, their flight was delayed for three hours at Logan Airport, but everyone eventually arrived at the Baltimore Hyatt in time for the chapter development workshop and the award ceremony in the afternoon.
The award ceremony was conducted in conjunction with the BMES Annual Business Meeting, where the outgoing national BMES president summarized his accomplishments and the incoming president outlined his future goals. In between, the society handed out a number of awards, including the BMES Student Chapter Meritorious Achievement Award, which is given to the student chapter that has achieved the most for BMES at its institution. This honor was given to MIT and the University of California-San Diego for their 2004-2005 performance.
Also, awards for Commendable Achievement and Honorable Mention were given to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and both the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Rochester, respectively. This is the second year in a row that MIT has won the Meritorious Achievement Award.
In addition, MIT is the only school that has also earned the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Research Award and the Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award, adding to its plaque two additional certificates.
The award-winning student chapters shared their respective programs during the chapter development workshop held in a 3-hour block just before the award ceremony. For MIT, co-presidents George Eng ’06 and Julie Tse ’06 gave the presentation, which focused on the growth and expansion of the MIT chapter to meet the demands of increasing interest in biological engineering and biomedical engineering, especially with the formation of the new BE major. They highlighted the expansion of the executive board from 11 to 21 offices, as a result of the creation of a multi-editor BioTECH staff and the appointment of past officers as student advisors.
The other award-winning schools offered some intriguing programs that had no equivalent at MIT. For example, Wisconsin-Madison generated a lot of interest in their Surgery Shadowing program, which works with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School to offer undergraduates the opportunity to observe surgical cases in the operating room. Many other schools talked about programs that emphasized the social and societal outreach aspect of their BMES societies. The University of Rochester, for example, hosted a program in which they invited high school students to the university and helped them build simple endoscopes, to give them an idea of the process of engineering.
After all the presentations were delivered, the winning schools sat in a panel and fielded questions. This was followed by a two-hour roundtable (or in this case, circle of chairs) discussion of some ways to overcome common obstacles to running a BMES chapter, from fundraising to recruiting and involving new members. Altogether, 22 chapters were represented at the conference.
Besides the chapter development workshop and the award ceremony, the conference held many poster sessions and research talks where thousands of professors, investigators, and graduate students mingled and shared ideas, research summaries, and plans for future research.
Several MIT professors, including Prof. Douglas Lauffenburger and Prof. Matthew Lang, gave presentations on their areas of research. These sessions continued through all four days of the conference. Another room was set up for booths showcasing company products or school graduate programs. And in every other bit of space were posters for the myriad of graduate students showcasing their research. These posters were up all the time, and changed periodically. For an interested undergraduate, the conference kept one’s eyes and ears on a permanent swivel, jumping from one thing to another.
The final perk of the conference was the reception after the meeting on Thursday at the National Aquarium down the street from the conference hotel. There, conference participants were able to observe thousands of different types of fish and other aquatic creatures, including caiman and turtles, while feasting on a buffet including crab cakes, a Baltimore specialty. It was an excellent ending to a very successful National Conference for the MIT BMES chapter.
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