The BioTECH Quarterly
“Bio” + “Engineering” Landscape @ Rice, Case, Drexel
A “ ‘Bio + Engineering’ Landscape @ MIT” feature was printed in the September 2004 issue of the BioTECH, and, in response to this coverage, several BMES chapters across the nation have responded with portrayals of the bioengineering landscape at their respective institutions.
By Néha Datta
As bioengineering emerges at the forefront of technology, we are privileged to witness the birth of a new field. Like LaVoisier and Einstein who witnessed new eras in chemistry and physics, we are on the cusp of a revolution. It has been said that the 19th century was devoted to chemistry and the 20th to physics. Now, in the 21st century, it is our time as bioengineers. Bioengineering is a diverse and expansive area of study that covers many topics, making it rather difficult to define what a bioengineer is.
At Rice University, students are offered a Bioengineering degree (BS) with track electives in the cellular, mechanical, and instrumentation areas. Collaboration with institutions in the adjacent Texas Medical Center (the world’s largest medical complex) and NASA’s Johnson Space Center allows for a dynamic medium for collaborative growth and learning.
What separates Rice bioengineers from biologists and engineers is their interdisciplinary skills that cover a range from biological sciences to modern materials science, systems modeling, computer science, instrumentation, and design. Thus, Rice’s “Bio + Eng” landscape is defined by acknowledging the different areas of study that may arise in the biotechnological field.
The BMES chapter at Rice is dedicated to unifying the broad interests of bioengineers, to channel their energies into looking to the future of biotech. Our chapter at Rice plays an active role in promoting the social and professional development of students interested in the biomedical field.
Workshops to help students select the right graduate programs and post-baccalaureate career options are offered. We sponsor keynote events where notable speakers from various professional backgrounds discuss career options with students. Our small and friendly campus allows for one-on-one interaction between faculty and students at coffee breaks and other study breaks throughout the year.
We are fortunate to have such a close-knit family at Rice, and integral to this family has been our faculty sponsor, Dr. Kyriacos Athanasiou. Together we have been able to bolster student awareness of what it means to be a bioengineer and develop closer industry ties.
In the coming year, we hope to continue this path, increasing student membership and service. One greatly anticipated event is a trip to NASA’s biomedical labs, where we will have a chance to learn about space medicine and biotechnology.
I trust our continued collaboration with one another will lead to fruitful innovations for both BMES and the biomedical engineering community as a whole. We hold so much potential in our hands — let’s do something amazing!
By Sarah May
At Case Western Reserve University, BME Specialty Sequences provide students with a solid background in a well-defined area in biomedical engineering. Each Specialty Sequence includes essential coursework to establish a foundation in a specialty area, and also includes technical electives to provide flexibility to meet specific educational needs.
A customized Specialty Sequence may also be developed with advisor consultation and faculty approval. Our sequences include Bioelectric Engineering, Tissue Engineering, Biomechanics, Imaging and Computing, Instrumentation, Orthopedic Biomaterials, Polymeric Biomaterials, and Systems and Control. Each sequence provides a broad overview of biomedical knowledge as well as a specific focus in certain areas.
To better explain this, take for example the Tissue Engineering sequence: it is a biomedical engineering major with a focus in chemical engineering. Polymeric Biomaterials is a focus in macular molecular engineering, while Imaging and Computing is a focus in computer engineering.
The use of sequences is actually thought highly of by the students here at Case Western. Most students in the biomedical engineering department are very interested in a certain aspect of research, and the choice of sequences allows them to gear their education around their interests.
In addition to Specialty Sequences, we also have an engineering core and a biomedical engineering core to complete. The engineering core is a set of required classes that all engineering majors must complete, such as Thermodynamics, Circuits, and Computer Programming.
The biomedical engineering core is a set of classes that is geared towards giving every student an overview of the knowledge taught in the different sequences, including biomaterials, biomechanics, and others that cover the spectrum of the other sequences.
Overall Case students are being taught on three different levels: we learn fundamental engineering skills; we learn the broad knowledge of a biomedical engineer; and we learn the specific knowledge in the area that interests us the most.
By Vincent Leung
The BME program offered at Drexel University is inter-disciplinary in nature like the BME program described by the MIT BE Division. However, instead of giving its students a crash course in each topic as an elective, Drexel encourages each student to focus on at least one of the biomedical engineering fields as a specialty and take all the related courses.
For example, the bioinformatics students would be required to take more classes in programming, computational biology, database structure, and hospital data management, while the neuroengineering students spend more time on psychology, signal processing, biometry, etc. Of course, general knowledge in human physiology, ethics, and proficiency in the use of engineering instruments is required for all students.
The most distinctive feature of Drexel is probably its co-operative education program. Six-month internships allow students to spend enough time on their jobs to gain real industrial experiences and better tailor their coursework towards their interests when they return to school. From their job experiences, some students conclude that they would prefer getting their graduate degrees before they leave Drexel, while others make plans for professional schools.
Last year’s BMES Annual Conference in Philadelphia was a blast for us, and the Drexel students were very excited to learn about the chapters and student activities at other universities. We are glad to have extended our interaction with the MIT chapter, and we certainly hope that such interaction will prove positive and mutually beneficial for all of us.
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