Biomedical engineering deals with the interface between technology, biology, and medicine. It draws on the life sciences and medicine, as well as all the physical, mathematical, and engineering fields. Students from a variety of undergraduate disciplines, including biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science, enter this graduate program and work toward its goals of better health care and enhanced understanding of biological systems.
The Department of Biomedical Engineering offers an undergraduate major degree with courses in physiology, biomedical image analysis, cell and molecular biology, biomedical instrumentation, biomechanics, medical imaging, biomaterials, and bioelectricity. These students come from any undergraduate engineering field or from the physical or life sciences. Appropriate background preparation includes calculus, differential equations, circuit analysis, physics, chemistry, computer programming, and biology.
The Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program encompasses a core curriculum of engineering with an emphasis on instrumentation, mathematics, and life sciences with an emphasis on physiology, cell and molecular biology that reinforces and extends the diverse undergraduate bases of entering students.
Students seeking the Master of Engineering degree develop competence in a field of direct application of engineering to health care. Instrumentation, computer applications, biomechanics, cellular engineering, and image processing, are the chief areas of such specialization. Each M.E. student develops a practical project in his or her area of specialization. The project is a departmental requirement for the M.E. degree, applying beyond the 30-credit minimum course requirement. The M.E. degree requires from two to four academic semesters plus one summer.
Students planning careers in development and design, or teaching, usually pursue the Master of Science degree that requires a thesis based on an independent research project. Substantial emphasis is placed on the research project that will be the basis of their master’s thesis, which is expected to be of publishable caliber. The final M.S. exam (oral) focuses on the master’s thesis as well as on areas covered by the student’s program of study. The M.S. degree is designed to prepare students for careers in teaching, industry, and government organizations, and for entry into the Doctoral Program in Biomedical Engineering. Course work in the life sciences and engineering disciplines, completion of a research project under the guidance of a faculty advisor, and documentation of the research in a written thesis are required. Interaction with both the academic and professional scientific and engineering community is also encouraged through participation in seminars, scientific meetings, and publication of research results in scientific journals. Areas of research specialization include molecular bioengineering; magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy; image processing; ultrasound imaging; instrumentation; genetic engineering; theoretical and experimental study of cellular biomechanics, mechanotransduction, the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neurological systems, leukocyte adhesion, and vascular remodeling. Twenty-four credits of graduate courses and a defense of the submitted thesis describing the student’s research are required.
The Ph.D. program is geared to students planning careers in research in either industry or academic institutions. Advanced courses are followed by dissertation research in vascular engineering, medical imaging, neural engineering, genetic engineering, cellular and molecular engineering, orthopedic engineering, biomechanics, biomaterials, or targeted drug delivery. Doctoral students extend the core program with courses in advanced physiology, cell and molecular biology, mathematics, and engineering. The Ph.D. normally requires three years beyond the master’s, or five beyond the baccalaureate, to achieve the necessary interdisciplinary competence. Exceptional students may choose a double-degree program that, after a minimum of six years, leads to a simultaneous Ph.D. and M.D. For this option, students must be formally admitted to both the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Medicine (M.D./Ph.D. program, MSTP). In addition, a specialized and accelerated program is available for medical doctors who want to acquire a Ph.D. degree (M.D. to Ph.D. program).
M.S. and Ph.D. students may choose from a variety of laboratories to conduct their research. Active research projects in the department include engineering of blood vessel assembly and vascular pattern formation; in vivo leukocyte mechanics and molecular mechanisms; biophysics of cell adhesion; T-cell trafficking in chronic inflammation; atherosclerosis research, microvascular indicator transport for assessing exchange characteristics of endothelium; electron microprobe and patch clamp techniques for molecular and cellular transport; neuromuscular transmission in disease states; blood density measurements for blood volume distribution; fluorescence microscopic assessment of the effect of mechanical stresses on living cells; cellular mechanotransduction; tissue characterization by high-resolution ultrasound imaging and evaluation of ultrasonic contract agents; multidimensional visualization; rapid imaging of tissue metabolism and blood flow by magnetic resonance imaging techniques; magnetic resonance imaging for noninvasive characterization of atherosclerosis and cancer; development of hyperpolarized helium-3 and xenon-129 gas imaging for assessment of pulmonary ventilation and perfusion by magnetic resonance imaging; tissue characterization of neurological diseases by magnetic resonance spectroscopy; neurosurgical planning; mechanics of soft tissue trauma; and gait analysis. Students benefit from the facilities and collaborators in the Schools of Medicine, Engineering and Applied Science, and Graduate Arts and Sciences. These activities and resources bring the student into contact with the problems and methods typical of such diverse fields to achieve the breadth and judgment that are the goals of the Ph.D. program. A University-wide medical imaging program supports studies on picture archiving and communication systems, rapid MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) acquisition, image perception, MRI of atherosclerosis, image segmentation, MRI microscopy, high resolution ultrasound imaging, and ultrasound contrast agents.Through a recent Development and Special Award from the Whitaker Foundation, the Department moved into 30,000 square feet of a brand new, state-of-the-art Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences Building in February 2002. The building is in the heart of the School of Medicine in close proximity to the hospital and basic medical science departments. It includes modern teaching facilities, laboratories for student projects, physiological and biochemical studies, animal surgery, cell culture, molecular biology, instrument development, and shops for instrument maintenance and fabrication. Equipment includes a variety of sensors and recorders, a cluster of IBM RS/6000 computers, UNIX-based systems, PCs, and MACs, some with A/D and D/A conversion facilities; video equipment; lasers, equipment for static and dynamic characterization of transducers; patch-clamp and intracellular recording facilities. The image-processing facility includes a microscope with a digital CCD camera, high-frequency and clinical ultrasound systems, and SGI and Sun Workstations. Electron microscopes, optical and mass spectrometers, flow cytometry, plasmon resonance, confocal and restoration microscopy systems, proteomics, gene array, ultrasonic, and magnetic resonance imaging equipment are available, as are other specialized equipment and consultation from collaborating departments.