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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


College of Engineering creates new department

The College of Engineering launched its first new department in more than 30 years.

Biomedical engineering — a field that joins together engineering, health care and biology — is a new undergraduate major available to students.

The undergraduate degree will only be available to students who were freshmen in fall 2009 or later.

“”I talked to some students and they are really excited because this department opens up so many new possibilities for engineering,”” said Peter Brown, director of communications for the College of Engineering. “”This is where engineering meets medicine and biology.””

Employment of biomedical engineers is expected to grow by 72 percent over the next few years, according to Jennifer Barton, the department head and a professor of biomedical engineering.

“”The new department was set up to serve as the nexus for research in biomedical engineering that is already active and leading the way in the College of Engineering at UA,”” said Kerrie Sonnenberg, business manager for the department.

The biomedical engineering department will work with the College of Medicine, Science and Optical Sciences and Engineering.

Barton, who was one of the main instruments in creating the new department, said the plan for the new major took two years to become a reality.

The dean of the College of Engineering helped get the program off the ground, and a large portion of funding for it was pulled from the resources that already existed in the college.

“”The College of Engineering felt it was important to support a new department,”” Sonnenberg said.

The new department could help research in general at the UA.

“”The creation of a new department in biomedical engineering also would serve to further propel UA’s research and to get larger grants and bring more research to this area,”” Barton said. “”If we’re more effective at getting research grants and in getting students to come to the UA for this program, rather than going to other schools, like the California ones for example, we’ll be able to bring in more money.””

Grants for research have already arrived from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Once in the major, undergraduate students will choose one of three emphases: biomaterials, biomechanics or biosensors and microtechnologies.

New faculty from all over the world has joined with professors from the existing College of Engineering and the Arizona Research Laboratories Division of Biomedical Engineering to form this new department.

“”It takes a lot of time for a new department to get classes going, and the upper division classes are not ready yet,”” Sonnenberg said.

One of the most important aspects of this new biomedical engineering major is that it provides undergraduates the ability to see how biomedical engineering advances are applied to patient care in the health field.

One of the classes during a biomedical engineering major’s senior year would be working at the University Medical Center.

“”It will be spent seeing procedures in a hospital room setting so they can see how the things being designed by biomedical engineers are used,”” Sonnenberg said. “”The biomedical research in the state of Arizona has become a very big industry. It is a route a lot of students coming to the UA are pursuing and turning to for great jobs. For me personally, I feel that a student that goes into this program gets the benefit of a phenomenal group of faculty. Their research is fascinating.””

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