When Robin Shandas, PhD, became head of the new Bioengineering Department in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, he expected a handful of students to take part at the outset. “I anticipated when we first started this that we would have about four to five students in our first year,” says Shandas, at center, professor and chair of the Department of Bioengineering and professor of pediatrics (cardiology) and surgery. “We have 17 students.”
UC Denver is home to the first Bioengineering Department in the state. Bioengineering, a marriage of engineering and medicine, is an application of engineering principles and techniques to medical and biological fields, producing improvements in people’s lives such as artificial hands and heart valves, implanted insulin pumps, and medical imaging for diagnostics.
This new department brings engineers, clinicians and medical researchers together. The program offers interdisciplinary MS and PhD programs in Bioengineering. Distinctive aspects of the UC Denver program include direct interaction with clinicians and surgeons and a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship. For example, students will learn not only how to design new medical devices but also how to move their innovative ideas and research into clinical development, production and marketing.
The dynamics of the first class include:
- 12 students planning to attain their PhD and five their MS.
- Average GPA of the admitted PhD students is 3.6 or higher.
- Two MD/PhD students in the PhD group.
- Several students with MS degrees already.
- Some who have worked in the industry, including senior management positions.
The Bioengineering program promotes cross-campus collaboration and sharing among different CU campuses, with faculty from UC Denver’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Medicine and CU- Boulder participating. “We have more than 20 faculty, including many clinical faculty, from UC Denver participating in teaching and mentoring these students,” Shandas explains.
Faculty and students will spend substantial amounts of time at the medical campus, learning how to translate between clinical and engineering languages.
“We have worked hard to create a unique multi-disciplinary training program with a design-based focus,” said Shandas when the program was approved in February 2010. “We urge students to ask questions about clinical needs or research gaps and think about how they can use their bioengineering training to address these issues.”
The program will be a driver of economic development in bioengineering fields (Colorado has more than 150 medical device companies), thus providing economic stimulus to the state as well. Several companies and jobs have already been created due to bioengineering research in Colorado and this program will continue to grow the medical technology industry and research labs in the state.