Release Date: June 15, 2012
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo recently celebrated the first graduating class from its Department of Biomedical Engineering, a milestone for the fast-growing program that focuses on developing medical devices and therapies for diabetes, cancer and other illnesses.
A handful of the 12 undergraduates are expected to immediately enter the workforce. But most plan to attend UB's new biomedical engineering graduate program, said Albert H. Titus, co-chair of the department. Starting this fall, UB will offer master's of science and doctor of philosophy degrees in biomedical engineering.
Biomedical engineering is an emerging field of research that applies engineering principles to medicine. Examples include everything from the development of the pacemaker and prosthetic limbs to creating artificial organs and ultrasounds.
The UB department is a collaboration between the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Created with the support of the John R. Oishei Foundation, which provided $3 million toward its establishment, the department is expected to advance and support the Buffalo Niagara region's already strong medical device industry by spinning off new technologies and businesses as well as creating a highly skilled pool of graduates.
Enrollment has steadily climbed since UB launched the department two years ago. It had 56 students in 2010. The number rose to 137 the following year and it is expected to reach 195 students this fall.
"The department is growing very rapidly," said Titus, an associate professor in electrical engineering. "But that's not too surprising because there's a clear demand in the workplace for biomedical engineers."
The U.S. Department of Labor projects the need for biomedical engineers will jump 62 percent through 2020, a rate much higher than most occupations. Also, the average salary for biomedical engineers in the United States is $88,360, according to Labor Department figures issued in May 2011.
Students come from a variety of backgrounds, including engineering, medicine and pharmacy. Such was the case with North Tonawanda native Jessica Utzig, who transferred into the department from School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences two years ago and graduated last month.
"There are so many avenues to pursue, but I'm really interested in devices," said Utzig, a summer intern at Greatbatch in Akron who plans to enter UB's biomedical engineering graduate school later this year.
Anticipating industry's need for more biomedical engineers, UB will launch the graduate program in August. By offering advanced degrees, the department will be able to attract and retain better students, as well as high-caliber faculty members, Titus said.
While researchers and students are based on the university's North Campus, they will be collaborating with the UB Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology in the Buffalo Niagara medical corridor. Additionally, the department is advancing several of the UB 2020 strategic strengths, including "Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan," "Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics" and "Integrated Nanostructured Systems."