The University Record, April 9, 1996

$3 million gift designated for biomedical engineering

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

The University has received a $3 million Whitaker Foundation grant which, pending approval of the Board of Regents, will be used to create a new biomedical engineering department within the College of Engineering and establish a new biomedical engineering research center.

The grant is part of the Whitaker Foundation's Biomedical Engineering Development Awards program, which supports biomedical engineering research and education at leading universities and medical schools in the United States. The U-M is one of only eight universities in the country to receive the highly competitive awards since the program began in 1989.

"A new Department of Biomedical Engineering will enable the focused faculty effort necessary to create and maintain a state-of-the-art curriculum," said Charles A. Cain, director of the U-M's current bioengineering program and a professor of electrical engineering and computer science. "The new Center for Biomedical Engineering Research will involve faculty and students from many departments in a broadly based interdisciplinary environment to develop excellent research programs in exciting new areas."

The U-M's current bioengineering program, which is made up of faculty and researchers from several existing departments, was recently rated one of the top 10 in the country by U.S. News and World Report and attracts many of the country's best graduate students, Cain says.

With an opportunity to develop its own departmental curriculum, recruit additional faculty and control its own facilities and resources, Cain says the new bioengineering department will be able to attract more highly qualified graduate students and establish a new series of joint bachelor's/master's degree programs for undergraduates.

"Worldwide demand for high quality health care-related technologies is unlikely to decrease," Cain said. "Student interest in biomedical engineering will increase substantially in the next century. To remain competitive, we must adapt and evolve in a changing world."

The new department will include 12 full-time equivalent (FTE) faculty who will develop a strong curriculum in five areas biomedical imaging, biomechanics, biomaterials, bioelectric systems and biotechnology.

The new research center will coordinate and promote interdisciplinary research programs in five core areas biomedical imaging, diagnostic and therapeutic technology, computational modeling, transgenic animals, and technology transfer. The research center will be administered jointly by the College of Engineering and the Medical School.

In addition to Cain, co-principal investigators on the Whitaker Foundation grant include John A. Faulkner, professor of physiology; Steven A. Goldstein, professor of surgery; and Matthew O'Donnell, professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

"Working cooperatively, the new department and research center will enhance educational and research opportunities in biomedical engineering at the U-M," Cain said. "With a strong and broadly based faculty, a high-quality student body, the combined resources of the College of Engineering and the Medical School, and the intellectual and physical resources of a comprehensive research university, the potential for biomedical engineering at U-M is unexcelled."

The Whitaker Foundation is a private nonprofit foundation established in 1975 in the belief that engineering can help solve medical problems and improve the quality of life. The foundation currently supports the research of about 400 biomedical engineering investigators, 86 graduate fellows and education programs at about 40 leading academic and medical institutions.