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Updated 1:00 PM June 30, 2003



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Whitaker grant cultivates biomedical engineering growth

A $10 million challenge grant from The Whitaker Foundation will help the College of Engineering (CoE) fuel significant expansion of its growing biomedical engineering (BME) department.

Of the total gift amount, $2 million will be used to further develop biomedical engineering degree programs. The remaining $8 million will help establish a new building for biomedical research and renovate adjoining space for the growing department. Construction of the new building is scheduled to begin in late 2003.

"Biomedical engineering is an increasingly multidisciplinary effort," says Peter Katona, president of The Whitaker Foundation, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to improving human health through the support of biomedical engineering. "Michigan's outstanding expertise across many different fields made it an ideal place for this investment. We are looking forward to their great contributions to come in both education and research."

The new facility, which was given final approval by the Board of Regents June 19, will add a 31,500 square-foot addition to the Advanced Technology Laboratory (ATL) on North Campus and renovate the ATL building itself. In addition to wet labs, computational labs and classrooms supporting undergraduate and graduate biomedical programs, the building will host research space for:

• Neural engineering—State-of-the-art facilities combining microdevice integration and neurosystem engineering will enable fundamental studies in brain-machine interfaces;

• Cellular and molecular biomechanics—Facilities combining laser tweezers, ultra-fast optics and molecular biology will promote fundamental studies of molecular motors and their integration into MEMS-based devices;

• Tissue simulation and fabrication—Computational and polymer fabrication facilities will allow research in optimally designed constructs for tissue engineering;

• Microfluid mechanics—Integrated fluidics and cellular biology facilities will enable fundamental studies of microfluidics at the cellular level.

An additional 29,000 square feet of existing space will be renovated. In addition to the Whitaker grant, other gifts and CoE reserves will fund the estimated $20 million project costs.

In addition, BME will continue to recruit faculty members to lead research efforts in noninvasive biosensors, biomaterials, molecular targeting, tissue generation, panscopic biocomputation, mechanotransduction and in-vivo microscopy, which also will be housed in the new facility.

"We are grateful to The Whitaker Foundation for its ongoing support of our work and for expressing its confidence in the College of Engineering," says Stephen Director, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. "This gift will help create technologies that allow us to diagnose and treat medical conditions more effectively, restore function to the disabled and expand our applications of biotechnology."

The grant builds upon a $3 million gift made in 1996. The previous gift allowed the college to upgrade its biomedical engineering program to a full department. Building on its broad research base and connections to U-M's top-ranked Medical School, the department launched its undergraduate program in 2001 and offers one of the largest biomedical engineering graduate programs in the country.

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