University adds Ph.D in biomedical engineering as interest surges nationwide

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Miranda Houchins
The Science and Engineering Hall will open in January 2015 and be home to the new biomedical engineering department.

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved a new doctoral degree in biomedical engineering Friday, a move that faculty hope will attract top students to the University’s newest department.

Mark Hughes, chair of the Board’s academic affairs committee, said he wanted to create the degree because of the field’s surging popularity nationwide, with an expected 27 percent increase in job opportunities over the next decade.

The School of Engineering and Applied Science will officially launch its biomedical engineering department this fall, which will also offer undergraduate and graduate degrees.

“It’s really a deal that brings together engineers, physicians, scientists and interdisciplinary work,” Hughes said Friday. “Biomedical engineering is currently the most popular major in the school of engineering, not only here but across the country.”

The biomedical engineering program, which teaches students how to design solutions in biology and medicine, is currently offered in the department of electrical and computer engineering.

The degree will become the third type of Ph.D offered by the School of Engineering and Applied Science, which administrators are pushing to expand as GW prepares to open its $275 million science research hub early next year.

The University is also trying to lure top Ph.D. students to campus, pledging to offer 10 to 15 new doctoral aid packages over the next decade in last year’s strategic plan. The engineering school, which has the No. 94-ranked graduate programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report, is also looking to rise with the help of top graduate students.

Hughes, the former executive of the technology and engineering company SAIC, said the degree formalizes a field of study in which many students have already been researching.

Matthew Kay, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said the degree would make the department more attractive to students seeking degrees at all levels.

Kay, who has done research in biomedical engineering, added that the school has offered graduate coursework in the field since as early as 2003.

“This is sort of the last step. We’ve sort of done things backwards, so to speak, so having this Ph.D. program is now the final step in really having a really strong graduate level,” he said.

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