Biomedical Engineering Degree Emerges
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A new Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering has emerged from the College of Engineering, the only California State University campus in Southern California to offer such a degree.
By Richard Manly
A new Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering has emerged from the College of Engineering, the only California State University campus in Southern California to offer such a degree. The department has seven faculty members.
“One of the fastest-growing disciplines in the U.S. is biomedical engineering,” explained David Stout, a member of the university since 2014, who is one of the founding faculty members of the new degree with mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) colleague Emil Demircan. “It is an interdisciplinary field that coincides with all other engineering programs to better understand how engineering can help biology. It is a way for aerospace and mechanical engineers to come together to help people stay alive longer. We’re talking knee replacements and patches for hearts. The goal of this degree is to show how engineering and biology can interact.”
Instruction will match traditional areas of MAE, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, computer engineering and computer science, such as statics that describe buildings that don’t move and dynamics that describe objects that do move.
“These topics will be presented with the normal engineering curriculum, but backboned in a biological setting,” said Stout. “In addition to dynamics, for instance, we will offer biomechanics or how the body moves. The topics of techniques in molecular and cellular engineering will show how biologists do research and experiments in a way that is tailored for engineers. We will offer classes in biomaterials or how the material sciences interact with biology. There will be stem cell engineering classes.”
He estimates 75-80 percent of the enrolled students have a personal story attached to their areas of interest.
One of his students researches how a 3D printer can create kidney cells because his mother suffers from kidney failure. Another student pursues pancreatic research to devise a material that can assist with that research because he has a sibling who is insulin-dependent.
"I think that’s really cool," said Stout. "They are not only dedicated from a career perspective, but they are also dedicated from a personal perspective.”
The degree comes in the wake of tremendous advances in biomedical engineering over the last 10 years.
“It has grown exponentially,” said Stout. “For instance, ‘advanced’ implants first appeared 25 years ago and were made of either aluminum or titanium. They worked, but they were good only for 10-15 years before wear and tear made you get a new one. Fast forward to now, we have carbon-based nanomaterials embedded into traditional ‘advanced’ implants that make these implant last 20+ years. New research studies how these new materials interact with the body. You want to reduce wear, tear and rejection. How do we promote the body? A new theory is to avoid what the body does not create itself. What if we could manipulate the human body so it could regenerate itself at a faster pace? That includes growing new bones.”
A helpful resource for the new degree is Stout’s new BSL Level 2 laboratory where “We do a lot of awesome stuff,” he said. Students play a big role.
“Not a single student is a biomedical engineering major,” Stout laughed. “There is a chemical engineer, a computer scientist, a mechanical engineer, an aerospace engineer, a chemistry major and an electrical engineering major. This new degree will help engineers and biologists come together.”
The new lab offers students the chance to perform both primary and secondary research.
“We can study animal as well as human cells,“ he said. “We can do 3D printing which two students are using to actually print cells. Two other students are working on creating what they call a 'Band-Aid for the heart' as a way of rebuilding tissue damaged in a heart attack. The students all work together in a big, giant room where they do serious work that interests them.”
He anticipates the new degree will offer plenty of chances for working with Southern California biomedical engineering firms as professional partners.
“There’s definitely a lot of outreach,” he said. “For instance, I work with a company that specializes in condom design. They design a new condom without understanding the FDA protocols and procedures. Together with a student, we came up with a design, materials and how to present the data. I also work with Xerox, which is interested in health care systems. It wants to know the trends in biomedicine. This lab points to those trends.”
Stout sees continued commitment to the new degree.
“I want to build on the strengths I find here in the Los Angeles Basin,” he said. “There is work on medical implants and devices, materials and fluid systems. We’ve already been approached by local biomedical companies.”
To hear assistant professor Perla Ayala, CSULB's Biomedical Engineering Department’s first full-time faculty member, discuss her work, click here.