Biomedical engineering program launched

June 09, 2005, vol. 33, no. 4
By Marianne Meadahl

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Engineering students at SFU will be able to specialize in the field of biomedical engineering, now that one of the first Canadian undergraduate programs of its kind is in place.

The new biomedical engineering program was approved this spring and applications are now being accepted for September.

The program is the result of more than a decade of work to develop a path for engineering students looking to apply their talents in the field. It is also the long-awaited dream of engineering professor Andrew Rawicz, who helped to create it. "Our students will become inventors, as well as researchers," predicts Rawicz, noting there is a particular need for biomedical engineers to develop assistive devices in answer to an increasingly aging population and rising life expectancy.

Support for the program from all sides has resulted in a wide range of course offerings and potential research directions. New focuses will include such areas as photonics and optical engineering, to complement existing work in signal and image processing, implantable devices and biomechanics.

"Our students like to design gadgets, and many of them come to biomedical work in order to benefit society," Rawicz adds. They include Ida Khoddami, whose mother is a doctor. "I always admired her and wanted to help people and influence their lives just as she did," says Khoddami, whose four-year undergraduate education at SFU has been geared toward biomedical engineering.

One of her projects involved the design of an amorphous silicon pin photodetector for use in X-ray imaging. She is continuing work on the design of a device that searches for veins to assist with needle injections.

"It's extremely motivating to use the knowledge that I've gained from studying electrical engineering to develop new devices to improve medical practice and help people," says Khoddami, noting that the biomedical industry is huge. "It's not just related to medical devices, but also artificial organs, pharmaceuticals, sensory aids and medical imaging."

The new program springs from a long history of cooperative work between the schools of engineering science and kinesiology, with support from the gerontology research centre and the department of chemistry.

Rawicz says the program will also work with SFU's new faculty of health sciences.

The program's curriculum has also been shaped with input from B.C.'s biomedical community, including the B.C. Biomedical Engineering Society and the Medical Devices Development Centre.

It's another example of SFU working with the larger community, says Rawicz. "We have a shared vision for the future of biomedical research and design and together we will become leaders in this field."

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