Biomedical engineers push high-tech boundaries

June 13, 2006, volume 36, no. 4
By Diane Luckow

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B.C. is becoming a powerhouse in the field of biomedical engineering and Simon Fraser University is playing its part.

At an SFU-sponsored biomedical engineering conference in early June, 14 SFU faculty and students presented papers that examine new technologies such as brain-computer interfaces that help the severely physically disabled to control their environment and x-ray imaging and nanotechnologies.

Andrew Rawicz, professor of engineering science, says SFU's undergraduate program in biomedical engineering, launched last spring, is among the first in Canada. Run jointly by the departments of kinesiology and engineering science, there are 10 inaugural students. Rawicz expects to triple the number of students for the 2006 fall semester. Fourteen faculty members currently specialize in this new field, with more being recruited.

"Students in the undergraduate program learn quite a lot of organic chemistry, physiology, anatomy and body mechanics and learn how to apply engineering to build assistive devices and enabling technologies for the disabled, rehabilitation devices or instrumentation for hospital or home applications," he says. To expand the breadth of courses, there is also a course and mentorship exchange with both UBC and BCIT. Further partnerships are expected with universities in California, Washington State, Ontario and Alberta.

As well, Rawicz is helping to plan a new graduate program in applied biomedical sciences which he would like to see offered in the new year.  This program is designed to complement a new biomedical engineering graduate program recently initiated at UBC.

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