Biomedical engineering continues to grow

Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor This October 2015 photo shows a quadcopter created by biomedical engineering students from Duquesne. BME is a new major at Duquesne that’s still growing.

Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor
This October 2015 photo shows a quadcopter created by biomedical engineering students from Duquesne. BME is a new major at Duquesne that’s still growing.

By Grant Stoner | The Duquesne Duke

Although still in its infancy, the Biomedical Engineering Program at Duquesne University is attracting a large pool of talented applicants, despite the competition of local well-established programs offered at both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, according to program director John Viator.

Viator has led the program since its establishment in fall 2014, and said he is both pleased and excited by the growth he has observed over the past two years.

“I have tried to make a curriculum that is very forward-looking to the future, [with an] emphasis on software [and] modern fabrication techniques,” Viator said.

Duquesne’s BME department is small, compared to many of the other 90 programs throughout the country. However, the intimate class sizes of 20 to 25 students are appealing to some people.

“Ohio State’s BME [program] made me feel like a number that was disposable,” sophomore BME major Marissa Behun said. “Duquesne’s program offers me the one-on-one attention that is very rare for an engineering program.”

Sophomore Cecelia Lee-Hauser appreciates the supportive network within the department, which encourages and affords numerous opportunities for students to participate in fellowships. For example, this summer, Lee-Hauser is headed to Florida to attend the University of Miami School of Medicine for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

But it was the prospect of enrolling in the ‘first’ class of the newly-developed program that piqued the interest of sophomore Connor Evans.

“I chose Duquesne’s BME program because it is a small, personal program that is being crafted to redefine biomedical engineering education from the ground up,” Evans said. “Establishing a new, standalone BME program allows us to forge a new, 21st century approach to Biomedical Engineering education.”

Viator said the program is currently expanding by hiring additional faculty and collaborating with Duquesne’s nursing school, physical and occupational therapy departments, mathematicians and statisticians. Additionally, the department hopes to work with neurosurgeons from some of Pittsburgh’s top ranked medical facilities.

In the meantime, the program is utilizing local campus resources to complete research projects.

Some students are working in the biomedical optics lab, utilizing lasers to identify cancer cells within the blood. Others are developing prosthetics using 3-D technology.

Another student-led project involves a quadcopter, a machine which uses two sets of propellers in order to fly. It supplies data to create algorithms similar to those used in medical imaging, for the purpose of detection of pathological tissues in the body.

As his students continue to complete various research activities, Viator feels a sense of pride when referencing the department.

“The quality of the students, the engagement they have, the education that they’re receiving – it’s coming along better than I had hoped for.”

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