Published: May 1, 2020 By

New undergraduate major and graduate degrees build on college’s strengths

A 3D-printed heart? A robotic surgeon? Biomedical engineering has come a long way from the invention of the scalpel. And now, it’s getting a boost at CU Boulder with a new undergraduate major and graduate programs launching in fall 2020. 

Mechanical engineering Professor Mark Borden served on the committee that brought the program to fruition and will serve as its first director. 

“This a terrific opportunity for our high-ranking program,” said Borden, who teaches Introduction to Biomedical Engineering as part of the existing minor. “Students are going to have their eyes opened by the type of subject matter offered, and they will be inspired.” 

The career opportunities won’t hurt, either, he said. 

“In fact, Forbes ranked this the No. 1 major, and its national median annual wage is $88,000. For Colorado, it’s even higher at $96,000.” 

It’s also a STEM major that attracts a diverse student body, Borden added. 

“So many people who go down this route have a story of someone close to them that was affected by a medical issue,” he said. “It moves people to make a difference. Our inaugural class is actually projected to have 50 to 60 students, so right away it’s keeping up favorably with the other majors in the engineering school.” 

Anushree Chatterjee, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, is excited about how the program will bolster research opportunities for both students and faculty. 

“We have a quality medical school for students to have a larger involvement with, and they can find themselves matching up further with professorial research,” she said. “There are technologies they can understand for clinical applications. If they have the skills, they can have valuable additional experience for their résumé, and they can be incredibly helpful in our work.” 

Biomed Lab computer

Won Park, professor in electrical, computer and energy engineering whose research focuses on biomedical uses for nanomaterials, also sees the major as a key interdisciplinary opportunity. 

“The school has very strong programs in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, and these are the three disciplines that have a strong component that are relative to biomedical engineering,” said Park, who, like Chatterjee, also served on the committee. “Aerospace and computer science are also important contributors. In my work in bladder cancer, it could help a great deal. We will now be even more free to pursue greater amounts of interdisciplinary research in biology and medicine (with the help of students).” 

And who knows how many people will have their quality of life improved by the work of an inspired biomedical engineering student or maybe even owe their lives to their ingenuity someday? 

“It’s an exciting avenue,” Borden said. “And our students are just the people to take on its challenges.”