UW to add 14th undergraduate engineering program

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UW has approved its 14th engineering program, Biomedical Engineering, to start Fall 2014.


Housed under the Department of Systems Design Engineering (SYDE) and with a starting class size of 45 students, the program aims to bridge the gap between the design orientation of engineering and the biomedical aspects and issues of today’s world.


According to Dr. Paul Fieguth, chair of Systems Design Engineering, this program has long been in the making.


“It all started 10-12 years ago with a biomedical workshop on campus,” Fieguth said. “We noticed that although SYDE was the smallest engineering department, we made up one third to one half of the attendees; it was a real ‘aha!’ moment for us. Many people worked on developing several proposals, and when I became chair about four years ago I brought up the idea again, and it’s been going strong ever since.”


When asked why the choice was made to house the program under SYDE, Fieguth stressed the interdisciplinary nature of the department and that there are several SYDE faculty members whose research lies in the biomedical realm.


“Systems is very design oriented and interdisciplinary,” he said. “Biomed just seemed to fit here.”


As the initial class size is quite small — only 45 students in the first year — Fieguth highlighted the positives of starting small and ramping up slowly.


“Starting small allows us to experiment a bit more with the curriculum,” he said. “In terms of co-op, because the biomedical industry is different from the other Engineering programs, CECA needs time to connect to new jobs and employers. Starting small ensures a high placement rate for our students.”


Faculty-wise, Fieguth stated that there would be 20 faculty hires — 13 in SYDE and the remainder in other departments — as well as the necessary staff and TAs.


There is much to be excited about regarding the new program, according to Fieguth. “This program is distinct among other biomed programs in Canada in that the students are in Biomed from day one,” he said. “This allows us to tailor our courses specifically for biomed students by motivating everything with biomedical illustrations. Rather than just learning material such as calculus, they will learn calculus in a biomedical context, so that they understand the reasons behind having to learn calculus.”


“The program also lets us try to bridge the gap between engineering and biomedical-related facilities,” Fieguth said. “We don’t need to have a medical school at UW to be successful, there are plenty of medically-related groups and institutions already on and off UW campus with whom to work. The Biomedical Engineering program really allows us to take advantage of SYDE’s and UW’s interdisciplinary strengths.”
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