The Virginia Tech College of Engineering will launch a new biomedical engineering minor program for its undergraduate students starting with the upcoming spring 2013 semester, after meeting recent approval from the university’s Registrar’s Office.

The Virginia Tech - Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences started in 2002 with a graduate degree program and has garnered international headlines for its research, especially in the field of preventing and/or minimizing head traumas among soldiers in battle and football players during games. A minor program is expected to boost later enrollment of the graduate program.

“Biomedical engineering has become one of the fastest growing fields of engineering worldwide,” wrote Pamela VandeVord, associate professor and associate department head for undergraduate programs for the school of biomedical engineering and sciences, in her proposal to the university. “There is tremendous student interest in the field, with biomedical engineering programs often becoming the largest undergraduate majors at the colleges that develop them.”

Biomedical engineering is a relatively new and fast-growing career option for engineers interested in medical research and clinical applications. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that employment of biomedical engineers is expected to grow by 62 percent from 2010 to 2020, much quicker than the average for all professions, VandeVord stated in the proposal.

The upward trend is likely because of the growing demands that the aging Baby Boomer generation is creating on the medical field, as well as an increased awareness among the public of advances in biomedical engineering. Such engineers are increasing wanted in hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, government agencies, consulting companies, universities, and other fields of medical research. Veterinary care also has growing opportunities for biomedical engineers. 

Open applications for students entering the program is now open with an expected closing date of Dec. 14. Students would be notified of their acceptance or denial by Dec. 28, said VandeVord. Interest already is high among engineering students and parents of potential students.

Information, including news on the enrollment process, for interested students soon will be available at the department’s website. Information sessions on the minor program also are planned during the next few weeks.

About 50 students would be accepted into the program each semester, with the program capping out at 250 total students at any given time. The program would only accept sophomore students and higher, with the first degrees being awarded in 2014.

A minor would require two courses be taken, including Introduction to Biomedical Engineering and Introduction to Medical Physiology, the latter taught in conjunction with the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

With six hours of approved electives from various other departments within the College of Engineering and added credits of biomedical research, students would need to attain a total of 18 credit hours in order to receive a minor, which would be added to their major degree.

The program is expected to boost interest in the master’s and doctorate programs already offered by the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. It also is expected to boost diversity among the entire College of Engineering student body as females make up roughly half the national average of biomedical engineering students. The college has long sought ways to increase its enrollment of women as students.

“We are fortunate to have the wisdom and insight that Pam VandeVord has brought to our undergraduate program,” said Stefan Duma, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. “In only one year, she has developed the biomedical minor and implemented new classes.”

Share this story