April 11, 2002

Shuler to Head New Biomedical Engineering Department

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For the first time in its history, the University’s College of Engineering will soon have an undergraduate curriculum in Biomedical Engineering. Michael Shuler, the Samuel B. Eckert professor of chemical engineering, has been named to lead the program.

The program will integrate life sciences into the engineering curriculum, and will exist at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“The curriculum will consist of an undergraduate minor and a Master of Engineering (M. Eng.) in biomedical engineering. It will provide students the breadth and depth they need to be successful in the biomedical engineering profession,” said Shuler. “I think our philosophy is that students in this profession will be most served by the combination of these degrees.”

“It’s the first time we’ve had a program for a biomedical engineering curriculum. It’s a very important component [of the] engineering department,” said Prof. Donald Bartel, mechanical and aerospace engineering. “I think it will be very important in attracting new students to Cornell.”

Shuler’s new position will be as the director of the cross-campus program in biomedical engineering (BME).

“[My job] will be to establish a successful curriculum and to hire faculty that will make our program among the top ranked in the country.”

In 1993, Shuler was director of the first program to offer a bioengineering option in the College of Engineering. In 1998 he became director of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering within the engineering college.

“What we have at Cornell right now reflects Mike Shuler’s vision, and the fact that we’ve gotten this far is a credit to him,” said Prof. Marjolein van der Meulen, mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Van der Meulen is co-chair of the Bioengineering Bridge Search Committee and is involved in the selection of faculty candidates for the program.

“We’re looking for people who are able to teach courses in the minor at the interface between the disciplines,” she said.

The program will differ from previous versions of bioengineering in the engineering college in that it will be offered by a college, not by a department, and will present a unified curriculum that will build on itself successively. It will also avoid unnecessary overlap between parallel classes in engineering and biology.

“We’re working on creating an undergrad minor that will consist of Bio G110, biochemistry and four new bioengineering classes that go from the molecular to the physiological systems level.”

These new courses will be offered at the 400 level and will commence next fall with Chem E (later BME) 401, Molecular Principles of Bioengineering. In addition, Bio G110 will feature a one-credit supplement that will consist of an extra lecture and lab taught by an engineering professor.

“We’ll be learning as we go with these classes. We think that eventually these classes will involve team teaching by biology and engineering professors,” Shuler said.

The Masters of Engineering program in BME will not begin immediately, as approval is needed at both the state and college level.

“We hope to get approval from New York State in perhaps two years to offer the M. Eng. program,” Shuler added.

The program will also receive space in Kimball Hall for a laboratory which will be equipped with the help of a $400,000 grant from Intel Corporation. Instruction will be provided in four core areas: drug delivery, nanobiotechnology, biosensors and bio-micro-electro-mechanical systems.

Shuler sees one of the main strengths of the new program in the diversity of instruction available at Cornell.

“We’ll have students come out of this that will be very attractive to employers. We currently have great strengths in the areas of biomechanics, biophysics and instrumentation, drug delivery and metabolism and biomaterials. We’d like to augment these strengths, and we’ll be looking to hire strategically to get the best qualified faculty we can.”

Though the program will only be offered to engineering students initially, as other colleges approve the curriculum it will become available to an increasing number of students across the University. The BME program will also cooperate with a number of other departments.

“We’ll be working with the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Weill Medical College in New York and the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. We want to become a bridge between the life sciences and some of the more traditional areas of engineering,” Shuler said.

Archived article by Jennifer Frazer