After years of working toward the addition of a new major, the School of Engineering now offers a biomedical engineering degree.
In the past, the university included biomedical engineering as an emphasis within the departments of electrical engineering and chemical engineering, but recently it was approved to stand as a degree by itself.
Marni Kendricks, assistant dean of the School of Engineering, said the university has been fighting for approval of the degree by Mississippi’s Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Board for about 14 years.
“It’s something we really wanted for a really long time,” Kendricks said.
Once the degree was approved by the IHL, the engineering department worked to attract students to enroll in the major. They released an initial press release and have since relied on word of mouth to spread the news.
Dwight Waddell, associate professor of engineering, will act as the coordinator for the biomedical engineering program. He said recruiting efforts have already resulted in impressive numbers, and more than 40 percent of the students who have already joined program are women.
“Traditionally, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering and environmental engineering have a really good representation of women,” he said.
The biomedical engineering degree offers three different tracks students can take: biomolecular, biomedical systems and bioinformatics.
“We always got calls from students asking us, ‘Do you have a biomedical engineering program?’ and it was a hard thing to have to tell them no,” Waddell said. “But now we do.”
At the beginning of this academic year, the program already has about 40 freshmen and 19 sophomores. Anyone with more hours than the sophomore classification will have to wait for the university to get the program and faculty for it in place, he said.
The university is now in the midst of finding new professors and leveraging current faculty for the program.
Currently, biomedical engineering is not a stand-alone department. It’s remaining housed within the department of electrical engineering until the university can establish a department.
“We will make tweaks, but now we can just point it in the way we want to go,” Waddell said. “There’s a lot of potential. We’re very excited.”
Faculty and staff are excited about the possibilities the new degree program may bring as well.
“I believe the addition of the biomedical engineering program will definitely serve the university, state and nation, as well,” Alex Cheng, dean of the engineering school, said.