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Engineer the future of human health with a PhD in biomedical engineering

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Technological advancements have paved the way for many important breakthroughs in biomedical engineering. New methods are being developed, as are our understanding, diagnosing and treating of medical conditions.

Unsurprisingly, the job outlook for biomedical engineers looks promising. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that employment of biomedical engineers is projected to grow four percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. It adds that the increasing number of technologies and applications to medical equipment and devices, along with the medical needs of a growing and ageing population, will further require the services of biomedical engineers.

If you’re trained in biomedical engineering or are a graduate in a related field looking to enhance your qualifications or progress into a leadership role, you may want to consider enroling in doctoral studies in biomedical engineering.

A good place to start is Michigan State University (MSU), which has carved itself a strong reputation in the field.

Its Biomedical Engineering Department (BME) offers a competitive research-oriented doctoral programme with flexible and personalised curricula.

The department is housed in a state-of-the-art research facility and engages with faculty across several disciplines, departments and colleges to explore the intersection of medicine, human biology and engineering.

Top-notch facilities

The BME department is housed within a new research facility, the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering (IQ).  IQ consists of seven research divisions, i.e. biomedical devices, biomedical imaging, chemical biology, developmental and stem cell biology, neuroengineering, synthetic biology and systems biology.

The interdisciplinary research centre is devoted to basic and applied research at the interface of life sciences, engineering, information science and other physical and mathematical sciences.

Students have access to the stellar facilities and equipment at IQ, which foster extensive collaboration between researchers from different areas to solve some of the world’s most challenging biomedical problems.

This systems approach to biomedical research look set to lead to discoveries that are the first of their kind. IQ is connected to both the Clinical Center and Life Sciences buildings, establishing a biomedical research hub at MSU that holds the potential to transform medicine.

The BME department also boasts a range of expertise, including advanced imaging methods and nanotechnology in biomedical research.

Training PhD students in the biodesign process is a priority here whereby students identify significant needs for new biomedical technologies before developing commercialisable technologies that meet those needs.

MSU also provides a host of services to help students’ healthcare solutions make it to market.

The MSU Innovation Center houses MSU Technologies, Spartan Innovations and MSU Business CONNECT in support of entrepreneurship, facilitating technology transfer, and providing the educational and financial support to turn doctorate students’ research technologies into successful businesses.

Another major focus of the BME department is biomedical imaging, including the development of new nanoparticle-based combined imaging and therapeutic technologies. The IQ building has one of the few PET MRI systems in the world.

Launchpad for success

What differentiates MSU from other institutions is their new, two-semester course sequence on the development and translation of new biomedical technologies to meet clinical needs.

Named “BioDesign IQ 1 and 2,” these courses train BME PhD students and professional students from the colleges of medicine, law, and business to work together effectively in innovation teams. They shadow doctors, identify unmet medical needs that have significant market potential, prototype new technologies to meet those needs, and then develop intellectual property and a business plan to advance these new technologies towards commercialisation.

Apart from its stellar facilities, the university is also home to faculty with strong expertise.

For instance, inaugural IQ director and BME chairperson Christopher H Contag is a pioneer in molecular imaging and is developing imaging approaches aimed at revealing molecular processes in living subjects, including humans and the earliest markers of cancer. Through advances in detection, professionals in the field can greatly improve early detection of diseases and restoration of health. Contag was previously at Stanford University as a professor in the departments of Pediatrics, Radiology, Bioengineering, and Microbiology and Immunology.

Meanwhile, Dr Mark Worden, BME Associate Chair, has developed several interdisciplinary programmes that integrate research and education. His research on nanostructured biointerfaces and multiphase biocatalysis has resulted in over 10 patents issued or pending on technologies including microbiosensors, bioelectronics and multiphase bioreactors.

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Other faculty members doing trailblazing work in the field include Dr Dana Spence, who is investigating and defining new roles for red blood cells in autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis; Dr Aitor Aguirre, whose research focuses on investigating regeneration and tissue re-modelling in health and disease; and Dr Ripla Arora, who is working on understanding how hormones influence the uterine luminal and glandular epithelium to modulate receptivity and implantation, to name a few.

In addition to insightful guidance from a faculty of this calibre, PhD students also enjoy 100 percent funding, including stipend, tuition and healthcare. As a graduate student in biomedical engineering, they will have the valuable opportunity to work alongside graduate students from different departments across campus.

Without a doubt, a PhD in biomedical engineering from MSU will prove to be fulfilling endeavour, professionally and personally.

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