As the baby boomers reach their 60s, the rush is on for technologies that will allow longer, healthier, and more independent lives. Medical technology is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., with its 300,000 jobs estimated to increase 31.4% through 2010. North Carolina is among the top-ranked states as both a place to retire and a place for med-tech businesses.

Excitement in the field of biomedical engineering has grown at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) with advances in medicine, breakthroughs in biomaterials applied to new uses, new medical and engineering techniques, and computer integration in both medicine and engineering.

Faculty and student research collaboration between the two universities has become so frequent that the UNC Board of Governors has approved the first-ever comprehensive, joint graduate degree program in the UNC System—offering both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Biomedical Engineering (BME) beginning in August 2003. Student diplomas will have both university seals, indicative of their integrated education in medicine and engineering.

Dr. Troy Nagle, NC State’s interim BME department chair, explains: “This combination of a world-class medical school and a top-ranked College of Engineering will allow our students to take advantage of the best expertise and courses on both campuses.” The new department’s NC State associates also include faculty from the Colleges of Engineering, Textiles, Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine.

“BME is representative of NC State’s larger theme of combining physical sciences and technology with life sciences to attack challenging multidisciplinary problems,” says Dr. John Gilligan, Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies.

 There’s strong student interest in biomedical engineering at both institutions, with current enrollment at 66 graduate students at UNC-CH, in addition to 179 undergraduates at NC State. With approval of the joint graduate program, NC State will begin recruiting up to 75 graduate students.

Areas of shared research interest include:
• Medical imaging, bioinformatics, computational biology;
• Bioelectronics, biophotonics, biosensors;
• Biomaterials, tissue engineering;
• Biomechatronics, rehabilitation engineering;
• Implants, medical devices;
• Intracellular engineering, nanoinstrumentation;
• Microfluidics, biofluid dynamics.

This issue features some of NC State’s most promising BME people and programs.