ENGINEERING SUCCESS: Lauren Bookstaver, a Brown University research assistant, works in the university’s bioengineering lab. The Ivy League institution is looking to grow its bioengineering program, and with it, the school itself.
The growth taking place at Brown University’s School of Engineering is not generic in nature, just adding to the program’s existing chemical, computer, electrical, environmental, material science or mechanical engineering lines of study. Rather, it is bioengineering that is driving a significant part of the size increase at the school.
Four of the six new faculty members starting this fall there specialize in biomedical engineering. “This field didn’t even exist 15 years ago,” said Larry Larson, the engineering school dean. “More broadly, there are issues of regenerative medicine, orthopedics, building better artificial joints, rapid disease detection. It’s a very big and important part of engineering. The faculty needed to grow in order to respond to these new opportunities.”
In addition, said Larson, “we expect further corporate interest in our students as we grow our program here. Companies like to see a certain critical mass in an academic area before they’ll invest in recruiting resources. That’s why we’re trying to develop biomedical engineering. We want it to be large enough so top companies will come and recruit our students.”
Announced July 1, the expansion includes $44 million raised so far not only for faculty, but for a new building to be located near the Barus & Holley building on College Hill within the next five years. That is part of a $160 million fundraising campaign meant to support the school’s growth, said Russell Carey, vice president of planning and policy.
Lab space for biomedical and other types of research at the Barus & Holley building and the Prince Engineering Laboratory is tight, Carey said. The new building will accommodate not only more space for labs, classrooms and administrative offices, but high-performance computer modeling equipment as well as lasers and imaging tools.
The four new professors specializing in the biomedical side of engineering include:
• David Borton, who is helping create and implement neural interfaces to the brain that help restore movement after injury or muscle damage.