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Collaborative Program (Medicine and Engineering)

Medicine is a multidisciplinary subject and among its constituents are applied life and natural sciences. So, it is not surprising that a new initiative in biomedical engineering (BME) was formulated and put into place in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and participation of a number of other faculties and schools at Memorial.
Interest in BME at Memorial has been high for well over a decade as highlighted by individual research projects and periodic offerings of an introductory BME course. Formal BME opportunities did not exist despite the university having Faculties of Engineering and Medicine. In 2014, the deans of the Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science demonstrated their support for BME and multidisciplinary research by creating two jointly appointed faculty positions within medicine and engineering. It was felt that the BME initiative could positively impact Memorial University by increasing:
  • Medical student exposure to engineering and technology;
  • Multidisciplinary biomedical research and development;
  • Formal BME educational opportunities;
  • Appeal for women within science and engineering and;
  • Emphasis on commercialization, industry partnerships and intellectual property.

Program Development
In 2015, an ad-hoc committee was formed to begin development of a proposal for a formal undergraduate BME stream. Consultation with the associate dean of Undergraduate Studies (Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science) led to a framework for the stream that would allow engineering undergraduate students to not only study within the field of BME, but also take courses outside engineering (i.e., in Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Science, and School of Human Kinetics & Recreation (HKR)). The idea would be that new stream could begin with a mandatory “Engineering in Medicine” course delivered in year 3, term 6 (of 8 terms). Thereafter, in year 4, term 7, students would be able to choose two of three electives from either “Anatomy and Physiology” (HKR), “Biomechanics” (HKR), or “Image Processing” (Engineering). Subsequently, in year 4, term 8, the students could choose from a wide range of technical and medical electives offered within Engineering (e.g., Digital Signal Processing, Fluid Dynamics, Micro/Nano Engineering), Medicine (e.g., Clinical Research Design, Biostatistics), HKR (e.g., Human Factors), and Physics & Physical Oceanography (e.g., Biomaterials). Within this stream, most courses are already offered within the associated faculties, and a small number of new courses (e.g., Engineering in Medicine) will need to be developed or modified for such a program.
Interest in BME at Memorial is growing as evidenced by the number of undergraduate and graduate students taking BME courses, and engaging in BME research projects. Furthermore, a growing number of faculty members across multiple faculties at Memorial have interest in supporting a multidisciplinary BME initiative. Thus, strategic initiatives taken to bring such to program to fruition include:
  • Development of a commercialization skills seminar series in conjunction with the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE)
  • Engagement of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) in the promotion of BME
  • Creation of a student interest group with focus on BME
  • Development of the undergraduate BME stream
  • Continued creation of multidisciplinary R&D BME opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students
  • Continued support of technically-related student- and resident-led research projects
  • Development of a Health Informatics and Analytics group in conjunction with the Primary Health Research Unit
 A broader vision for joint programs such as BME will be an even greater participation of a larger number of faculties/schools in a collaborative effort of teaching, learning, research and public engagement for the future benefit of our province’s population.

The Capstone Design Project: 
After some research, students noticed a gap in the market for upper limb prosthetics: They are either easily reproduced and low-cost, but lack many natural and basic functionalities or they are extremely complex and functional but expensive. The team designed a prosthetic that functions naturally, does not fatigue the user and can complete a variety of everyday tasks for under $500. They teamed up with MUN Med 3D to print the product and provide valuable input along the way. They took second place at the CSME (Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering) Design Project Industry Night.


The four engineering students who formed the Capstone Design Project Group. From left to right: Bryan Mandville, Sarah Smith, Claire Dobbin and Tyler Spurrell.

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