Assessing Readiness to Offer New Degree Programs Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering, 09/08/2011

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Assessing Readiness to Offer New Degree Programs

Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering, 09/08/2011

Assessing Readiness to Offer New Degree Programs is a supplemental campus-based document that will

a) Inform the academic program development process and

b) Illustrate the unit’s readiness to offer the proposed degree program.

The proposing unit is expected to

a) Submit the assessing readiness document with the proposed program’s planning document and

b) Update the assessing readiness document as unit conditions change for submission with the proposed program’s request to establish.

Part One: Assessing Need for the Program

Need for the Program

As the population ages, the need for advanced medical tools, devices and diagnostics increases along with a need to improve our understanding of disease states. Thus as this need increases so does the demand for biomedical engineers. Due to their unique background, biomedical engineers have one foot grounded in the medical field and one foot grounded in engineering principles. By straddling these fields, biomedical engineers form a bridge upon which medical need, clinical practice, creativity, collaboration and research can travel freely from one side to the other. Our students will have a direct impact on the lives and health of those living in eastern North Carolina.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment growth for biomedical engineering will increase by 72% over the next ten years illustrating an increasing demand for people in this field. In addition the Labor Market Information Division of the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina predicts a 38% increase in biomedical engineering jobs from 2006-2016. Thus there is a demand within the state of North Carolina for biomedical engineers.

Table 1: BLS Growth Projections (in thousands) for Biomedical Engineering and Related Occupations

Occupational title

SOC Code

Employment, 2008


Change, 2008-18



Biomedical Engineer






Graduates of the program will be highly qualified candidates and prepared for the Brody School of Medicine (BSOM), the School of Dental Medicine, current PhD programs offered in the BSOM and positions in industry. In addition, this program will prepare our students to compete in PhD, medical and dental programs at other UNC constituent institutions. Upon completion of this program students may enter the education profession, improving the STEM teaching pool for eastern North Carolina. Students will be qualified to compete for programs and fellowships in government sponsored research laboratories.

Fit with Strategic Plan

This unique program, which targets an emerging and advanced technological field, integrates with key components of the ECU mission statement: to serve through education, to serve through research and creative activity, and to serve through leadership and partnership. The proposed MS in biomedical engineering is consistent with and supports these components. This MS program:

  • Offers a unique graduate education option preparing engineers and scientists to meet the challenges of biomedical discovery and applications of engineering to medicine in service to the people of North Carolina, their health and their welfare.

  • Provides opportunities for partnership with the Brody School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, College of Allied Health Sciences, industry, government, and defense system organizations.

  • Enhances new and emerging research opportunities for faculty in the Brody School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, College of Allied Health Sciences and the Department of Engineering to form partnerships in an emerging field.

  • Focuses on development of technology professionals in a key field and promotes development of strong linkages and interactions with the industrial, business, and public sector organizations of eastern North Carolina.

  • Advances the art of biomedical engineering.

The proposed MS program specifically addresses the following ECU Strategic Directions and related sub elements as presented in ECU Tomorrow:

Education for a new century: We will be responsive to the changing demands of the economy, offering excellent undergraduate and graduate programs that provide the global skills and knowledge necessary for success in the twenty-first century.

Economic Prosperity in the East: We will invest in academic programs that give individuals the right skills and tools needed to compete and thrive in a twenty-first-century workplace. We will invest in programs that improve access to our resources for communities and individuals. We will provide ongoing educational and learning opportunities to support the continued development of a competitive workforce for North Carolina.

Biomedical engineering is a twenty-first century career field which meets the demands of the economy for excellent graduate programs which allow ECU graduates to compete in the global economy. In addition, this degree has the potential to provide a substantial positive impact, improving the resources for the regional community to improve health care and jobs. Globalization of both engineering and the overall field of healthcare has been increasing over the past 10-20 years and is continuing to increase. Graduates of the proposed program will have a strong background in both fields and will be able to compete and contribute to this growing global economy.

Since 2004, the ECU BS in engineering program has had a positive impact on industry and economic development in eastern North Carolina. Faculty from the biomedical and bioprocess undergraduate concentrations work regularly with industry and economic development professionals from across the region. The Department of Engineering’s active Engineering Advisory Board (EAB) includes two economic development professionals, one from Pitt County and one from the East Region. The time and effort spent by the 40+ members of the EAB are testament to the fact that local industry cares very much about the program. A number of the EAB members are from healthcare-related industries, providing internships and senior capstone project opportunities. Members of the EAB are strong contributors to the department.

ECU will increase investment in innovation and research: We will be the third-largest research university in the University of North Carolina system, exceeding $100 million in external support for our programs. We will lead in innovation in health sciences and information technology and seek to develop products that compete in the growing knowledge-based economy. We will invest in interdisciplinary research centers that will support the region’s growth in health care, tourism, education, marine trades, and biotechnology. We will focus on developing applied, translational, and externally focused research that emphasizes the economic and physical health of our citizens.

Health Care and Medical Innovation: ECU will save lives, cure diseases, and positively transform the quality of health care for the region and state. ECU will expand our research in health sciences with a particular emphasis on the health concerns of the region and state. We will expand biomedical and health-related research funding to $75 million annually.

The MS in biomedical engineering will have a positive impact on the research productivity of the university, support innovation in health sciences, support interdisciplinary research improving health care and biotechnology, and support overall improvement of the health of the citizens of North Carolina. By emphasizing the application of engineering and mathematics to medical research, the proposed program advances the university’s focus on improving student STEM proficiency.

Impact on other Unit Programs

The proposed program does not compete with any program either within the Engineering Department, or within the College of Technology and Computer Science generally. This program will be the first engineering graduate program available at ECU.

More broadly, the proposed MS in biomedical engineering complements many programs in a variety of colleges across both campuses of ECU. For example, the new graduate engineering program integrates well with the MS in biomedical sciences, offered by the BSOM. The biomedical science program emphasizes basic science, medical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology research.

In addition, the proposed program integrates very well with the interdisciplinary doctoral program in biological sciences (IDPBS). This program currently offers graduate curricula and research in the areas of biology, chemistry and biomedical sciences. The proposed program will complement these research areas, and will expand course selection for graduate students both in engineering and in the above disciplines. Drs. Bossetti and George have been accepted as participants in the IDPBS. The experience gained in advising students in the IDPBS will translate well to advising students in the proposed MS in biomedical engineering.

The average enrollment over the next five years is estimated to be approximately 10 students per year although this number may increase when additional faculty are hired. The five year cumulative enrollment target is 25 students. This program will attract quality students from the Department of Engineering’s BS program, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, pre-med students with quantitative research interests, and basic science and engineering students from across the state.

Comparison to Similar Programs in Other Universities

Within North Carolina, there are five universities offering masters in biomedical engineering (NCA&T, UNC/NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering (2), Wake Forest (joint program with Virginia Tech) (10), and Duke (17)), two of which are private universities. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of MS degrees awarded in AY 2008-09 (source is ASEE Profiles). Therefore there is still a need to be fulfilled within the state of North Carolina for the training of biomedical engineers. East Carolina University has an advantage, both nationally and regionally, as the only university within the University of North Carolina that offers academic programs in engineering, medicine, dentistry, business and allied health on one campus. This proximity of complementary programs provides an unequaled opportunity for collaboration and professional growth of faculty, staff, and students.

This program will expand research and competitive, externally funded grant opportunities for faculty in engineering and other collaborating departments. The curriculum development team will design an innovative research intensive curriculum founded on engineering education research. Such an innovative curriculum would be competitive for extramural funding and national recognition.

Accreditation Standards

There are no standard accrediting bodies for graduate programs in biomedical engineering.

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