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Faculty to Vote Next Week on Biomed Engineering Minor

By Shang-Lin Chuang
Associate News Editor

A group of faculty from eight departments proposed the establishment of a minor program in biomedical engineering at last month's faculty meeting.

Faculty will vote on the interdisciplinary minor - the Institute's first - at next Wednesday's meeting.

The idea came in response to students' desire for "a coherent program, better advising, and recognition for biomedical engineering," said Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Linda G. Cima, chair of the curriculum committee that drafted the minor program.

"The biomedical engineering minor is an ideal first attempt at an interdisciplinary minor," said Professor Linn W. Hobbs, chair of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program. "We hope that this particular endeavor will end up enriching the Institute's overall academic program."

A new Center for Biomedical Engineering, announced last month, will provide a natural focus for the undergraduate program, Hobbs said. The minor program would be run through the School of Engineering.

The minor is meant to address the needs of the "large number of students [who] end up going to medical school and want to use their engineering background for medical research," Hobbs said.

Proponents preferred making a minor to establishing a full biomedical engineering department because the second option was simply "not particularly appropriate," Hobbs said. A new department would only dilute the Institute's strong existing academic programs, he said.

"The minor is meant to give students an opportunity to apply engineering to something they really like," Cima said. "It is an applied field and not meant to be a major."

If approved, the minor will be available to students starting next fall. Between forty and fifty students are expected to participate in the program per year, according to a poll last fall of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Chemical Engineering students, Cima said.

The first minor programs were established in the humanities 1987; the Institute began offering other departmental minors in 1992. At the time, the CUP recommended against general authorization of interdisciplinary minors but advocated case-by-case evaluation of proposals for such programs where there were not existing majors, Hobbs said.

All minors must meet the guidelines of the CUP and the Committee on Curricula. The guidelines focus on the number of subjects required, program administration, advising, continuity of departmental subject offerings, and provisions for review of the program, Hobbs said.

The proposed new minor has met all these criteria satisfactorily, Hobbs said. Students would be able to fulfill the minor with six to nine subjects, depending on their course of study.