Bioengineering Students and Doctors Shape Medicine's Future

For immediate release: August 24, 2012


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New, formal collaboration fosters real-world solutions to medical problems

Leading up to their senior year, undergraduates in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering in College Park solve textbook problems as they stretch their engineering wings. But as seniors, they cap their academic career by attempting to solve real engineering puzzles during a year-long quest called Capstone that culminates in a project and a competition, the annual “Capstone Design Awards.”

Bioengineering draws on physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology and life sciences applied systematically to challenges in biology, biosystems, medical research and clinical practice. Essentially, bioengineers are problem solvers in the complex world of human health.

At the same time, doctors, nurses, technicians and medical researchers often face engineering-related obstacles impacting patient care, such as unpredictable drug delivery systems or cumbersome rehabilitation equipment, but they may not know how to engineer the changes to make a difference.

In 2012, for the first time in the history of the Capstone program, a formal mentoring partnership was forged between the Clark School and the School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center, in Baltimore. Jeffrey D. Hasday, M.D., professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and head of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center, worked closely with Ian White, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Fischell Department of Bioengineering, to develop the details. Faculty members in Baltimore mentored four student teams who visited intensive care units at the Medical Center and followed doctors as they interacted with patients during daily rounds.

Students worked with the mentors to assess a problem, develop a design solution, order materials, build and test a design, write a report and present the product to fellow seniors and a board of faculty members. In some cases, teams formed companies and applied for patents.

This video explains how the partnership came together and highlights some of the products from the four student groups that participated in the Baltimore experience ”“ of which two were top winners in the “Capstone Design Awards.”